Be more dog

We can learn so much from dogs, I can’t think of one thing a dog does that isn’t filled with love or care towards anyone it meets. What about aggressive dogs I hear you cry, or those who don’t listen and do what they want? But think about it; were they like this when they were born? No, any behaviour you see, good or bad, is directly influenced by their owner and some breeds have an unfair reputation because of this.

I have a Rottweiler cross Staffordshire bull terrier, which if you believed what you read in the papers, would make him sound like one of the most aggressive dog combinations in the world. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth, he’s the biggest wimp and doesn’t even hurt flies – he likes following them round the room but doesn’t know what to do when one lands in front of him on the floor. Staffies were originally bred as nanny dogs to look after children, which explains why my one is so good around children and adapts his behaviour so well. Nothing like the image that’s portrayed online or in the news – brought about from a particular type of person who has previously acquired and adorned them with spiked collars to make them look menacing.

Why do we judge anything based on what we read in an article? Dogs don’t read so why do we base so much of our lives on what other people are doing? Be more dog – live your own life!

Dogs are awesome

Altruism is a word I would never put in the same sentence with the word human – I just don’t think it’s possible for a person to be truly altruistic. There will always be a reason why they are helping someone else, whether it’s to make the local paper for a bit of fame, or to make themselves feel good. However, dogs are the definition of altruism. They would do anything for anyone and can sense so much that us mere humans can’t, from fear to cancer – they are amazing. Be more dog, think of others!

When anyone arrives at the house my dog greets them with open arms, regardless of their age, looks, nationality, previous history – he doesn’t judge and accepts anyone. There’s just one simple rule to this statement and that is the person has to show just a bit of kindness to him. Something that us humans so easily forget about, but is one of the best things in the world to do. Be more dog – be kind.

Let it go

People are very good at holding on to grudges and resenting those around them who have caused them to make them feel like that. Think about what a dog does if someone shouts at them or pushes them to the side. They go straight back to how they were and don’t take offence in any way. They let it swoop over their heads as they don’t understand how to hold a grudge. My dog had a bad start to life, but we were lucky enough to rehome home him after he was rescued by a local charity. He should mistrust and hate humans but he doesn’t. Plus life’s way too short! Be more dog – forgive often.

Feel the fear and do it anyway

Since I was eight years old I have been horse mad and my passion for these elegant animals has only increased over the years. I have owned my own horse, worked in the equestrian industry most of my life and had my fair share of falls that I’ve bounced back from. Horse owners are often seen as fearless due to our gung hoe nature to getting jobs done whatever the circumstances. However one part of the industry I hadn’t delved into until late last year was the racing world. Thanks to a friend who works on a racing yard in the heart of racing (Newmarket for non-equestrians) I was given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ride a racehorse.

I was excited to accept this offer but in my heart of hearts I hadn’t really thought about what it would entail until the night before. It suddenly dawned on me how different riding a racehorse would be and boy was I right to be nervous. I arrived at 6am the next day to a bustling yard of jockeys and horses ready to head out to the gallops. Thankfully I was given a hand in tacking up my first ride as each race yard has their own way of displaying their logo on the equipment. I was given a leg-up and told to walk my horse round until it was time to leave. The horse felt like he was dancing on tip toes, which was a completely different experience to the stocky warmbloods I was used to riding.

Disaster strikes

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The racehorse who took me safely round the gallops

All was going well until we rode past a gap in the hedges and due to unlucky timing a loud bang spooked my horse. In a racing saddle I had no chance of staying on as he turned on a sixpence so it was out the side door for me. I landed on the ground with a thump but fortunately it was a soft surface. ‘That’s it’, I thought, ‘I’m not getting back on, this obviously wasn’t to be’. As I was explaining this to a yard hand who had kindly caught my horse I could tell he wasn’t really listening. He told me to get back on and enjoy it.

Every single fibre in my body was telling me not to do it. I felt sick at the thought of sitting back in the saddle and couldn’t contemplate galloping on board a horse that was so on edge. However, I’m one of the most stubborn people I know and I had a nagging doubt at the back of my mind telling me that I’d regret it if I didn’t take this chance. Against all the voices in my head I was legged back up on the horse and headed out with the others towards the gallops.

If I said the rest was an easy ride I’d be lying. Unbeknownst to me my horse didn’t like traffic or lorries and spooked every time one passed. Now picture this, we headed out on the horse path running next to a road during rush hour in the middle of Newmarket. It was scary and I was worried sick that something was about to go terribly wrong until the 20 minute ride was over.

Experiencing Britain’s busiest racehorse gallops

We arrived at The Severals where we gave the horses a trot round the oval shaped track to warm up their legs. I was still anxious at this point and nerves were tingling throughout my entire body. There were horses everywhere and the buzz in the air was palpable.

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The famous Warren Hill in Newmarket is 4.5 furlongs

Walking across to Warren Hill is a memory I will hold onto for the rest of my life. It was a conveyor belt of horses lining up to take a run on the famous hill at (what felt to me like) break-neck speed. My turn came and I was partnered up with an experienced jockey who ran his horse just in front of me. His parting words before we started were ‘if he starts to overtake my horse, just shout and I’ll let you pass’. Great, so how the hell would I stop him if I had nothing in front of me?

Making memories

We set off and the exhilaration was out of this world. I can’t describe the power those horses have as it’s something you have to experience. Before I knew it we’d reached the top and my mouth was as dry as sandpaper – little did I know I was in that much awe my mouth had stayed open for the entire experience! I wanted to do it all again but we had to head back to get the next round of horses out. I only rode one that day but that was more than enough for my nerves. Despite the initial hesitation I rode through my fear and made a memory that will last a lifetime. It wasn’t easy to drown out the voices telling me not to do it but I’m so glad I did.

So what are you waiting for, feel the fear and do it anyway, it could turn out to be the best day of your life!