THE BLOG
09/02/2015 09:47 GMT | Updated 10/04/2015 06:59 BST

Axel the Magic Horse

If I were to ask you to complete the following sentence, what would you say? - "Someday I'd love to ..."

Judging by the entries on http://bucketlist.org you might say something like: climb Mount Everest, go to France, make home-made pasta, watch a sunset, see the Northern Lights, visit Times Square.

Someone's dream

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Do we rule out the possibility of chasing our dreams when we become parents? Do we think we should stop doing things for ourselves when we have children? Or perhaps we become so risk averse we lose confidence in our ability to do new things?

I have ridden horses on and off all my life and always loved it. I lose myself when I ride, lose track of place and time. "True happiness is to enjoy the present". Yes it is, Seneca. So if you had asked me that question I would always have said - "have my own horse".

As a significant birthday approached I felt I needed to go for it or give up my dream forever. Did I dare? I knew it would probably cost a lot, would take up a lot of time and take me away from OH and the boys. And the reality was that I was really too busy to chase frivolous dreams. I talked it through with OH and he said we could make it work. Neither of us had a clue what we were getting ourselves into. I decided to go for it.

I spent the best part of a year looking and eventually found Axel. That day I brought him home to the livery yard (where I had arranged to keep him) I had that slightly overwhelming sense of responsibility I last felt when the boys and I arrived home from hospital.

New parent feeling

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The first months were unexpectedly hard. The amazing staff at the yard were doing all the actual work - feeding, turning out, mucking out, grooming, tack cleaning, general care. I was just turning up to do the riding. I was riding 6 days a week, in the evenings, in the dark on weekdays. I'd dash home from work, see the boys for a bit, put them to bed and then head up to the yard. The au pair held the fort until OH arrived home. I'd arrive back home at 10pm and eat, go to bed and then do it all again the next day. On the weekend and during school holidays the boys would come up with me. They'd help me get organised and then play while I rode.

About the second day I rode him I fell off. Nothing broken but it really hurt and I was quite shaken. Same thing the day after that. And the day after that. We got into an unfortunate pattern which would involve Axel stressing out and tanking off and me coming off. OH was getting worried and the boys kept asking me "Why do you keep falling off your horse, Mummy?"

Each time I came off I wearily climbed back on. After more than 4 months of this, one trip to A&E and one trip to an osteopath to pop my pelvis back where it should be, a couple of friends said maybe you should sell your horse. Ouf, maybe . . .

But I wasn't ready to give up. If I hadn't wanted it so badly, and made such changes to our family routine to be able to do it, things might have been different. I decided I was going to make it work and I asked for help. I had to pretend I wasn't frightened when I was. I had to pretend I wanted to ride when I didn't. I had to pretend I thought I could make it work when I didn't believe it. I had to pretend I was loving every minute when I wasn't. And slowly things began to get better. I forgot that I was only pretending to enjoy it. I stopped thinking about falling off and stopped falling off. Unwittingly I was following a strategy set out in this interesting paper by Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky about how relatively simple intentional changes in our thoughts and behaviours can precipitate meaningful increases in happiness.

Magical things started happening. I began to really enjoy getting outside and down with nature, the fantastic, inspiring people I was hanging out with, the physical aspects of it, the self-improvement, spending time with the boys in a beautiful environment and having time to myself to simply enjoy the moment. I have felt genuinely happy both with my horse and as a result away from my horse back in the real world.

Living the dream

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And that's the way it's been since then. In some ways my dream didn't turn out the way I expected it to. At the beginning it was harder but then it was better, way better, than I ever hoped it could be.

So what's your dream? Dare you to chase it and not stop until you've grasped it with both hands.

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