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Book Review: ‘How to Get Your Leg Over’

By Victoria Brant.

The horse world is filled with inspirational stories: Olympians who have battled for everything they have all the way to the gold medal; scrappy underdog tales of unlikely champion racehorses; horses plucked from kill pens and polished to discover the heart of the champion hiding beneath by down-on-their luck horsemen.

This is not one of those stories — and that’s perhaps why it’s so relatable to every-day riders who deal with the very real issues of anxiety, depression and white-knuckle-gripping-the-mane fear of the very thing we love.

Victoria Brant’s How to Get Your Leg Over is based on her very successful blog Diary of a Wimpy Eventer; this slim volume is the first of a trilogy that’s in the works. Victoria is “the rest of us”: a rider who begged, borrowed and stole her way onto various horses throughout her life before finally owning a few of her own — specifically, a talented gelding “Pauldarys Master Patrick,” or Pat, sired by the well-known eventing stallion Master Imp. Like many of us, Victoria found herself, through various life circumstances that translated into her riding, totally crippled by fear: many rides ended in tears, many rides didn’t even happen at all.

The premise of her blog is to reveal, in minute detail, her process for overcoming this fear, convincing herself that she is in fact capable of her goals and her overall growth as an equestrian and a human being. Her blog is peppered both with accounts of her riding adventures, from low-level events in Great Britain to rollicking foxhunts across the countryside, and with more introspective musings intended to start conversations and encourage her readers to tackle their own fears and find their own confidence.

The book version, How to Get Your Leg Over, is essentially a bound, printed version of the blog: most of the posts are copied essentially word-for-word. Initially, I admit that I was confused by this: what was the point in purchasing a print copy if the blog was available for free? Blogging also adopts an informal style, peppered with things like emoji and internet shorthand, and sometimes this informal tone in print was grating to me as a reader.

But as I read further, I was willing to set the initially-questionable format aside: Victoria is a no-holds-barred writer, describing sometimes in passages that may leave you thinking “TMI, TMI!” every aspect of crippling anxiety and fear, from self-medicating with gin and tonics in the morning to every detail of her bathroom behavior. While some readers may find this to be a turn-off, Victoria’s candid writing won me over in spite of myself: her storytelling is so real that readers/riders who find themselves facing the same fears will be shouting “me too!” and finding courage in this scrappy self-described “wimpy eventer.”

Victoria’s book lends hope that the horse world doesn’t always have to be the catty, competitive place of constantly comparing oneself to others and bringing others down: one such passage that resonated with me reads as follows.

After all, we are all in this together, we all smell a little bit like wee, have been trodden on and cried with frustration over our passion for horses. We are all individually achieving something every day… blow your own bloody trumpet for a change without feeling like you’re being judged for it!

Such encouraging passages clearly resonated with Victoria’s blog readers, and they do translate well to print as well. Some readers may even find Victoria’s blogger prose to be more approachable and less intimidating than a conventional self-help or inspirational volume.

Ultimately, while this book is no work of great literature and there are a few passages that may raise your eyebrows, How to Get Your Leg Over may also be exactly the piece you need to read if you’ve ever felt fear in the horse world — or just want a lighthearted read to remind you that you’re not so alone in this horse world after all.

Order a copy of How to Get Your Leg Over at the Wimpy Eventer blog, and catch up on the rest of Victoria and Pat’s adventures.

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