8 minutes reading time (1668 words)

At what cost?


A while ago I turned 50... And I took stock of my body and how it is doing, looks and wear-and-tear wise. And I must say, I have seen a lot of 50 year olds that look a lot worse (and a good few who look better πŸ˜‚), but overall I'm not too bad. Wear-and-tear wise it's probably a little less, I am getting more and more aches and pains, but that's to be expected I suppose.

Mentally however I have been struggling, you might have already seen a few blogs on that, and if you are not in the mood for a moan, do skip this blog πŸ˜‰). In a nutshell, it has been hard for perhaps the better part of the last 10 years.  Don't get me wrong, I achieved a lot in the last 10 years, I have started doing FEI endurance and completing several 160's and I own and have bred some amazing horses that have made my life pretty special. But at what cost?

Horse life

I have not been born into a horsey family, although horses have been a very important part of my life from a young age, it was not something that was a given. To be able to go to the riding centre once a week to have my fix I needed to make some sacrifices and it was well worth it. The horses (well, ponies really) helped me and calmed me. They made my crazy merry-go-round brain slow down, they helped me breathe and cope with all the stimuli that learning to grow up and be a (semi) "sociable" person brought.

And whilst as a teenager/adolescent I took a break from horses, they came back into my life with a vengeance around my early 20's when I moved to Ireland to work with horses. I lived and breathed horses, something I had never experienced before as I had never had the means to own a horse. It was utterly amazing (and completely exhausting πŸ€£).

So when I came back to the Netherlands it was pretty evident I needed my own horse. And boy, did he come with challenges! But I loved it, I learned new things, I got to be a horse-owner instead of a horse-carer (I cannot tell you how scary that is though!) and I started on my hoarding path, with my stallion's 2 foals, which I bred out of lease mares and some more horse friends to come later on.


Let's fast forward to the last 10 years. I have kept my horses at rented places (well fields really) for about 15 years. No facilities, just the ponies living out 24-7, making the best of the places I was in  and trying to do a bit of endurance competing because I thought that was a fun and challenging sport (which it is πŸ˜‡)
At some point, about 10 years ago, I started to get a bit more serious about all that endurance stuff... Ambition reared it's ugly head you might say. But my horses were still at minimalist accommodation, fields that I changed into my own little basic paradises with a lot of hard work and love. No stables, no arena, no electric and if I was lucky running water. But we had grass, and each other. And I had energy and a goal.  Sometimes I even had some help (OMG help! How amazing is that, just to not have to go for a day, how things changed from those days I was ecstatic to be around horses every day!)

The problem with me getting ambitious about long distance (FEI) endurance was that it sort of coincided with a massive recession, which was slowly but very surely chipping away at my income as saddle fitter. To support my habit (and because I enjoyed  helping others) I started coaching to pass on what I had learned. But money, or rather the lack thereof, was always holding me back to be able to compete in the way I would hope or liked to. In true endurance fashion, my response was to just work harder, have grit and determination and make the best of the situation. Of course I have been envious of people that seemed to have the money, the endurance family/husband/wife or even a nice arena to work in in winter. But you know what they say about walking a mile in another person shoes...  Others might think the same of me, so instead of looking at what others could do, I had to set my goals within my own capacity and possibilities.

160's baby!

And it worked! I proved that I could "do it myself", my motto that had been with me from when I was taking my very first steps as a toddler. 8 years ago I did my first epic 160 km ride, first on Shadiya, and 2 weeks later on my homebred mare Moragh as well! Looking back on it now, those days seemed so easy, but of course they were not. Looking back is a bit like social media, you only see the pretty shell and not the hardship. 

Money became tighter as the recession progressed, but I had saved some money before and I was choosing my battles (eh, competitions) wisely. As always winters were the hardest, the short days, with a lot of work to care for horses that live out 24-7 , with higher cost and less income, but at least I did not have to train too much until the beginning of the new year. I started offering online coaching and training rides to get some much needed winter income. I am fortunate my husband has a good job, but as an independent woman I wanted, needed even, to pay for my horses myself and also contribute to our mortgage and household. But I started feeling a bit trapped, the joy was slowly being replaced by fatigue and worry about money.


At some point my husband got invited by some UK universities to come visit and see if he would like to work there. And after a lot of thinking and organising we moved (dog, cat, horses, the whole kit and caboodle) to the UK exactly 4 years ago now. I felt the change would do me good, it was good to have a new start, but I knew I was giving up a lot as well: the fields I rented for my horses were not expensive and all within a 5 minute reach, I had an amazing training area and knew exactly how much I needed to do to get horses ready. I had some help, and a lot of people that could come to me for help and training and I had places to go as well. And of course, I had build up a company and a coaching name that was just starting to gain some income again because the recession was over and slowly people were starting to spend some money on saddles and help again. 

I knew I would need to start from scratch with everything, daunting but also amazing in such a beautiful country. I was loving our new home, and we had found a lovely place for the horses as well. It was a tricky first year with the distance and the weather (a lot of snow, a lot of rain and then a lot of heat) on the top of a big hill, of course I would not take a break from competing and added to my load by competing 3 horses in totally new circumstances. Within a year of moving I needed to find another yard, which luckily I did. Less facilities for training, and a bit further from home, but with promise so I got working to make it all nice again.

And again, I got rewarded for my grit and hard work: Watt was my 3rd horse to do the illustrious 160's and we even made it in the Dutch team for the European Championships 2019 and were nominated for this year though we could not make that work.  Extra special were Watt's first foals, foals out  a stallion I trained and competed myself (with a little help from several friends in his early years  πŸ₯°) out of performance mares I have trained and and in Moraghs case also bred. They are the result of all those years of hard work and perhaps the future.

But again I ask you, at what cost... 


I have poured all my energy, heart and soul into the horses, into endurance and in making everything work with minimal facilities, minimal help and minimal funds. The years of recession, starting over in a new country and then Covid have left me with a long time of limited and nearly no income in the last 18 months. Money doesn't buy happiness but it sure does give peace of mind, and I am very much need of that.

I am 50 years old, and I am facing having to find a new place for all my horses for the 3rd time in 4 years. I have amazing horses and have just bred the next generation performance horses that are the result of all those years of hard work and enduring. But at the moment I really don't know if I can keep them or even want to keep going down this road of starting from scratch with an absolute minimum of facilities time and time again. I am running out of money and resilience. 

Getting back into it

After this moan and a bit of a break, I'm sure I'll scrape whatever grit I have left off the floor and I'll get going again. I have new ideas for the website and a load of tutorials on endurance and training I hope will help people anywhere to do endurance at any level. It's quite a unique project and will take some time to complete but please, if you can support me in any way and/or have enjoyed any information I have given (or simply have pity on me πŸ˜‚), please like the Groen Endurance facebook posts or share the website links once we have it up and running.

I'm not sure yet how I'm going to make things work, but I hope I will. We all struggle, though it might look different on social media,  and sharing might help, if not I have unloaded nicely in this post πŸ˜‚

Endurance: Step by Step - Course Contents
European(s) dilemma

Related Posts