I arrived at Overdale Equestrian Centre late on a coolish autumn afternoon to find Mary riding her grey as featured on the front of her latest book “The new Ride with Your Mind Clinic”.

Mary doesn’t mince words and after a quick “Oh you’re the New Zealand girl” carried on with her schooling with a very cold and jetlagged New Zealander sitting in the corner of an extremely airy indoor She was happy for me to watch and so five weeks of the most intensive learning began.There were a couple of lessons to watch that were taken by other Ride With Your Mind coaches after Mary rode and then it was back to my board in a lovely old Cotswold home.

I had a day in hand the next day before everybody else arrived the following day and spent it learning the ropes Picking up endless poo and making cups of tea. Did I mention it was freezing?

It all started in earnest at 7.00 am the next morning where everybody met at the Indoor. There were lots of newbie’s and some not so new from all over the world. Many German riders and all of us with a common goal – to learn more about RWYM.

The first 4 days were intensive riding and workshops and there was a variety of talent. The long legged Dressage riders pushing off their toes had their legs changed to a 45 degree angle of thigh and lower leg, had their seat bones squashed into round doughnuts and were taught to bare down (a most unusual term I thought) but this is Mary’s term for engaging your core.

Anyway this is exhausting for a newcomer and after getting to grips with my new position in walk it was time to trot. Believe me a whole new experience in lack of fitness. Begging to stop after 4 or 5 20 metre circles and wondering how on earth I was going to cope with 5 weeks of this, up before 6 am every morning and never home before 7 pm. Some people were tigers for punishment and even asked for more on the simulator. I thought I would take it easy and do a Fieldenkrist session how wrong was that.
At the end of the session I was balancing on my back on a narrow not so soft tube. Legs and arms unsupported and very aware that I had an extremely dominant right side. And I had to breathe correctly Seems I had been doing that wrong for a very long time. Yet more to worry about over the next five weeks.The days were filled with Private lessons from Mary and clinic lessons shared with another rider. The clinic lessons were great because they allowed one rider at a time, time out to practice and consolidate. These lessons were quite a relief from the intensive private lessons where muscles you never knew existed screamed for mercy and you have to dig deep just to complete one more 20metre circle.Short bursts of video taken at the beginning and end of every lesson were gone over in the workshops that were held after lunch. Don’t think these were a time for rest because Mary had some evil off horse exercises that she loved to share my thighs Shrieked. Next a quick lunch with most of us sprawled on the floor for a brief rest and then back on the horses again. There were a variety of horses and I was lucky enough to often get the ride on Mary’s pinto Domino. He was a huge relief from the wide cobs that stretched saddles and legs to the extreme adding yet another dimension to the whole process.Four intensive days of this were mentally and physically exhausting and yet exhilarating at the same time.The evenings we usually collapsed but there was Pie night at a lovely Cotswold hotel not far away. We went on a Wednesday. Every imaginable pie was served and came with Jugs of free sangria. You can imagine what that did to an already tired body. Mind you it did numb a few parts that were in urgent need of an anaesthetic.After my week with Mary it was off to Cannock to work for and be mentored by Denise O’Reilly. Denise is one of Mary’s senior coaches and an Advanced Dressage rider and has since become a lifelong friend, along with her two working pupils Vicki and Nicky. Yes I know you can imagine the trouble I had with that.
Denise is a three hour train ride from Mary’s with two train changes. I will long remember my train change at Birmingham New Street station. A very disorientated train virgin in the shape of a New Zealand girl, with a large case looking for a train station that did not appear on the destination board was finally rescued by and elderly English gentleman who new where Cannock was. He offered to show me the way but unfortunately had to be rescued himself when getting aboard as he fell between the train and the platform with his gammy leg while trying to get aboard.
I was met at Cannock by Denise’s lovely husband who looked after me for a couple of days while Denise was in Sth Africa teaching. We had a couple of lovely rides over Cannock Chase which is a huge area of land with a history of a large black cat the size of a horse terrifying the locals. There is nothing like Cannock Chase in New Zealand. It is thousands of acres of tracks used by riders, walkers cyclists and dog owners, a truly awesome place and just across the road from Buxton’s where Denise lives and teaches.While with Denise I rode several times a day watched clinics and helped with general; stable duties. They were long days and no such thing as a weekend, but I learnt an awful lot, consolidating Mary’s rider training and getting ready for the teacher training to follow. If that wasn’t enough Denise was heavily into her DVD of Zoomba classes which we did every time there was a spare moment so my fitness levels were improving.
I met some lovely people on the courses and even managed to get two days at the British National Dressage Championships where Carl Hester and Charlotte duJardin were competing. Interesting to evaluate their Positions and find that they were very close to Mary’s ideal – great.All that ended way too soon and it was the dreaded train trip back to Mary’s. Apart from being re routed due to flooding it was uneventful until I got to the station close to Mary’s. Being a little station and late in the afternoon there was nothing open and nobody around. I rang a couple of taxis that I had been given the number of but they were not available and it was getting dark. Then along came a white knight who offered me a lift to Mary’s as he was going past. What to do? Dark uninhabited train station or helpful stranger?. I took the lift with the helpful stranger who turned out to be a hunting rider and an absolute saviour. He took me straight to my board and left me at the door. Only wait for it there was nobody home. Once again I waited in the freezing cold and now almost dark for an hour before my hostess arrived who turned out to have been a groom for Carl Hester in her younger days but had given up riding in latter years. I only found this out by looking at an old picture and thinking “that looks like a young Carl Hester” and asking the question. Later that evening two other girls arrived to share my board and the teacher training. If I thought I was exhausted after the rider training and working with Denise I had another think coming, Teacher training was on a whole new level..