The Menopausal 50cm Eventer

It was September 2019 and a plump 52 year old, who should probably never wear white jodhpurs out of the bedroom, walked in front of the intimidating crowd of 23 people to collect her rosette. Third place at her very first one day event. A truly 'stop the press' moment.

Yep that was me. Dwell not on the fact that the jumps were 50cm, that my ass sat longer on the portaloo than in the saddle or that a lad barely six years old got fourth place. No. I had achieved the goal I had set myself the previous year. To rise to the challenge, dig deep, toss down the Imodium and do a One Day Event. I could officially call myself the Menopausal 50cm Eventer!

Truth is the best bit of this story was not about my admittedly incredible 50cm achievement but about who came first… but more on that later. Let’s firstly look at what got Foxy and I round those jumps!

Let’s go back to 2017 when at the grand age of 50 I suddenly found myself single. It was me, the two crazy rescue mutts and the dirtiest, biggest Connemara in the world called Fox, Foxy, Mr Fox and regularly you dirty F***er! In true Bridget Jones style I decided to keep busy and find a focus. What about this jumping thing? Foxy was green – literally most of the time and I hadn’t jumped in over a decade, but surely there had been enough fear induced procrastination? – time to do this! 

So we made plans. We had lessons. We did online confidence training. We had more lessons. We made more plans. He ran out. I fell off. He ran out. I fell off. Mmmmm this was harder than we thought.

Now Foxy would like to interject here with a disclaimer ‘ If I get socked in the gob every time I try to jump Mum, I ain’t doing it luv’. At this point even flatwork was looking attractive and a x-pole barely off the ground was the height of our ambitions.

But wait a goddamn minute. My job involves travelling the world and standing in front of rooms full of strangers delivering training. I have studied psychology, NLP, I’m a coach to senior managers. I can happily gallop a horse along a beach throwing toilet rolls. But it turned out that sitting on Foxy boy and going into a jump was as Tourettes inducing terrifying as throwing yourself off a cliff. And as the fear kicked in there was this phenomenon where the legs stopped kicking, the hands started pulling and my bulging eyes could focus on nothing else but that huge gigantic 30cm x-pole. 

Truth is this jumping thing was getting me down rather than picking me up at an already challenging time. What was a menopausal gal to do? Then a friend at the yard suggested ‘Confidence Camp’.
I am lucky enough to have lovely horsey friends at home and at the same time there is something indescribable about a camp that throws complete strangers together who totally get what you are going through and give you 100% support. And let’s be honest that doesn’t always happen in the horsey work. I have learned that surrounding myself with honest, non-judgemental and genuinely supportive people is one of the most important things in life.

On my first camp I met five girls that inspire me every day. Our messenger group called Camp Girls – genius I know – is full of chat on the ups and downs of horses and of life. At camp you learn never to judge a horse and rider from what you see on the outside – everyone has a story –and that’s what makes them special. Take Sam - the most beautiful rider. She told me of an innocent fall from her mare Adara that left her with a broken back and a long recuperation. You could tell how hard she had worked to build her confidence back.

On my second camp I met complete strangers who were to become my new ‘Yard Family’ as I moved to their yard shortly after. I recognised that I needed other peoples’ support to help me with the jumping – to listen to my woes, to stop the over thinking and to too me to just bloody get on with it. And these guys do exactly that every day.

I’m typically a cheery chatty person, but when life just gets too much, I tend to withdraw – shut myself away at home and switch off. The motivation to ride can disappear, let alone jump. But I have learned, slowly, that’s it’s ok to share that you are not yourself. It’s ok to say I don’t want to ride today and not then pack your bags to go on the usual Guilt Trip. One of the best kinds of support is to message Sam and say ‘ok let’s jump three times this week. Let’s not put it off. If you do it then I’ll do it’ – encouragement and a dash of healthy competition. The best support is when we take it all in turns to look after and encourage one another. 

Foxy and I’s jumping journey has taken many detours and had many ups and downs. Our progress is slow but we haven’t given up. We actually said our 2021 goal out loud a few weeks…wait for it…. jump a round of 70cm show jumps and actually enjoy it!! And you know what we’ll get there because there are people who will praise, shout, laugh and swear with us – the best recipe.

The support at the one day event was tremendous. The hugs and the tears from the very best bunch of people. That’s what got Foxy and I round. And who won the One Day Event? You hadn’t forgotten had you? Well Sam did – she bloody nailed it on Adara and we have all never been so proud!

Find the best people to be around you. Share with them. Trust them and be there for them. It truly does make a difference.

Helen Wilson (aka The Menopausal 50cm Eventer) x