Last weekend I enjoyed one of my favourite things.
Since coming to the UK from Kenya sixteen years ago, my one biggest challenge was leaving behind our animals and learning to live without any dogs, cats, horses, cows, chickens, geese, in a strange new environment. Especially horses.
We live at the foot of the south downs, and I would ‘escape’ up there at every opportunity, seek out a view which had not a sight of human habitation, and soak up the sounds of nature. But the birds kept hiding behind the foliage. I found a horse, paying for every wonderful ride through forests and fields; I shared a horse, but it was time-consuming and expensive, and my back (an old riding injury) kept playing up whenever I did the mucking out; I didn’t really know how to, anyway, as we had syces to turn the bedding in Africa.
But what I could do, was judge dressage. I had been judging for fifteen years in Kenya. It would keep me in touch with the horsey world, which is the same the world over. But in the UK there were obstacles; I no longer trained others, nor was I competing; I had also accumulated some ‘unsuitable’ ways of commenting. Never one to avoid a challenge, I studied hard and practised often. I sat the exam, and on the second attempt managed to clamber onto the bottom rung of the British Dressage list of Judges. What a godsend.
Now, most weekends – and a few weekdays – I visit some amazing English estates and drive through glorious countryside to venues for Events. I’ve even had Olympians come before me. (Even the best of international riders have to bring on young horses from the bottom up). As judges we’re treated as VIPs, with delicious lunches thrown in, and I meet such an interesting variety of people.
That’s what I was doing over this May bank holiday, against the backdrop of Chilham Castle in Kent (top), and on the rolling pasturelands of Coombelands, near Pulborough, West Sussex (above).
I can think of many worse ways to spend a weekend.
Have you read my book? It is set mainly in Africa, and starts off with a hairy horse ride. http://www.janebwye.com/mybooks/breath-of-africa