Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Self inflicted pain!

As I struggle to put one foot in front of the other, my breathing has become shorter, my chest tight and the pain searing through my stomach is enough to make me want to scream. Giving up is not an option, fighting through this ordeal is the only way... no, I have not been beaten up or fallen off a horse – although those options may possibly be less traumatic... the feeling I am describing is the result of, wait for it, running!

In a slightly demented moment – over a large glass of red wine I have to add – I allowed my fellow, so-called friends, to persuade me in to thinking that running a half marathon would be a good idea. At the time it genuinely did seem like a genius plan to me and my competitive spirit rose to the challenge. Now the wedding is over I felt the need to get my teeth in to something else and by doing all that exercise it would mean I can eat as much as I like completely guilt-free! However in the cold, sober, light of day reality hit like a smack in the mouth when I realised what I have potentially signed up for.

In theory it seems less daunting – in practice – the thought is truly terrifying. As I battle through the first mile I am filled with horror at the prospect of just one more – never mind 13! I am told that it will get easier and that I too will soon be the slim, toned, athletic one striding out boldly at the front of the group – the only things keeping me going are this aspiration and the mince pies waiting for me at home! The smug runners at the front of the pack who actually choose to run further than we have to smile at me with a look of pity in their eyes – perhaps soon I too will be able to get on my high horse and offer a patronising pat on the back to weaker members of our team, but for now I remain very firmly at the rear!

You only ever see good runners out on the roads and I now see why! They seem to look so relaxed and effortless as they stylishly cover the ground, in streamlined leggings with their iPod’s strategically placed and those water bottles thingies you can put your hands through! I however, resemble a red faced, sweating, grunting excuse with my Primark leggings, husband’s hoody and very old, 80’s style silver trainers! Oh, and last night I completed the outfit with a pair of rather fetching turquoise leg warmers – it was definitely more Fame than Paula Radcliffe and that is the very reason I am sticking to running in the dark (with a rather fetching head torch I may add) because I am too ashamed to show my face in the daylight for fear of someone recognising me and laughing!

It is possibly the worst time of year to be starting – not only has the delightful English weather provided a rather unappetising offering of rain, rain and more rain, squelchy trainers and soggy t-shirts are not the most motivating reasons to get out and about. As well as this being Christmas it seems that everyone is doing the exact opposite to me – sitting in the warm, cosy, safety nets of their houses – eating lovely big dinners, chocolate and drinking mulled wine whilst watching trashy films. However on a positive note I can eat as much turkey and Christmas pudding as I like without piling on too many pounds and if I can get over the mental marathon of training in December I should be able to keep my legs going for 13 miles!

The only experience I can liken my running experience so far with in horsey terms is probably throwing myself on to the floor repeatedly and having my chest stamped on over and over – only then can you imagine the pain I am in right this minute after a run last night - even typing is an effort! Despite the pulling sensation in my calves and my inability to walk, I do appear to be getting bitten by the bug. I get cranky if I haven’t been out when I planned and the buzz and adrenalin when I achieve something that just two weeks ago seemed beyond expectations is addictive. I have also felt an improvement in my core strength and own fitness which has in turn benefitted my riding. I feel stronger in my upper body and those that say exercise is like a drug are starting to become less like weirdoes to me. It has made me realise how importance fitness is in our sport and how enjoyment levels are improved when you feel fit and strong in the saddle. It doesn’t have to be running – just exercising a couple of times a week seems to make the world of difference.

On a more serious note I have decided to run for Spinal Research (if they will have me!). The work they do is enough of an inspiration for me to push through the training and grin and bear the insignificant suffering in comparison to those affected by spinal injuries. Their role in the equestrian world is most definitely vital and if I can give back just a teensy bit of what they put in I would feel so proud.

As published on in December's eMag

Thursday, 19 November 2009

A nip in the air turns all horses wild!

So, I am happily standing in the middle of the sand school, almost having to chase Ernie round on the lunge – having opted for the so-called quicker option of lungeing rather than riding – with a smug smile on my face as I think how well behaved and polite my beautiful horse is. I am merrily admiring how his muscles have built up over the past months, satisfied that he is working correctly from behind, and feeling rather pleased with myself as he appears to be hanging on my every voice command. You could hear the birds singing, the squirrels scurrying around collecting nuts and all was pink and fluffy in our little world.

Then, as if a bolt of lightning from a horror film has shot out of the sky, a black cloud darkened our Walt Disney film atmosphere and angelic Ernie turned into Ernie the psycho horse for no apparent reason. I found my heels dug rigidly in to the ground, spiralling (literally) out of control as I lose recognition of the galloping, bucking, jumping, squealing, grunting four legged creature that was now in front of me. After the third or fourth circuit (the time when he would normally have got whatever it was that was in his system, out) I realised this was not just any explosion – this was a ‘winter has arrived’ explosion and this episode could very easily continue for anything between 1 and 10 minutes!

It’s the unpredictability that gets me – one upwards transition too many and BANG – forget ‘we hope you enjoy the trip’ and bring in ‘hang on tight you are in for a bumpy ride’! After what seemed like hours (only minutes in reality) we got to the stage where he was either going to grow horns and come at me with a spear – or return to the obedient, lovable creature that was here just minutes ago!

Normally this may concern me - wondering if there is something slightly amiss with the brain of my normally quite sensible pony – however this is the time of year when the nip in the air seems to nip them in the backside and send them sky rocketing. I am sure I am not alone in this occurrence – it tends to be for a few days once or twice a year (normally November and January) and during that time one minute you can be playing My Little Pony – the next it is more Dawn of the Dead!

After attempting several of my calmest, most placid ‘whooah’s’ to no avail – I had a decision to make. Either haul him in to a smaller circle risking him slipping over, getting faster or kicking me in the head (the bucks appeared to be aiming inwards at me - does he not remember that I am the one who feeds him?) OR simply stand there until he wears himself out – albeit it at what seemed like 100miles per hour and was possibly going to make me vomit! Option B seemed the safest option, and some time later I managed to persuade the demons to leave his brain and thus returned my slightly sweatier version of Ernie. Apart from the visible steam rising from his body – he looked at me as if to say ‘what?’ and seemed to forget that he had seconds earlier resembled something from the Omen!

Feeling slightly dishevelled and windswept (from spinning round on the spot repeatedly) I then continued our lungeing session on the other rein back in Cinderella land with a sweet, steady horse who appeared to have totally forgotten the episode previous.

Don’t get me wrong – I am all for a bit of energy release and I am happy that I was not on board when this ‘whole body and brain take over’ happened – I suspect I wouldn’t have been on board for long if I had – but it does baffle me as to what exactly it is that turns them inside out when the seasons change. I know currently with winter on the way I want to do the exact opposite and just the thought of exerting any more energy than I have to makes me tired and wish for a mug of something hot.

It is like a switch that flicks over temporarily and allows all inhibitions to be dismissed and the takeover of Jack Frost to kick in. Luckily it seems to be short lived and after a few days of erratic behaviour I think I have got my horse back (for the time being anyway). Hopefully everyone else has stayed in one piece during this ‘winter had landed’ period. I am actually enjoying the crispy mornings and steamy breath at the moment and whilst winter does have its drawbacks (psycho horse syndrome being one of them) there are many reasons to love it. Nothing beats knowing they are all tucked up in their stables munching happily on their hay – plus it means Christmas is near.

As published in November's eMag,

Friday, 6 November 2009

Ernie's new Rainbow Equine outfit!

Ernie is modelling his brand new rug from Rainbow Equine today - he says thank you to Kerry for sending it - he likes it very much!!!!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

The biggest event yet!

Those that say time flies when you are having fun have definitely got it right this month! It feels like only yesterday that I was making invites and putting plans together and before I knew it the wedding has been and gone!

One month ago my childhood dream wedding took place – I can honestly hold my hands up and say that it was truly perfect – more than a girl could ever want and I genuinely felt like a princess for the day.

We decided to make it personal and hold it at a one of a kind venue, my parent’s house in the South West of France. We are exceptionally lucky that they not only have a beautiful stone farmhouse (check out to see for yourself) but they also have a large barn which just happened to be empty and was the perfect place to seat 100 wedding guests for an intimate, yet fairytale wedding.

The past year has made me realise just how lucky I am to have such supportive family and friends – with everyone jumping to help out and be part of what turned out to be the most special day of our lives. OH took no persuading when I suggested the venue and true to promises – it provided the most magical wedding reception that no guest could possibly forget.

Logistically it was a potential nightmare having to house 100 guests in rural France – however the ‘Queen of organisation’ – aka my Mum – dutifully rose to the challenge and befriended the majority of the region’s B&B’s, villa’s and hotels as well as roping in some accommodating friends – and we managed to painlessly (almost without conflict – it wouldn’t be a wedding without it) put up each and every visitor. With the build up lasting nearly a week – more and more people arrived, some from all over the world, to help hang fairy lights, tie flowers to bushes, put up bunting, direct portable toilets – and the final result was breath taking – it was a hive of activity and the partying started well before the ‘big day’!

The morning of the wedding - having slept for approximately three hours – I piled on a mountain of de-puffing-anti-bag eye cream a cosmetic counter had persuaded me to buy a few weeks earlier and felt a familiar feeling I only previously associated with my four legged friend. The flip, flopping, sick feeling in my stomach that usually signalled an event! Having felt pretty calm and relaxed in the week leading up to the ‘big day’ – every nerve I should have felt decided to descend all at once – however after an hour of bridesmaid cheer all butterflies (or great big bats as they felt like) luckily fluttered away and left only excitement in their place with the thought that in a few hours time I would be walking down the aisle to my future hubby!

Whilst the bridesmaids may disagree I think I managed to refrain from too many ‘Bridezilla’ moments – a couple of near strops calmed down by one of the girls – and a little bit of OCD about my hair being perfect – but other than that the ‘getting ready’ seemed to be quite relaxed and enjoyable. Time really did fly though and my carefully written out itinerary whizzed past in a blur and before I knew it I was being tied in to my beautiful wedding dress and crammed in to the authentic – but quite tiny old French Citroen!

Whilst I made a promise to leave the horses hundreds of miles away at home – I can’t help but compare the day to my eventing days! The previous night’s sleep (or lack of it) and the nervous morning was the exact same feeling I get before an event – a combination of fear and excitement. The months of preparation and then on the day the final spruces – then the three main phases of the wedding, whilst you may think me bonkers read on and you will see what I mean!

Part one, the beautiful, elegant phase of the dressage... we chose to have a church wedding in a gorgeous little medieval French chapel. I wondered whether I would get a good mark for my first centre line so walking down the aisle I kept as straight as possible but had a couple of wobbles on the new heels, luckily supported by the arm of trusty Dad! Remembering my practice test (rehearsal the day before) I tracked right at the end to come face to face with an emotional hubby to be. Thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the test (ceremony) without losing any marks for going wrong and despite a little over exuberance from the bridesmaids in the singing, we came out feeling like the judges (100 + in the congregation) would give us top marks.

Next on to the show jumping, or the sit down meal in this case... It’s the phase that some people dread – you never quite know what the food at a wedding will be like but as in my last event at Brightling I finally found myself feeling quietly confident that this would be a good round! We had hired one of our favourite restaurants to do the catering and they exceeded expectations – despite not having a huge appetite due to my corset style dress I still managed to consume the whole plate of my dinner and enjoyed every minute of it! As did, it seemed, the rest of the guests! The speeches took place afterwards and were the perfect balance of emotion, humour and cringey moments that wedding speeches simply have to be! I nearly punched the air again - I do believe that was a clear round!

The fast, fun, fabulous bit of the day – cross-country – or in my case the party... We had a brilliant band playing which got at least 90% of the field on the dance floor for the duration of the night – there was slow dancing, funky dancing and downright stupid dancing – it was a bit hot and sweaty, but the most amount of fun and despite having my expensive dress trodden on, on numerous occasions, (think same feeling as when horse takes big chunk out of brand new saddle!) I was sad for it to end. An exhilarating clear round, a few wobbly moments as drunken guests teetered precariously on ridiculously high shoes, and over the optimum time having not pulled the plug on the music until 2.30 am – but a clear none the less!

As I sat with new hubby in the early hours of the morning I deconstructed the day as I would an event – the highs and, well there were no lows, re-living our favourite bits, trying to work out who it was that was found passed out in the bush a few yards from the house, who had lasted longest in their heels (I had long before changed in to flip flops!!), who had been seen sneaking off with who! It really was my best event yet – I felt like I had won the class, won the regional’s and won the finals all in one day! Nothing could have been different – the spectators were fantastic and the people behind the scenes were phenomenal, top marks for turnout on everyone and no injuries! If all the disciplines came together on this one day to create the perfect performance – let’s hope that next event season can bring the same for me and Ernie!

Signing off for the first time as Lauren Barber! (eeek that looks weird!!)

As published in October eMag.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Bye bye event season :-(

So that is it now - for the time being anyway - the last event all over and done with! Brightling couldn't have been a better way to finish though - despite pilot error cruelly snatching the ribbons away from us!

It was a fabulous day - I went with the attitude that whatever happened I was going to have fun. The course was lovely and inviting - big and solid - but nothing technical (or so I thought?!?) I had the added bonus of my dressage expert friend as my method of transport and she helped me get the best warm up for dressage that Ernie has done. Our test was average in the end - 35.5 - and I know it sounds like an excuse but the photographer lurking in the corner by the arena didn't help matters when we leapt four feet off the track each time we passed him!

Next step was to befriend the arch nemesis of the show jumping - bearing in mind at this event last year we got eliminated in this very show jumping arena - I was determined it was going to be good! We went in and every fence went to the exact plan - he was perfect - he felt confident and bold and jumped each fence like a dream! It wasn't until we popped over the last fence - clear - that I realised we had managed to keep every fence up - needless to say there was some air punching and I had to restrain myself from shrieking at the top of my voice to just a small squeak under my breath!!! One year later - and I think (touching lots of wood as I don't ever like to count my chickens) that we have cracked it! The reaction I had anyone would have thought I had just won Badminton!

I was buzzing and could have gone home at that point happy - but composed myself and quickly changed into my streamlined, aerodynamic, go faster cross country gear - and we were off. What can I say - from the moment out of the start box he was awesome - he even helped me out at fence 3 when I got in a bit deep - he flew it all - even the huge double of boxes which were quite imposing - we both just loved it. That was until the second water - he absolutely leapt in and leapt out - but the evil course builders had put a brush fence on a tight turn from the water - now people had warned me about this fence and I was like, 'yeh, yeh - we'll be fine' - which we would have done had I ridden properly! Unfortunately we ran out of oomph - it was not a stop or a run out - it was a trickle to a halt and thankfully Ernie had the sense not to try it from a stand still. I definitely said the words "Dammit" out loud and saw the fence judge give me a look that said "I knew you were going to do that" - hrmph, smug! Back round and over we go, last three fences and we were home and dry! We would have taken home 5th prize if I hadn't ridden like a lemon!

I couldn't fault my gorgeous boy though - he was a superstar - I enjoyed every second of it and whilst cross with myself we were both home and back in one piece and it was entirely my fault - he didn't put a foot wrong. All in all - a great way to end the season! Until after the wedding anyway.

So, now it is on to the wedding - 7 weeks to go (not that I am counting) - no eventing but I think dresses, cakes, table plans, flowers, decorations and jewellery shopping should keep me out of trouble for a couple of months anyway! Will keep updating with the drama's that will no doubt unfold!
PS- thank you to my lovely fiance for taking this fab pic!!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Ernie in the ribbons!!

Well I never thought I would see the day but I have reached my one target of this year's eventing season and I couldn't be happier!

I wanted to get a placing at some point in the year - and guess what - at Milton Keynes on sunday 28th June we finally did it!

What a lovely event - despite the million degree (ok slight exageration) heat that we were facing - the dressage was lovely and flat and prompted our best EVER dressage score of 25.5 - shock, horror!!! (I have to give some credit to Andy Ford who has been training me - as without him shaking up my riding we would have been going round like a donkey!!)

The Show Jumping was quite spooky but a nice flat arena and I remembered Andy's words of go big and made sure I used all the space I had. We had two fences down - one was my fault for letting the canter get flat and the other was just bad luck.

The fun part - XC! It was a lovely course - with some questions but what I would class as a proper intro (sorry BE90). We had to tackle a corner which was my nemesis at Keysoe earlier in the year but our positive riding and increased left rein meant we absolutely flew it. After that fence I really relaxed and enjoyed the course -it was so exhilarating and Ernie was keen and full of running without being strong soI just had fun! As we came through the finish the first spots of rain appeared which was so refreshing after how hot it was!

We finished up 7th which I was absolutely over the moon about and am still buzzing now - unfortunately we had to leave for a 3 hour journey home so didn't get to stay for prize giving but they posted me my rosette which is taking pride of place above my desk. If I could learn to keep the SJ fences up we would have won it - so two out of three is not bad!

On to Eridge this weekend - fingers crossed we get a little rain beforehand (not during please) so the ground softens up a bit. Don't think we will quite be able to beat our 25.5 dressage score but at least it gives me something to aim for! Will have to think up a new goal now... red rosette maybe??!!!!

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Sunshine + eventing = happy days!

Perhaps going out in the sunshine without any sun cream was not such a good idea but in true 'Brit' fashion the rays appear and the layers come off - I have never seen as many bright pink shoulders as I did this weekend in the supermarket!

Not that I am complaining - far from it! Ernie and I trundled off to our second event of the season on Saturday at Borde Hill in Sussex. I managed to drag Fiance along with me (much to his disgust at having to get up at 6.30 on a weekend!), bribing him with a cider and picnic clinched the deal - and thankfully the weather kept him sweet!

Ernie (or Cheque Mate if we are talking posh names) was a true super star - our dressage was on a slight angle which lead to a few wobbly moments and the test sheet reading 'left arena at B' (eeeek) but we managed a respectable 35.5 and off we went to the show jumping. After a very polite round with only one moment of flapping from the pilot we only managed to rack up a score of 8 faults - which judging on previous performances was perfectly acceptable!

The best bit - cross country! The course seemed to be causing some problems but the ground was beautiful and me and Ernie were raring to go. Off we went out of the start box and flew round until silly mum relaxed and stopped riding as we doubled back on ourselves past the practice arena! We ground to a halt in front of what was probably the smallest fence on the course - there goes 20 penalties! It was the kick up the backside I needed though as there was no way I was letting it happen again! Second time the little monkey flew it without a care in the world and after some positive riding sailed over the ditch that had been the downfall of many rider already.

The rest of the course was all a bit of a blur after that, we managed to fly over the double of hedges and the water was over in a splash - the next moment I was over the final fence and giving my clever pony the biggest pats - he felt amazing and I think my face could have quite easily cracked with the size smile that was planted on it!

I am surprised every time we go out eventing that I come home having learnt another important lesson - people aren't wrong when they say you never stop learning! The moral of this story is never underestimate positivity. Riding horses is the biggest lesson in positive thinking - you really don't realise how much they pick up on until you feel it for yourself. I think that one fence will have changed my riding for good!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

The countdown begins

I am now going to update this blog at least once a week - I promise!

So far this year has gone by like a whirlwind! I just cannot work out where the first 5 months of the year have got to - but I am not complaining as it means we are getting closer and closer to September when I get to be a princess for the day!!

I feel strangely calm about the whole process so far - the major things - photographer, cake, venue, catering, church, dress etc etc are all booked and I am in the lull before the storm at the moment - not quite close enough for that last minute panic! I am so unbelievably excited - every now and then I have a sneak peak at 'the dress' online and cannot wait to wear it - first fitting is in July - which is why I am on a fitness kick and have started - I can't believe I am actually going to write this - running! Yes, me - the girl who was last in every 100m sprint at school - has donned a pair of trainers and is running - and I am actually enjoying it! (in fact I came close to purchasing the running 'gear' the other day but quickly replaced it with a bikini - oops!)

We have booked the honeymoon - ten days in Mauritius - not being a true beach bum we are spending 6 days on the coast in a little boutique hotel and then travelling in land to the rainforest where we get to do treks to the waterfalls and see some of the wildlife - it is going to be the trip of a lifetime!

Ernie and I did our first event of the season at Keysoe last weekend - it was great to be back out there, but I have to admit we were a little rusty! Our dressage test resembled that of an unexploded time bomb - tension is not the word - we had moments of 'touch me with your leg and die' and I have to admit to feeling quite relieved once it was over. The show jumping - our worst phase - went slightly chaotic when I felt the need to PANIC as we came to the first fence and the old 'chasing' reared its ugly head again - but we scraped round with just 12 faults (better than the 20 odd that we were getting last year! Cross country was quite a tough course but despite a few hairy moments in the first 5 fences where we had to tackle a corner (a corner in intro!!!!!) we made it through the finish line without the dreaded E word cropping up - so a marked improvement on last year. Borde Hill is the next on our list and we have been practising like mad!

Business has been great - I have such a wonderful selection of clients who I truly enjoy working with - and everyday I really do count myself lucky to be able to do something I absolutely adore! We are just about to get the new Cyclo-ssage website up and running and Forest Farmacy have now launched their range of Power Powders. Belvoir Bed have secured some great sponsorship deals and Warm-Ups were spotted on the legs of a selection of Exeter Uni students trudging round the cross-country course at Badminton!

The sun is out at the moment and things are looking good - long may it continue!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Action packed day at BETA!

Just returned from an action packed day at BETA. I had four clients who were exhibiting, Cyclo-ssage, Parell Products, Equine Management and Warm-Ups - all of whom had a great show. I spent the day running backwards and forwards to the press office for various meetings - it was busy but great fun to meet lots of journalists and put faces to names!

It reminded me just how much I love the industry and I even got a bit of time to do some mental shopping (watch out wallet!). It still amazes me that there is always a constant stream of new products being launched - and it is great to see the enthusiasm behind these companies!

To top it all off two of my clients had great success in the Innovation Awards. Parell Products - one of my newest clients - launched their brand new Elim-A-Net, a simple yet highly effective design of haynet to slow down greedy ponies. As 5pm approached the anticipation was high and on the judges announcement I found myself letting out a little squeak of excitement as the judge announced them as the winner of the Horsecare Products and Equipment section. Just when I thought things couldn't get any better Equine Management were announced as Highly Commended for the Saddlery and Tack section with their new EVO 80 Lightweight stirrups!

So all in all a great day out - a long day - but a rewarding one!

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

My website is now up and running!

Thank you for visiting my Blog. From now on I will keep you all updated on the latest news from camp G-Gee so keep checking back!

The year has started off brilliantly after I got engaged on New Years Eve - we are planning a September wedding so watch this space for all my pre-wedding nightmares!

Ernie had a well earned break over Christmas which extended until last week after the 'Arctic' temperatures hit the UK, but he is back on the way to fitness now and up to his usual tricks.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my clients for their ongoing support and wish everyone loads of luck for 2009!