Inside Track Eventing
Natalie O'Keeffe is an ambitious grassroots amateur rider based in Ireland, with her sights set on the Eventing season in 2017. For the last few years, she has been mainly focusing on trying to force her muscles to be more flexible, and quashing her ever-growing awareness of her mortality. She juggles her time between her horse, a demanding full-time job which requires a substantial amount of travel, and her very tolerant non-horsey boyfriend. 
(Image credits: Louise O'Brien Photography)
Equally as tolerant, is her wonderful horse Paddy (Paddy's Cruising), a seven-year old KWPNxISH with Cruising and Lux Z bloodlines. He has bucketloads of talent and opinion in equal measure, and is teaching Natalie how to become less of a potato, and more of a proper rider. His likes include all kinds of food, being first to come in from the field, flying changes, and wither scratches. His dislikes include being interrupted when he's eating, being anything other than first to come in from the field, and discovering that Natalie's iPhone is not food. 
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Things I learned from… My First One Day Event

Having just done my first One Day Event on Paddy (check out our report here), and having done a few One Day Events on my last horse, Betsey, I have learned a few things along the way – I also chatted to the good people of #twittereventing to get their ‘first timer’ tips too. Enjoy!

  1. Expect to get up at ridiculous o’clock – even if you have a ‘late’ dressage time.
  2. If you think you have enough time, think again – plan in an extra half an hour for a toilet run, coffee break, or something else!
  3. You will always need more hay than you have packed. Bring more.
  4. Most of this hay will end up on the floor of the trailer.
  5. Water. ALL the water, for horses and humans. You will ALWAYS need more than you will take…
  6. You will need to bring a lot of stuff with you – make a list and pack things in boxes by phase, in the order that you’ll need them in.
  7. You will still forget something from your list – make sure its nothing expensive that you can’t buy in the tack van!
  8. Print off times on A4 and stick to door, have a clock or watch handy.
  9. Bring lots of clothes. It’s a long day and feels even longer if you or helpers are cold and wet. Make sure you have spares. In the unusual event of nice weather, you will sweat loads so will need lots of fresh tops.
  10. Pack deodorant for an in-between phase spray, a magazine in case you are in the prizes and have a 4 hour wait till prize giving, blanket, pillow, flask and sweeties in case the magazine is boring and you have a little kip.
  11. Pack a hair brush (for you!) – nothing like prize giving looking like you were dragged through the hedge you actually jumped clear over.
  12. If you’re trying to eat healthy, bring your own food. A chip van and lots of coffee will be all you’ll have to eat or drink all day. And on that note – don’t forget to eat!
  13. Eventing folk are very friendly and helpful – they will lend you something if you have forgotten it, or give you advice!
  14. Bring a spare copy of your dressage test in jods pocket in case you have brain failure 5 mins before entering at A.
  15. You say you don’t want to know your dressage score before the SJ or XC, but you do. And you’ll check the board. Multiple times.
  16. When walking the course look for things other than the fences that could cause a spook, change of surface etc
  17. You will be very confused about how long to warm up for each phase – is it too long? Too short? Is he sharp enough? Is he going to kill me?
  18. SJ warmup – 1 x cross, 1 x upright 2 x oxers & I leave it at that. No need to over jump when he’s faced with another 30+ to go.
  19. XC warm up – throw up before you get in there, not during.
  20. Despite having cleaned, tapped and plugged your stud holes the night before, you will still end up cleaning and tapping at least one stud hole the day of the competition.
  21. “All the gear and no idea” –  having the gear that people much higher up the levels have, makes me feel better about my ‘lacking abilities’.
  22. If you wear lenses, take a spare pair AND your glasses with you, in case one gets knocked out or damaged.
  23. Make note of where the photographers are so you don’t look like you’re crapping it over what would have otherwise been a nice photo
  24. Cigarettes. Even if you don’t smoke…..
  25. HAVE FUN and do every phase with a smile!


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How did I get here? by Inside Track Eventing

Sunday night.

The night of Sunday February 22nd, 2016, to be precise. I was sitting on my living room couch, smack in the middle of a two week holiday, questioning my decision to finally set up what has now become my personal blog, Inside Track Eventing. I had no idea how to design or build a website, how web hosting worked, or even what I was going to call my blog. All I knew was that I wanted to write, I wanted somewhere to document my journey into eventing, and I was tired of putting it off and making excuses.


It took me way longer than I care to admit to build the site, and there were times I wanted to throw my laptop out the window, but then I remembered that it was a company laptop, and I’d get in a lot of trouble if I threw it out the window, so I persevered.


One year and 41 blog posts later, here I am - blogging with a vengeance, and praying to all the gods that nothing ever goes seriously wrong with the website, as I will have zero clue how to fix it. My blog has reached almost 8,000 views, which may not seem like much - but for an amateur Irish rider who never even expected her blog to be read by anyone but her Mum (because she HAS to think I’m great) and maybe her boyfriend (apparently he has a choice), I still can’t quite believe how it’s grown. I’ve expanded my network to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and I even recently starting flexing my video-editing skills on YouTube. And people actually want to read my blog! I have FOLLOWERS, and SUBSCRIBERS. I even have wonderful communities like Haynet who let me ramble about my thoughts for their followers, too!


My blog has gained so much traction that I have now begun to work with companies who want to gain exposure for their products in Ireland - my two biggest supporters being HayLo Horse Feeder and Horse Health (LeMieux Products). As a firm over-analyser, and an impulsive shopper, I consider myself a most appropriate candidate to review and test products for these wonderful companies who make such amazing products that I NEED (*cough* want).


So, how did I get here? I’ve picked up some learnings in my first year of blogging, and I’d like to share them with you, in the hopes it will inspire anyone who wants to get blogging, to just do it!


1 Do it for you.

I never started this blog with any intention other than to document my journey into eventing. I had no aspirations regarding subscribers, views, or any form of commercial output. I just wanted to write, because I love writing, and because I’m exceptionally forgetful, I really wanted one place where I could keep track of everything I’ve achieved and learned. Don’t start a blog for the sole purpose of getting sponsorship - it should be a natural by-product of your efforts. And on the topic of doing things for you…


2. Stop caring about what other people think.

One thing I have learned, both from following blogs and writing my own, is that people read blogs because they inspire them - to improve, to do something different, to try. The most followed bloggers are honest, true to themselves, and share the whole journey - good, bad, and everything in between. Wouldn’t you get tired of reading a blog that just constantly talks about how great someone is doing and how many rosettes they are winning? Don’t you want to see how they got there, what challenges they had to overcome - or if they are great, what their tips for greatness are? If you choose to blog, you choose to share your journey with the internet - you will gain the right followers who identify with you if you are honest. Which brings me onto my next point...


 3. Always be authentic.

I am a nervous rider who lacks belief in her abilities - but I’ve got a cracking sense of humour, and I absolutely adore my horse. I will always stand up for what I believe in, and I will never pretend to be someone I am not. All of my posts, both on social media and my blog, remain true to these values - I I am open about my nerves, I inject humour when I can, and my pony gets more praise than I do! I also give honest and fair reviews of every product I trial, regardless of whether I have bought them myself or been asked to review them by a company, and I will always be upfront with my readers when I am given a product to review. Transparency and authenticity are critical for me - I don’t have thousands of followers, but the ones I do have are loyal, and I want them to feel confident in buying something I have recommended.


 4. Learning is a currency.

While I recommend writing for yourself, it’s likely you’ll gain followers as you blog more - and it’s important to ensure you write content that’s useful for your followers. Useful content usually has a learning, something that the reader can take away and apply (or buy!) for themselves. When writing your posts, ask yourself “am I just writing a report, or am I sharing what I learned?”. Keep things varied, with a mixture of posts across competition and lesson reports, product reviews, hints & tips articles, and even a few “just for fun” posts. And finally…


 5. Keep going.

You will never get it right first time. Or second time, or… ever, really. You keep learning, trying new things, doing more of what works and (hopefully) less of what doesn’t work. Figure out when the best time to post on each social channel is. Know what posts get the best response. Take different types of pictures and edit videos in new ways. Keep pushing yourself to do more and write better.


The most important thing of all is that you enjoy yourself, and do it with passion! I love writing, I love sharing my journey on my blog, and if reading my post helps one person to give something a go, feel more confident, or find a product that helps their partnership with their horse, then my blog has been a success.

Until next time,

Natalie xo


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