“Am I as confident in real life as I am online? No! Not even close,” says the multi-tasking Christa Dillon, laughing. “I’m horrible as a person! I struggle a lot with social anxiety. People read my stuff online and like it, then they meet in person, and I’m not like that in real life!”
With her extraordinary ability to have you crying-laughing or crying-crying at the ups and downs of equestrian life, social media enthusiast, author, mum, farmer, and occasional lorry driver Christa has fast become one of the nation’s favourite equestrian voices.
Describing her content as “a healthy dose of reality, punctuated with profanity” Christa’s Blackhill Eventing page on Facebook has almost 40,000 followers; add that to her 64,000 followers on TikTok, and you begin to get an idea of her reach.
Those are not easy numbers to hit if you’re not, at the very least, brave and hilarious. Christa has also published a book called, Red On The Right, which has been praised for that same mix of honesty and comedy.
Run away screaming
“One of the things I love about social media is I can be really authentic; lots of people use social media to show the best bits of what they’re doing, which is great; I’m a little bit the opposite.”
“There really are fantastic people following my page who contribute regularly. The cool thing about that is that people tend to either be horrified by you and run away screaming, or they tend to stick with you.”
Having groomed and ridden internationally, Christa knows both ends of a horse. “I wanted to event my entire life since I first learned what eventing was.
I remember watching Lucinda Greene and Ruth Davidson cross-country at Badminton on the telly. I just loved the sport.
“I started eventing late. I had a series of unsuitable horses, I suppose. In my twenties, I did ten seasons. Then, when I married Niall and had my son Charlie, I just couldn’t put in the hours anymore.
"So I switched more towards show jumping. I’ve worked with many good riders from whom I’ve learned a lot, but I always feel like I shouldn’t be at the shows, it’s really stupid, but I don’t feel like a show jumper.”
Eventing is back on the horizon for Christa, however, with a “small little horse” she has in, she hopes to get out eventing at the end of the season. “I’m really excited about it! I’ve done a lot of dressage, agricultural, and working hunter shows. It’s easier to wing it at this stage in my life and make it up as I go along.”
Horses and social media are only a fraction of life on the farm in the Midlands. Christa and her husband run a suckler herd farm and a livestock haulage business.
“I’m very hands-on with calving, we have a spring herd and an autumn herd, and I love the calving side of it; I do night checks with the cows, and I assist any difficult calvings and then any calves that need help getting started or any vet issues then I try and be really hands-on with any of that.
"It’s lovely here, we’ve had generations and generations of cows, and you see their calves coming through that look like their mothers.
“Everyone knows farming and horses are not nine-to-five, but the haulage business adds a bit of a twist: you can never predict it.
"That can make things challenging. If you’ve planned to go somewhere with horses, or if you have an appointment, you just have to be really flexible. But we are so lucky we have the most incredible life; every day is like living the dream. That sounds like a contrite Hallmark gift card thing, but it’s completely true.”
Hardcore pony mum
It feels almost foolish to ask Christa what she does to relax. “I suppose what I really like to do for downtime is to drive the lorries if I get the chance. Which sounds a bit mad because that’s clearly work, but driving the lorries is one of the things I like almost as much as the horses.”
Those who follow Christa’s socials have also got to know her son Charlie. He isn’t as pony-mad as her but he keeps his hand in. “He rides intermittently, he likes going to the shows, he likes the pony fancy dress, he won it in Oldcastle this year!
"He’s a fantastic kid, we’re so lucky he’s so tolerant! I like to go to shows with him, but he likes the bouncy castles and burgers the most!
"We try and make it a day out and create some memories and stuff, but I’m not a hardcore pony mum at all, which is probably good as poor Niall has enough trouble coping with me with my horses. I think if Charlie was really interested, I don’t know what he would do.”