Why do I have a horse at uni?

My fellow students are often surprised to learn that I have a horse while I am at university. It isn’t something that I particularly endeavour to tell people – partly because they don’t have any reason to need to know, and also due to the fact that I do not want to be on the receiving end of the judgemental attitude that equestrians are unfortunately often subject to.

Firstly, I would like to point out that this is not your average twenty-one-year-old student who happens to have a horse: Dakota does not belong to me (I have her on a part loan agreement) and as well as working every weekend I am also setting up and running my own business which fits around my university commitments.

Posing with Dakota
A sweaty Dakota after schooling – photo by Carol Page

Naturally, caring for Dakota is quite time consuming and this can, on occasion make things a little stressful – although I would say my time-keeping skills have definitely improved as a result!

So why did I decide to do this? Why not wait until after university to loan or even buy a horse of my own?

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to learn to ride. I can recall gazing out of car windows at every horse we passed, and consistently pestering my mum to take me for lessons. At the age of six I had a couple of lessons, and in the second one, lost my balance, fell and broke my arm.

One journey in an air ambulance, one night in hospital and some months of physiotherapy later and I was still asking for lessons, but my mum had witnessed the fall and was quite frankly terrified to let me ride again.

Hacking out with friends

So, began a long eight years with intermittent lessons and many sad moments as I saw school friends going for their lessons and progressing, until at the age of fourteen, I finally persuaded my mum to let me try again.

The rest is history really. I could bore you with the details of how I have struggled with my confidence on horseback, or how I met some amazing people who taught me how to ride ‘real’ horses and gave me so many amazing experiences, but this blog post might end up turning into a novel if I do that!

What you need to know is that in that time, a lot of things changed, but what never changed was my longing to learn to ride well and to have a horse of my own.

Being a trotter cross, Dakota is quite weak in the canter – but we have recently started to make much more progress with this – photo by Kira Bray

During sixth form, I had periods of time where I was unable to ride due to horses being out of action or bad weather, and then when I left home for the first time I found that lessons in riding schools were incredibly expensive, and I didn’t seem to get an awful lot out of them. I can honestly say that the lack of horses in my life made me highly miserable, and when I returned home again, finding horses to ride was a huge priority.

When I made the decision to leave home for the second time and return to studying, I knew I couldn’t give horses up again. Just a few weeks after I had moved out, I saw Dakota’s advert and (after initially discounting it, thinking she would be too difficult for me) I went to try her.

Now I ride her three-four times a week, I can take lessons whenever I want (well, when my bank account allows it) and am on a lovely yard surrounded by friendly, encouraging people.

A sunny day at the yard – photo by Kira Bray

The benefit of this to my mental health has been enormous. When I am at the yard, I can momentarily forget about other things and just enjoy where I am. Building a relationship and achieving new things with Dakota has built my confidence both around horses and in other areas of my life. The exercise means I can usually get to sleep more easily than I used to be able to, and I rarely have a day where I don’t want to get up.

Dakota isn’t the easiest horse to ride; I am very fortunate in that she is not naughty and doesn’t buck or rear, but due to her being a trotter she will rush if given half a chance, and she is also quite easily excited!

This combination is perfect for me: I know she is safe enough that I am not going to be put at risk, but she is challenging enough to enable me to improve my riding. I have many aspirations for things I would like to achieve with Dakota, and I feel so incredibly lucky to have been given this opportunity.

It definitely isn’t always easy, and there have been moments where I’ve panicked and wondered how on earth I’m going to manage to look after the horse, go to work and manage to get my studying done, but somehow, I made it through the first semester with good results, so I guess it can be done!

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Dakota at sunrise

Oh hello, 2019…

It was precisely three years, five months and six days ago that I published my opening blog post here.

Wild Call blog began as a way for my seventeen-year-old self to document and share my shenanigans with animals as I studied for my A-levels, and then left home for the first time. I say ‘first time’ as things didn’t quite go according to plan, and six months later I found myself back in my parents’ cosy cottage in rural Norfolk.

Captain Beaky making himself at home

As life changed, the blog gradually became much less of a priority, until one day it occurred to me that I had not written anything for many months. Life was busy and my interest in writing had faded, replaced with a multitude of other exciting prospects.

Now however, at the age of twenty one, I am feeling the urge to revive Wild Call blog again. My experiences over the past three years have, in some respects flipped my view of the world completely on its head and now I envisage that the blog will not only be a place for me to share my ever growing passion for the natural world, but to also touch on some slightly more ‘human’ aspects of my life.

Rusty cuddle
Sunset snuggles with Rusty

So, perhaps as I have deleted all previous content of Wild Call, I should give you some kind of brief introduction…

My name is Charlotte Page and I am a first year zoology student at the University of Lincoln.

I live by myself here in Lincoln and am currently juggling my studies with a part time job in a café, caring for my loan horse and setting up my own dog training and walking business.

Dakota posing for the camera

As you can probably tell, life is busy but very exciting at the moment. I have so many stories, ideas and experiences to share and honestly cannot wait to begin blogging again.

I hope that you will join me on my journey – I’m not entirely sure where I’m going, but there will definitely be animals!

Stay tuned for the first ‘proper’ post, arriving this weekend 🙂