Whistlejacket and my main weight-loss motivation


Whistlejacket at the Hancock Museum, Newcastle Upon Tyne

Seeing Whistlejacket for the first time…

I remember the first time my Aunty took me to London for a weekend of sight-seeing. With family friends in London, it was going to be a weekend of galleries and museums. I remember thinking how boring it was going to be, looking at boring old paintings. What I didn’t realise is that I would happen across my now favourite painting in the world, and one that would be linked to a life-long love of all things equestrian. The painting Whistlejacket.

Whistlejacket is a painting by George Stubbs from 1762, of the racehorse owned by the Marquess of Rockingham called Whistlejacket. The painting is near life-size, and it commands all attention in the room. It is normally housed in The National Gallery in London.

I was running around The National Gallery, trying to find something entertaining to look at or draw with my pad and pens when I found it. I saw it through the glass doors, and at that young age, I was horse mad. I had started riding lessons and had a subscription to Pony magazine and would literally talk anyones ear off who would make the mistake of bringing up hobbies with me.

I crossed through the doors and sat on the bench opposite and began furiously scribbling, trying to match a likeness on my lined pad of paper with a biro pen. My Aunty still has the drawing somewhere. I tried attempt after attempt to draw horses for years because of this one painting. I began to do research into George Stubbs as I got older and was amazed at his knowledge of the anatomy of the horse. I was so interested in all things equine, and found them to be the most challenging thing to draw besides people. Once I’ve fully unpacked and found a place for all my art supplies, I can’t wait to sit down and draw and paint again.


whistlejacket Hancock museum great exhibition of the north

Whistlejacket in Newcastle…

Finding out that this wonderful painting of Whistlejacket had made it’s way up to Newcastle as part of The Great Exhibition of the North made me so happy. Right now as a student, a several hundred pound trip to London and back would be a complete no-go, especially as I’m in the middle of the house move. So, to be able to head into town and see it at the Hancock Museum for free was brilliant news.

The effect Whistlejacket had on my life…

Seeing it again has reignited a passion in me. For art, for museums, for all things equine. There is nothing I love more in this world than animals and in particular horses. My favourite past time I’ve ever taken up was horse riding. It’s such a wonderful experience, even if it is just a basic 30 minute class. Being able to communicate and create a relationship with a creature that completely outweighs you but trusts you is something I am glad I’ve experienced. It’s like muscle memory, when I remember horse riding, I remember the wonderful sense of excitement and pride I feel as I sink into the saddle and gather up the reins before gently nudging my horse on to begin warming up. It was something I enjoyed doing weekly, and something I yearn to do again. Learning to jump was one of the best experiences of my life and doing it is such a thrill!

My favourite horse riding memory was on holiday. My parents took me to Arizona and we went to visit one of those old mining towns. Like a fake town that felt like you were in the Wild West and one of the attractions was a hack out into the desert. I begged and begged and finally after lunch, I got to go. I remember being so excited to go on it and my Uncle has a clip on the old family camcorder of our group hack heading out. The horse I rode was called Copper and I remember being buzzing about being able to ride up front with the instructor. It was absolutely incredible, riding out in the desert heat, along sandy gravel paths in between cacti. We got to  a flat open plain area where we were allowed to get up a bit of speed and just run and it was just an incredible experience.

Horses will always have a special place in my heart, they are incredibly sweet, funny and amazing creatures. I have always wanted my own. I used to borrow a horse from my family friend, called Connie. We used to go for hacks and have riding lessons together and she was the first horse I got to properly take care of over a long period of time, easing my anxiety about horse care. I was so nervous I wouldn’t feed her enough or brush her right, but our family friend was so patient with me and helped me learn so much about how to care for a horse.

Seeing photos of my own mother riding at a young age, spending as much time as I could drawing them, watching TV programmes about them and finally convincing my parents to let me start riding lessons are all parts of my life that have led to this strong love of all things equestrian.


Connie waiting to go for a ride

Learning to ride was something that gave me so much confidence. Although an incredibly expensive hobby, it was the best part of my week at school. Even if it was rubbish weather, I still look forward to my riding lessons. It was a time I could get away from bullies, or the stress of school work and living at boarding school, and just be me. Focus on my own goals and spend some time with a lovely creature called Havana. Looking back at decisions and lack of decisions I’ve made over the years, stopping riding was one of the worst I ever made. By not watching my weight and letting other things get on top of me, I lost one of my greatest passions.


Connie and I during a riding lesson

So why the real focus of this post? In all honesty, it encompasses so many categories that I blog about but I predominantly wanted to share it because of my fitness journey.

As much as I want to get back into creative pursuits, getting to horse ride again is my main motivation for my weight loss journey. As you may have seen, I’m trying to lose 25 pounds by my 25th birthday.  I could not think of a better life than one where I get to horse ride again and I can’t wait to vlog and blog all about my first time back in the saddle.

The reason this is my main fitness motivation is that many stables have a weight limit for the safety of their horses and in order to horse ride, I need to have a higher level of fitness overall. So, my journey of losing 25lbs will just be the start of my journey back into the saddle, and I hope you’ll join me along the way! If you fancy keeping up with it in more depth or have your own fitness instagram, make sure to follow me here on my fitness instagram.

Do you have a favourite painting?

Shay x