Clare, the Founder of RiderCise®, a Rider Strength and Conditioning Functional Coach and Soft Tissue Therapist with over 13 years in the fitness industry and 20 years experience riding horses.
I live in Berkshire, UK and fully understand the care and dedication we give to our horses, currently owning two 9 year old Friesian mares, Annick – 2nd Premie Star Mare and Rana – 3rd Premier mare. – they come first, ALWAYS! (even the boyfriend knows that!)
Horses have been a large part of my life since the age of about 10 and I was lucky enough to have my first pony at the age of 13. My dad used to drop me off during the summer holidays at 6am and pick me up at 6pm and although the days we long and sometimes wet and chilly, the time always seemed to pass so quickly. Tammy a 5year old New Forest mare was my best friend but I sadly lost her when I was 15, to acorn poisoning. The experience of losing Tammy, in honesty, broke me. I continued to be involved with horses, mainly training of youngsters, as I couldn’t really face owning again.
In 2005 I became quite ill, which caused me to reflect on life and I decided that I wanted a horse, a black one! Just like Black Beauty (every girls dream, no?) I searched and came across Rana, a Friesian (never heard of the breed before), I fell in love with her picture and one week later she arrived from Holland at 14 months old.
Rana at 14 months old – the picture that sold her!
Rana has tested me to the end of the earth and back and there were times I would just break down (Babies! Who would have them!) but, today, she is the most amazing horse, I trust her with my life and I am so very lucky that she found me (all horses come to us for reasons).
I fell in love with the breed, nothing I had ever experienced before so, obviously, I brought another (you can never have just 1 Friesian!)
I purchased Annick from the same people as Rana but from the point of sale, it was nothing but problems. When she arrived, aged 5 in Oct 2012, I felt my heart break. She was in such a bad state and was extremely scared and anxious.
I spent much time and money on her health and psychological issues (she was ear twitched and had radial bruising to her right ear which obviously caused her to be very head shy) and we were making progress.
Unfortunately, whilst trying a back protector (first one I had worn in over 15 years!) on my Albion Dressage saddle, a tag flapped in the wind and she took off in the school, the saddle slipped which caused her to buck and I ended up on the floor and being clipped in the head by her hind hoof.
Annick at 5 years old – the picture that sold her!
I remember looking at her from the floor struggling to breathe, she was just so scared…I got back on (as you do!) and walked round but I was just too scared to ride her again.
This is where my journey started…….
Annick went for training in August 2013, a month after the incident, to teach her to look and react to things, but not run. After about 4 months of consistent work and exposing her to new things, she became more confident in herself and was no longer running from things that worried her..!
I then finally started to ride her again….. but what had happened changed me more than I realised.
I was still riding Rana, but she was Rana….easy….Annick is the opposite end of the scale! she is a big powerful mare, with huge elevated paces! She was a challenge to ride before the accident but with my lack of confidence, it was near on impossible.
“I knew I had to change a number of things and it started and ended with me!”
Back on board after Annick’s 4 months training with the Albion
The first of which was my saddle. It looked amazing but it often slipped and it was not the right saddle for me. The knee rolls was in the wrong position for my thigh length and pushed my knees away from the saddle. This made me feel very unsafe and often perched on her. After much research I came across The Saddle Exchange.
I contacted Dean and Gini and explained what had happened and that I needed to feel safe and secure.
They fitted Annick with a Reactor Panel Dressage Saddle. The panels are flexible but and spread the weight across her back and allowed her to move freely beneath. It was just the most amazing feeling, I felt everything yet I felt safe,….something I had never felt when riding Annick.
This saddle changed everything….and it was the first step towards us being where we are today.
Next on my list was my physical fitness and ability as a rider.”
At the age of 21, I wanted to improve my fitness and lose a bit of fat. Starting of fairly slowly, it took about 1 year before I was lifting heavy weights, running 8 miles every other day and often training twice in a day.
The transformation in my physique and confidence is what inspired me to become a Personal Trainer. I had such a passion for fitness, because of how it changed me as a person. With being so physically fit and doing as much exercise as I did, I never saw any benefits transferred to my riding.
“I knew that I had to change the way I trained, if I wanted to be a better rider”
Me in 2014
Me in 2016
Over the last 3 years I have worked relentlessly to devise Rider Training programmes that gave me the physique I wanted but improved my riding by being stronger and more stable with my position, whilst maintaining the flexibility and looseness required to allow me move with Annick, without hindering her.
“Basically being in total control of myself”
Today, I am on top form physique wise and my ability to ride Annick is nearly on par with her ability to move! But, I am not what I would call a ‘natural’ rider. I have to work at it and keep on top of it.
It hasn’t been easy, but I made a promise, to be my best, and I made it happen.