Adventures of a horselover from the Irish countryside
We here at Must Love Horses love horses (duh…). We appreciate how a horse can become a part of your family and daily activities. We would even claim that horses can be a part of your culture and sense of community. That's why we love Instagram as it has enabled all of us to explore all things horses in a way that never existed before.
For us, no one symbolizes this better than Alex Calder and her Instagram account @betweentwoears. Through her own photos and her weekly recap of other people’s posts she shows the span of horse lovers across the globe. And through, Alex's tastefully captures of how Ben plays a part of her life in the countryside, we have added horseback riding in Ireland to our bucket list.
Let’s dig in!
1. Who are you and what is Between Two Ears?
My name is Alex Calder. I live in County Wicklow on the historic east coast of Ireland. Between Two Ears is my Instagram account chronicling my adventures with my thoroughbred event horse, Ben. What I really love about Between Two Ears and Instagram, and what keeps me doing it, is the genuine sense of community that has developed along riders. I do really love Instagram (I'm currently using four different accounts!) but sadly I have a lot less time to ride and compete nowadays as I become more of a career nerd, so it's more difficult to get photos and content to post.
I just adore seeing the photos of people's lives with their horses from around the world - especially anyone who's working on a ranch, that's such a different world for me. I'd love to visit a ranch to ride some day.
2. Tell us more about your horse, Ben.
Ben is definitely a character. He's a very affectionate horse, always interested in smelling your hair and leaning his chin on your shoulder. That and his speed and jumping ability cross country are what I love most about him.
He has a white patch of hair on his neck near his withers that vets always remark on when they're checking his marking chart - so that's a pretty unique identifying mark.
3. How did you get into horses?
I have ridden all my life. I think I took my first lesson when I was three. My parents bred racehorses, and my father competed in eventing, so there were always horses at home.
Both my sister and I were sitting up on horses before we could walk. I got my first pony when I was 8 and had a brilliant childhood with some unforgettable ponies in pony club, doing pony eventing, and doing working hunter showing.
My father retired from Eventing about 20 years ago. My sister and I were getting more serious about competing, and we're demanding more and more of his time. My mother used to hack out but she gradually stopped around then too. My sister works with horses. She's an excellent rider and was on track to go to the 2012 Olympics until her horse got an injury he couldn't recover from (he's now Ben's field companion). She didn't really want to compete again after that so now the channels her talents into sourcing and producing young sport horses and racehorses to sell - you can find her on Instagram at @leamorehorses.
4. What do you think everyone should know about horses?
I think it's a way of life. Once they're part of your life they never won't be.
I think people are often surprised at how affectionate and gentle they are, because they're so big - and perceived perhaps as quite wild through what people see in films and TV.
I also think more people should know about horse sport - especially eventing. Horse sport is the only sport where men and women compete on an equal footing. It was crazy that after the Rio Olympics, eventing, one of the toughest, most adrenalin fuelled, grueling sports, had to fight to stay in the Olympics, while cheerleading has been given provisional recognition.
5. What is the next horse event everyone should tune in for?
Definitely the Badminton Horse Trials at the start of May. Without a doubt one of the best equestrian event there is. Along with Rolex Kentucky, which is the week before. Both so good. I used to do social media and PR for Horseware so have been lucky enough to go to both to "work" - good times.
Alex and her husband, Sam, on their wedding day
Photo Credit: Lucy Nuzum
6. What surprising lessons have you learned along the way?
Hmmm ... I don't think I'm surprised by anything horses do any more. I guess, no matter how well prepared you are, always be ready for the unexpected.
I guess it's not such much that I've seen anything shocking, it more that one of the first lessons I remember learning as a kid when I was starting to get serious about riding was about anticipation.
Being able to see around corners, almost developing a sixth sense, because you never know what how your horses or pony might react to something like an unexpected bike on the road, something rustling in a bush, or the water filler under a show jump.
So if, mentally (almost subconsciously) you're ready for anything, you'll be better able to handle unexpected situations. I saw a great video on Facebook of someone doing a dressage test when an out of control horse and rider gallop into their ring - the horse doing the test gets a fright, but the rider is quickly able to settle the horse and resume the test in the same calm and balanced tempo. It shows the importance of good training and of having your horse listening to and responsive to you - so that even when the unexpected happens, you can stay in control. Whether that's at full gallop on a cross country course, or just on a relaxing walk on a trail.
7. What do you tell yourself when you fall?
Falling is just a part of riding, it's not something I let get in the way. Having said that, it definitely gets scarier as you get older, you don't bounce as well anymore, and I find you fall less as you get older too, so when you do fall, it's more of a shock. But you just make sure you and your horse are okay, get back up, and keep riding.
8. What is the best advice you can give a horse lover?
Your horse's welfare always comes first, and nothing is ever their fault. Learn to listen to you horse and understand his or her body signals so you can anticipate what they might do.
We would like to thank Alex Calder for sharing her time with us.
If you haven’t already you need to head over to Instagram and follow the @betweentwoears account. It is a beautiful account that allows you to imagine yourself on the horseback in the stunning Irish countryside.
ALL PHOTO CREDIT: Alex Calder
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