Dear Gorgeous Readers

As I write to you with Neil Diamond songs belting out from Alexa, to paraphrase another musical legend, I feel the winds of change may be blowing wild and free. (That one’s Adele, fact fans).

I moved to Bournemouth from Oxfordshire in March of this year (in that bonkers time that history will refer to as lockdown 1.0), where I have been happily living with my parents ever since. The move came about because my self-employed income came to a grinding halt (thank you pandemic). So it worked fantastically, as I was able to keep my dressage competition horse in livery with my trainer in Hampshire and still put food on the table. But now I think I’m starting to get itchy Petries (not a medical affliction, but in fact my dressage boot of choice).

For yes, I am an equestrian, and more specifically a dressage rider and trainer (for those not already aware, thanks to my frequent social media posts about my partnership with my gorgeous horse Inky – sorry, not sorry). Feel free to catch yourselves up – it’s @shaun_mandy_dressage on Insta’.

This is a big part of me and my life and my horse is also my career. As a dressage coach, part of developing, improving and growing a strong client base is to be seen doing well on your own horse/horses.

This year, Inky and I have reached Grand Prix level. For the uninitiated this is the highest level in dressage – and now my goal is to keep improving so that we will hopefully be able to start competing internationally.

Inky is 11 and I have ridden and trained him since he was a 6yr old. It certainly is a journey with plenty of ups and downs, but thankfully the highs outweigh the lows. And I am very lucky to have a part owner, who is very supportive of our journey.

Ok that’s your overview, so now back to today…

I feel like this morning is going well. It started with coffee in bed while reading a few pages of David Attenborough’s book, A Life On Our Planet. (By the way, EVERYONE should read this… What a legend that man is.)

So after my wildlife fix I got my hot pants on for a spot of Yoga followed by an invigorating beach run. (When I say hot pants it’s not a figure of speech. If you’ve got it flaunt it I say.)

Living so close to Southbourne Beach has definitely helped keep my mental health on the straight and narrow this year. I’ve started running for the first time at the age of 35 (ok ok, I’ve just turned 36… but I was 35 when I started running). Yes …a lockdown birthday. That’s my excuse anyway. I keep forgetting I am 36 as my birthday was so forgettable. Does it even count?

So moving on from health and wellness (my body is a temple), something vaguely hilarious has happened…

First let me start by saying I hardly ever go on dating apps –  and that since my ex and I broke up in March of last year, I have only been on a couple of dates with one person.

Ok so that’s the disclaimer out the way, now on to the juicy stuff (in a manner of speaking)… I was teaching in Sussex last week and after a chat with my best friend about dating, I decided to go on Tinder for the first time ever.

In have been on Grindr (yes it is as sleazy as it sounds – don’t judge, a boy has needs) and Chappy (just for clarity, this is a dating app, not a brand of dog food), but this was my first foray into the dark world of Tinder.

To my delight I matched fairly quickly with a handsome individual. Let’s call him Tom to hide his identity and his blushes. We started chatting on messenger and there was an instant connection.  The chat flowed effortlessly and I loved his humour.

After a phone conversation the following day, I decided to look at some of his Instagram pics (you can link your Insta account with your Tinder profile these days, just to update those of you who were lucky enough to find love before all this madness was normal).

Tom had already told me that he was a father so it was no surprise for me to see pics of him with his son.  However, what was bothering me is that I recognised the son!

I was staring at the photo thinking, ‘why do I know this kid?!’  It then hit me… the man that I had dated last year (and he may have stayed over at mine once… ahem) was Tom’s ex! I mean what are the bloody chances. Especially as like I said I’m not exactly out there on the dating scene – just typical!

The other guy’s name was also Tom (ok it wasn’t Tom… but for the purposes of this blog it was… they both have the same name. All very confusing.)

Suddenly the penny dropped. I remembered the first Tom telling me that his ex was also called Tom and that they co-parented their son.

I met the first Tom just after coming back from holiday with my best friend when I downloaded Chappy. Tom 2 I met a year later after downloading Tinder. Even as I write this, I’m thinking ‘Really Shaun?!’ Who even am I these days!

So here’s the tricky bit. I haven’t actually physically met Tom 2 yet, but based on Whatsapp and phone calls, I like him. There is a good vibe going on. There’s a bit of flirting and he makes me laugh.  Who knows, maybe after Lockdown 2.0 we’ll go on a date.

But there is something else, dear readers …something that makes this experience even more spooky.

So, before I met my ex back in Nov 2016, I had been single for nearly six years. During this time I had also lived in Denmark for nearly two years where I trained with and worked for dressage legend Hasse Hoffmann. I had had the odd fling but nothing serious.

About three weeks before my ex and I started dating, a good girl friend of mine came down from Manchester (I was living in Oxfordshire at the time) and we had a wild night out in Oxford. Again, this was something that was not a big part of my life. For me, clubbing would perhaps happen once or twice a year. We had a total blast and I don’t exactly remember how this happened, but I was chatting to this guy in the club and we had a common connection in the fact that he also rode horses. We didn’t know each other from Adam, but he ended up in the taxi home with us.  I would like to point out that I had never done this before  I don’t actually remember if I invited him back or if he just decided to get into the taxi.

Fast forward 3 weeks and I am on my 2nd date with my ex having a lovely dinner. The conversation is flowing and he then tells me that his ex rode horses and then told me his name. Well, I could not hide my shock! It was not how I envisaged our 2nd date going by me confessing that three weeks ago I had randomly slept with his ex after a wild night out! He took it quite well and we did stay together for two and half years. Quite funny now I think back on it.

The slightly more ‘cringe’ moment happened later when his ex messaged me on FB (I just would like to add that he was not someone that I would have wanted to date) and said that he would like to see me again. I then had to tell him that I couldn’t as I was now dating his ex. Awkward!!  Needless to say he deleted me off FB and I never heard from him again.

Now I know you may all be thinking I am too honest and I did not need to tell these individuals, but we all know that the truth always comes out in the end, so I just thought I may as well say it first and be done with it.

But how typical is that… it’s happened before and now it’s happened again!!

Right my lovelies, I must now head up to Hurstbourne Priors to ride Inky. Pringle, (my beloved Jack Russell), is eagerly waiting to accompany me – not because she’s an avid fan of my riding, I might swiftly add, but because she likes to spend the whole time we’re there in the big hay barn hunting rats. Classic Jack Russell behaviour.

Tomorrow I have an unusual task that I’m looking forward to – a Zoom lesson for a client in Durban, South Africa. We will do it 7am my time as it is then 9am there and nearly 30 degrees. Oh, how I miss summer!

So I started by saying I feel a change is coming, before I got distracted with dating hilarity.

That fact remains… I think it’s going to involve me moving away from Bournemouth and possibly to Germany or back to Denmark. Exciting times ahead.

Until next time. xx