In her first blog post for TGA, Natalie South reflects on how far she has come in one year, featuring World Championship success in her Maximo...
I know it’s not the beginning of the year anymore, but since the Winter Championships at Myerscough last year, what a year it has been.
I’ll give you a bit of background. Last year at Myerscough, I had a fall from Hugo in the warm up as he had a big spook. I still got back on (it’s riding, that’s sort of an unwritten rule isn’t it!), went in and did my test. It certainly wasn’t the best we had performed, but we did it.
Fast forward a year, and the Winter Championships was my first championship show as a Grade 2 rider. After last year, I had two goals: stay on and do better than last year.
As it was my first time back to Myerscough, I was nervous, and generally nerves don’t affect me so that was most definitely a challenge. Luckily, all the staff and stewards were fantastic and made me feel at ease. The class was a very strong one, but we went on to score 70.5% to become Grade 2 Silver National Champions!
The whole experience was very different for me. The main thing was the addition of my Maximo scooter (which we have named Scooby), which I have been lucky enough to receive from TGA. Competition yards are never the smallest, and it takes a lot of my energy to walk around so I would always be exhausted before even getting on the horse.
My Maximo was a great help at Myerscough, as I could go to all the places I needed – to the horses, canteen or the warm up arena to get on. The wheels just ate up the surface of the arenas, meaning I was able to use it for the prizegiving too. Conserving my energy has helped with my riding, and I think that is evident in the score that we got! So, a huge thank you to TGA and their wonderful Maximo (Scooby) scooter. Oh, and apologies in advance, he won’t stay white for long!
For me to get a scooter has been quite a big step in my disability. I have always been strong willed and if there is ever any pain, I’ve just got on with it. When it has come to riding however, I want to make sure I am able to give it my all. So instead of just spending time sitting about, being able to work with TGA and have use of a Maximo has been fabulous. I have gained real confidence in using it which has been huge for me.
Since Myerscough last year, I have been having a huge focus on my mindset, and shifting it to being more positive, both on and off the horse. This shift has been wonderful and has opened so many doors for me, both personally and professionally. After last year, my resilience has helped me to build relationships in the Para Dressage world that I otherwise wouldn’t have formed. I have really gained some traction with my social media and blog. Seeing the growth has been rewarding, as I believe people are starting to notice me, not just for my riding, but also for me as a person, which is important.
Another huge step I have taken is undertaking CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) for my anxiety. I have been having sessions in worry management, and the difference I am seeing in myself is enormous. It has been quite a long process to get to the treatment, but I am so glad I stuck it out and waited. I have just been discharged from the service. It was a six-week course and I genuinely feel like a different person to who I was when I started.
It’s not just my mental health that has been improved, my physical health changes have also been huge. It was just after the Winter Championships last year that my drive truly begun, and I found Adam (aka The Gym Starter) and started working with him as my personal trainer. Since working with Adam, I have lost weight, developed a love for the gym and enjoying looking after myself more than ever.
I have been working closely with Adam, not only on fitness (obviously), but also getting advice about my brand and ways to grow within the sport. He has asked me to be a guest on his podcast, which was crazy, but a thoroughly enjoyable experience with great feedback. This has also allowed me to think about starting a podcast as it’s such a great format and, as I think my style of writing is quite chatty anyway, I’m hoping a podcast would translate well.
This time last year, I would not have even dreamt about starting one. But even my blog has grown. Taking topics I am passionate about and writing, as opposed to just doing monthly updates, has been such a big leap.
Now, this year brings with it new adventures and challenges. I am building a new partnership with a horse called Paddy (check out my Instagram), who is also owned by Chigwell Riding Trust. I want to start riding some Gold tests, even just to give us a benchmark. However, having only ridden the Grade 2 Silver test a total of five times at competition, I am going to take each day as it comes and just see how we go.
I’m going to sign off this blog with the wonderful words of Audrey Hepburn: “Nothing is impossible. The word itself says ‘I’m possible’!”
A version of this appears on Rockability Dressage