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I’m super excited to be joining the Horsemart team as a contributor and would like to take the time to introduce myself to you all.
So hey! I'm Natalie Alexander or Nat to most people! I am 26 years old and I was born and lived in North Yorkshire up until the age of 17 when I left home and moved down to Newmarket to start my career with horses… and it’s true what they say - “You can take the lass out of Yorkshire but you can't take the Yorkshire out of the lass!”
My love for horses started when I rode my auntie’s cob Henry one weekend, and as cheesy as it may sound, after that one ride I was hooked! I would go and stay with my auntie every weekend and for the entire school holidays. Henry was such a saint that I could be left to my own devices to wander round in circles in the homemade sand school, wearing my trainers and skateboarding hat... Things got really serious after a few weeks when I got my proper skull cap and muck boots!
Apart from my auntie, none of my family were horsey, although that quickly changed after a few years passed and I was still spending all my spare time at the stables... my parents realised this wasn't just a phase! I got my first pony when I was about 11 and I still have him now. He's currently on loan to a family back home in Yorkshire, teaching the children to ride. He’s a super 13.2hh Piebald cob and worth his weight in gold!
My parents never had the money to buy ponies that were already produced. So we bought youngsters and dad and I - both as clueless as each other - would produce them ourselves after reading a few books. So I broke my first pony at 13 years old! I know, madness right!?
My passion for horses grew and grew over the years and things were getting more serious. I had a love for eventing and at 15 years old I decided I was going to breed and produce event horses. I had to fund this myself, so I started selling sweets and fizzy drinks at school; sweets were banned from school at this point, when Jamie Oliver brought in healthy eating at schools, so there was a high demand... I just had to be careful not to get caught!
And believe it or not, I made enough money to buy my first mare, Ruby - she was cheap as she had no tail! - and to pay for the entire process; stud fee, stabling, vets fees, feed (and everything else!) to breed myself 2 foals. I’m putting it down to beginners luck because they were both crackers and I still have one of them now, Spring Touchestone Skye - everytime she goes out she is placed!
That's enough childhood reminiscing for now…
Moving on, as I said, I left home to go to Newmarket when I was 17 and worked in the thoroughbred breeding industry at the National Stud. I also did the sales work for some other Stud Farms at Tattersalls. This work led me to Gloucestershire to continue stud work at Daylesford Stud. During my time in this industry I worked on some spectacular yards and with some truly incredible horses, learning a lot from some of the most knowledgeable people in the game.
However, I was now thinking this wasn't the career for me. During this time I was still eventing as a hobby but I had decided that wasn't enough now and I wanted to be more involved in the eventing circuit. So I took on Head Grooms position for a International Event rider, Danielle Bizzarro. I spent a season working for Dan and I knew eventing was what I wanted to do. I am now based in Oxfordshire, on a private yard looking after a family's hunters and producing my own horses.
Thanks to a few falls and catching foals over the years, I had managed to give myself a spinal injury; my L2,3 & partially 4 vertebrae had prolapsed. It wasn't a pleasant experience. I was in my early 20’s and I couldn't even put my own socks on! Specialists strongly advised a career change and that I should do it soon. I couldn't see myself in a 9-5 office based job; it would drive me crazy! So I did what I could to avoid surgery and a career change. This meant a lot of painkillers, hot water bottles, and physical therapy.
After the best part of the year, I was “sound” enough to ride again - the riding wasn't so much the problem in the first place, it was the yard work and picking feet out that was the killer, but it was too risky to risk another fall at that time. So once I was back to riding and light yard work and was discharged, I thought that was it, I was cured! So I stopped all the exercises I had been doing and after time realised that wasn't the case, as the simple tasks started to prove pretty painful again.
This is really where my fitness journey started. I started to train myself using all the exercises I had learnt from my physio sessions and over time I was again able to start riding and yard work. I didn't want to just be fit enough to ride again, I wanted to ensure my body was strong enough that this didn't happen again... box rest didn't suit me very well!
So I took my training further and started weight training; I had done my research and the list of benefits from weight training was endless. Through weight training, even in the early stages, I noticed my core strength improved massively, my posture improved, my back was stronger and picking horses feet out no longer seemed a painful chore, my mobility improved… the list goes on. But the biggest change I noticed was in my riding.
I finally understood why the instructor kept telling me to sit up and use my core… because now I had a core to use, this stuff actually worked! My horses' way of going improved, because now they weren't carrying a dead weight and I could actually support them, even though I had assumed I already had been before.
This made me step up my personal fitness and training to the next level and it became another passion of mine. I decided this was something I wanted to pursue further so I gained my Level 2&3 personal training qualifications.
Now, marrying my two passions, my goal is to help other equestrians improve their riding performance, like I have, through improving on their own fitness levels.
Thanks for reading and I hope you get some benefit from my articles!