When your heart misses a beat...


One of my best party tricks is getting so nervous that I give myself diarrhoea, which luckily even my most prudish friends accept. But my real pièce de résistance, is working myself up so much that I give myself heart arrhythmia's. Impressive right?


Amongst other slight defects, I have an electrical fault with my heart, under the umbrella name of Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT). Essentially my heart short circuits and instead of contracting and relaxing, it will contract so fast that it doesn’t have enough time to relax in between beats. It feels a bit like a pneumatic drill on your chest, making me sick, tight chested and like I am gasping. All in all it’s not very pleasant, but I am optimistically told ‘it “probably” won’t kill you’. So that’s promising, probably.


My cardiologist offered me the red pill or the blue pill, no, I’m joking, that was a Matrix reference. He offered me beta blockers long term or an operation, which involves tubes and some casual burning of nerves in my heart....Beta blockers it is! The Cardioselective beta blockers chemically slow my heart rate down. But in turn this can make me feel fatigued, dizzy and cold! You haven’t felt cold like beta-blocker-cold. Unfortunately the episodes haven't stopped and I can still be found in my back garden with a freezing cold hose pipe over my head trying to shock my heart back into normal rhythm. When Rach builds a cross country course, it's usually one that strikes fear into both horse and rider. It is a lovely idea to give liveries something different to do with their horses, particularly when we aren't able to access external arenas, a great brain work out for the partnership. We were all given time slots to ensure Covid safety. I specifically asked for one at the end of the day, I could pack all the scary things away and I could just jump over a cross pole once or twice. Well for starters, Rach hadn't even put any cross poles out, everything had some kind of scary element attached and what was worse is that there were two others to go after me... the course isn't being put away then. Cue heart palpitations. I haven't jumped anything solid with Bodie since August, we have had medical intervention at the vet and mentally I've thought about whether what I'm doing with Bodie is right. I watched one of my closest friends (who is a bloody good rider) complete the course and she kept shouting 'He's going to buck', he looked cool as a cucumber so I kept saying reassuringly. 'No, he looks ok!'. Moments later, he has bucked and she is on the floor. Cue heart palpitations. Fortunately she has a lot of grit and tenacity, so she got back on and completed the course. I popped Bodie's tack on, mounted my ageing, decrepit horse, took a look in the direction of the school and felt the pressure. There were a couple of liveries (eyes) around tending to their horses (for further guidance see further details here: https://www.bhs.org.uk/advice-and-information/coronavirus-covid-19/england/for-horse-owners). Just knowing there were others that could watch us stumble and fall over the obstacles and possibly pass judgement on us. Cue heart palpitations.


I warmed up in the school, walk, trot, canter, check out the scary things, really build myself up, at this point I'm getting my monies worth out of these beta blockers. As soon as I finished warming up, I knew this was it. I had to start jumping stuff, some of this stuff wasn't even that small, I'm jumping 20cm cross poles, not solid scary things. I'm such an idiot for agreeing to this. I just kept thinking, all those eyes. Now, the thing about Ashtree is, if you say you are going to do something, then you are damn well doing it. Fear isn't an excuse and backing out isn't an option. Cue instructor, cue heart palpitations.


I said 'I've really lost my faith in both Bodie and myself and I'm frightened'. She explained that it was ok to be scared, even the best of riders don't always have it all together and then reminded me of a time when I watched her at an event and saw a brief glimpse of fear. Although it didn't last long as she seemed to be able to compartmentalise it, put it in a box and move on. Pep talk done. There is no way of delaying the inevitable now. Luckily she picked up on my fear, it might have been that all the colour had drained from my face. So firstly she eliminated the eyes. Secondly she said 'let's just take one jump at a time and see how you feel'. So we did the two practice jumps twice, Bodie felt ok. 'Right, shall we just go straight into the course?'. Now, this isn't really a question where you have a choice. There is a correct answer and an incorrect answer here. So off we go around the course! In fact we did it twice, Bodie was perky and other than me kicking in one of the jump wings we kept everything up, we were in one piece and Bodie's tail was going around like a helicopter, she was keen and bold. So naturally I booked myself in for another session next week! I don't know what I'm more proud of, having an amazingly keen 29 year old or completing one of Rach's courses!