Who is Groen Equestrian? - Part 1: The beginning
Hi! Welcome to my very first blog on my new website. I am so proud to show you everything I have been working on for the last few months. It was a challenge getting all the content for the website. As English is not my native language, it was a good exercise in writing. I realised that speaking English is quite different from writing it! I'm sure there are some mistakes left, please forgive me 😉
In this blog I would like to tell you a little bit about the person behind the website. I'm Esther Groen (pleased to meet you!), at the moment of writing this blog I'm 48 years old and we are at the start of the whole Covid-19 pandemic…. So I am not training and I have loads of time to write a blog for you about the events that got me to create this website for my business.
I was your typical horse mad kid, I did not have my own, but that did not stop me from being obsessed about them. My uncle had New Forest ponies, and at some point my parents gave in to let me have weekly horse riding lessons. I lived for my Saturdays at the horse riding centre. It felt like I was barely living the rest of the week and come Saturday morning I started to wake up out of my zombie-like existence. The moment I smelt my first horse of the day was the start of being alive again. Getting on the pony for 1 hour the highlight of the week, and I suppose being back home could feel like the down after a drug. Then again, I wouldn't know because I have never taken drugs.
There was no way we could afford to have a pony, and I was working at odd jobs to earn a little extra money to be allowed to ride once a week. I did not realise it at the time, but I was good with cheeky difficult ponies. Something I did not like at the time because I wanted the shiny most popular pony in the school. Instead, I got the fat little bugger that would run and then drop its head to throw you or the sharp spooky one (that would try to lose me as well 😉 ). I guess it helped to make me the rider, and coach, I am now. Thank god the only bad injury I had from riding naughty ponies was a broken arm (the spooky one on a frosty winters day…). I must say I still prefer ponies to horses though, they are so much more fun and smarter (not to mention closer to the ground hahaha)
So my once a week pony-fix was pretty much my life until 16, then I stopped riding for a while. A combination of adolescence and having to switch from ponies to horses was the reason I stopped riding for a few years. At University the riding bug reared its head again, and my first go on an Arabian race stallion made it final. I was hooked for life 😉. Not only just riding but riding Arabian horses in particular. All I loved about ponies combined with amazing looks and a slightly bigger size. I had ridden al lot of horses, but never felt like precious cargo on top of a lean, mean, Arabian race machine. Such a small horse, with match stick legs and a cute little face. But with the acceleration of a Formula 1 race car (not that I've ever driven one… but that's what I imagined).
As university did not entirely turn out as expected, I might be a more practical person than I thought at the time, combined with some other challenges. I decided to do something completely different and go to Ireland to work with horses. I had been in Ireland before to run a small riding/hacking centre in Co. Sligo and I loved Ireland. Going to Kill Equestrian in Co Kildare, and later some private yards was just what the doctor ordered. I ended up as an eventing groom, Thoroughbred horses mostly, and it was 3.5 years of tremendous fun, experience and also a lot of learning.
I came back to the Netherlands in 1998, worked in a riding school/stud for a bit but saw the other side of the equestrian coin… I think the phase some people use is " the industry". It really did not suit me at all. I stopped working with horses (in fact I nearly stopped wanting to be around horses!) and began to train as a forest ranger/labourer. In between going to classes and working I ended up helping to exercise Arabian racehorses (based on the philosophy "if they can go fast with me, imagine how fast they can go with a lightweight jockey!" at the same place I had once ridden my first Arabian horse.
It was in that yard I met Moreno. At the end of a row of stables was a stunning, very vocal bay stallion. Completely green and I started working with him to get him ridden. We did well, and even though he was a loud, temperamental horse, he was also very smart, so he picked things up fast. I got to buy Moreno, looking back for way too much money, but I was over the moon!
We did our first endurance ride in October 2000, all the racehorses of the yard came so we had a big group. Moreno was a bit overexcited and needed to stay away from the other horses a bit. He did not pay much attention to his feet and tripped a couple of times, he was lame after the ride. But it did not matter, the endurance-bug had bitten. Unfortunately, the lameness was a tendon injury, and after resting we started competing in endurance again. We went slowly because of his leg, and also because I was recovering from Lyme's disease and was not that strong anymore. You can imagine finishing our first 30 km ride was a big thing!
We slowly progressed, doing longer distances. It helped a bit to geld Moreno as his massive amount of testosterone was not always easy to manage. But even then his temperament was a challenge. Moreno wanted to go FAST! He was a lot more competitive than I was 😉. He wanted to take on the world, and if I wasn't with him, I must be against him so he would fight me as well. Combine that with an accident-prone body, and you have a challenge on your hands. But a challenge makes you learn, adapt and improve, that's what Moreno did for me. I would not be the trainer, rider or coach I am today because of him. I did not realise it at the time, because in those days it was predominately frustrating. I am very grateful to him now.