When there is no next horse…

So I feel kinda blah right now about the whole horse thing. Everyone keeps asking me if I have another horse lined up, and when I answer no they always ask if I want a second horse or if I want to full lease something. I get a lot of “I have a friend” stuff. I know everyone thinks I will find something else, but I am feeling very discouraged at the moment. What I can afford (something untrained or coming back from injury) is not what I want. What I want, I simply cannot afford. I keep telling my hunter/jumper friends they need to work on having babies because I would love to kidnap one of their ponies…to have something that knows how to go, but needs a little fine tuning for dressage, to ride for a year while I figure out what I want to do. Sadly none of them are looking to get pregnant so I think that is not an option that going to pan out.

Riding and horses have been a huge part of my life for almost 20 years. It seems so odd to even be considering giving that up. Something that has brought me so much joy over the years. Something that seems as much a part of me as my eye color. And yet I am thinking about it. Having Gen is like keeping one foot in the water. I could jump back in or I could walk out. Everyone says that where there is a will there is a way, but I don’t have a whole lot of fight left in me when it comes to horses at the moment.

I don’t know whether I am finally facing the truth that I can’t do it, or if this is just a really big test and the perfect horse is right around the corner. I haven’t ridden, like really had a good hour working hard, since July. I have barely even gotten on a horse since September. I am still alive. I am not exactly thriving at the moment, but it goes to show that I can live without riding.

You know what is funny? I used to look at the people who gave it up like quitters. How could they? It seemed so impossible to comprehend when I would see their facebook status go from all horse to running, baking, hiking or whatever other hobby they chose to fill their time with instead of horses. Now I might be one of them.

Poor Gen has been dealing with my blah much better than I expected. Being at the barn so much this weekend was nice. I love spending time with Gen and I really do enjoy taking care of him. I know that we can all agree that being the first person to open up that barn door on a chilly fall morning is magical. The quiet nickers, steam of sweet horses breath coming through stall bars and excited stomps of impatient ponies wanting breakfast is enough to warm anyone’s heart. While I could tell Gen was getting annoyed at my neediness, he still let me get some good horsey cuddles in, running faithfully over to me every time I called. I already told him that he has to stay healthy and be good because I just don’t think I could handle him getting hurt right now.

It is funny because while it was hard saying good-bye to Lucky, I felt the most comfortable I have ever felt driving down a barn driveway with all my stuff in the back. I know her owner adores her and that she is in good hands. Plus I can stop in whenever I want and I know I will see her in the field since it faces a road I drive by on my way to the tack store. At the same time it was the hardest good-bye because I really feel like this might be it for my riding.

I thought I would feel much less frustrated ending the lease, but the truth is I still feel stuck and unsure of what to do.

Back to just “A Horse”

I had spoken to Lucky’s Owner last week, but still needed more time for reality to set in. Tonight when I went to the barn, she was still less sound than the last vet visit. I couldn’t keep running away from the issue, hoping for miracles. It hit my like a ton of bricks on my drive home. I just can’t wait around for 6 months and hope she gets better. I lease a horse to ride, and I am not riding at all at the moment. Lucky’s Owner was understanding and gracious as usual, and not surprised at all that I would be ending my lease. I needed to make it official though. I just couldn’t keep going to the barn hoping she would be better, only get upset when she wasn’t. I need to let her go. If this is the end of my riding career so be it. It is not like I am riding right now anyway.

I know that rationally this was the only logical thing to do. I am a total mess about it right now though. If I had a million dollars I would keep the hope alive, but with limited time and resources it is just too much of a risk. I shouldn’t be upset. I had two and  half great years with her and she is staying with her owner at the farm so I don’t have to worry about her. I just hate that it turned out like this. I am sure I will feel better about all this eventually, but right now I am not a very happy camper.

I just feels different this time

After that nice break of Gen’s total and complete adorableness it is back to my current situation with Lucky. I am going to head out after work today to try and ride her and see if she feels any better at all. I put her on a glucosamine/chondroitin supplement about a week and a half ago so I would hope that, if nothing else, her arthritis would at least feel better at this point. I mean, even if she does feel terrible I would want to give some notice to her owner so I would be with her through November regardless. Hopefully she is feeling better today and this post is all for nothing right?

I just want to explain myself a little bit better because I am not sure if I am being clear as to why I think it is time to stop riding. It isn’t about Lucky, at least not really. It is that Lucky is horse number 4 (or is it 5) that I have tried to half lease only to have it not work out in the long run. Some leases were my choice to end, others were made by the horse. It has been over 6 years since I retired Gen. In that time I should have only leased one, maybe two horses. That isn’t how it worked out for me though. I have leased several and that is without a handful of leases that never even worked out at the start.

During this same 6 year period I have watched friends, on their own horses, go through the levels. I have seen others completely change discipline from hunters to dressage, or western to eventing. I have even seen some friends unfortunately have a horse go lame, struggle with training issues or lose their equine companions, and yet they all bounce back and go on to be successful. I literally cannot think of a single friend, or even stranger, who has put as much in to it as I have, and yet has not progressed.

Before you all jump down my throat, I am not saying that I haven’t gotten better, I am simply saying that I have not progressed. I.e. there has been 0 LONG TERM progress made. When someone asks me what level I am at, I say Intro. Which actually means that I have gotten worse over the past 6 years because I used to be able to say training level. I know that riding isn’t always about making progress, but one would think that 0 progress in 6 years is a pretty clear indicator that maybe riding isn’t my thing.

One would think I would take a hint that maybe riding is not for me when my very first horse got hurt. I didn’t though. I just became determined to “make it work”. I once joked that I wanted to create a line of saddle pads with inspirational words or sayings on them for riders like me. I mean, I know that not everyone has the dream path laid out in front of them. Plenty of people have struggled with riding. I always used to say that I didn’t have to be good at riding as long as it was still fun.

The problem is…I don’t even know if riding is fun anymore because it has been so long since I have done it. Right now it feels like adding in a second horse to the mix has been one big mistake after another. With the number of times my heart feel to pieces because I had to say goodbye to a beloved horse I am surprised I even care at all. But I do. I am clearly not going to be one of those people who gets to ride off in to the sunset. I feel blessed every single day that Gen found me, but maybe the ending of my riding story is more like they walked next to each other in to the sunset…no riding involved. One heart break, one injury, one month where you are sweating to pay the bills, a person can recover from those. I just don’t know if I can get over 6 years that feels like it is filled with that.

I just don’t know how many times I can “keep getting back in the saddle” when the universe is telling me that my two feet are better off firmly planted in to the ground.

Time for fun!

So tomorrow is the Summer Fun Show. I actually wasn’t planning on going to the fun shows this year. This year the dates just were not in my favor. The first one was scheduled for our first dressage show of the year, the second was this weekend which is no good for me, and the third is in October, which has not been a good weather month for my area for the past several years. After our lack luster performance in dressage shows this year and with my work being so stressful I am clearly not even thinking straight anymore I have decided to go to the fun show tomorrow after all.

I need some fun in my life right now, and the fun shows are just the way to get that. I was worried that the weather might not cooperate (I have gotten stuck in their parking area before so it needs to be DRY for me to feel comfortable) but we have been rain free for 3 days with lots of sun to harden the ground so I am hoping that it will be okay. I will be trading in my day of sleeping in and hanging out poolside to one for waking up at 5am and spending the day at a show. What better way to spend a weekend right?

I am not expecting much tomorrow ribbons wise. While I will do a ton of classes (they have a very, very reasonable day fee) I think there will also be a ton of competition. I have no idea who the judge will be, but in the past that have had QH judges who like the QH type. Lucky is most certainly not a QH, nor does she move like one. The judges seem to prefer a shuffle to a trot, and Lucky just isn’t a shuffler. Add to that the fact that it is supposed to be BEAUTIFUL tomorrow (low 80s, sunny, and breezy) and for most kids in the area it will be the first day of summer vacation so I am expecting a massive amount of people to be at this show.

So my goals are not for ribbons, although I hope out of a full day I will at least get something, but to have a good time and just ENJOY my Lucky at a horse show. I am thinking I might try and do something different and “live blog” the show. If you are around tomorrow check in my blog all throughout the day and I will hopefully be posting pictures as things go along. Why not try something new right? Besides, this way I can feel like I am at the show with a whole lot of friends, which will of course make the day even better.

The “I don’t want to canter” horse show – The End

I am many things, but a quitter is not one of them. Even though I wanted to give up, I knew I couldn’t. Not only is it rude to the judge, especially since it was not a safety issue, but it is unprofessional. I needed to finish what I started, no matter how ugly it looked. One of the judges comments in my first test was that I didn’t let go during the free walk, so I just let it all go in the second test. I was playing a mental game with myself that when I picked up the reins again we would be starting over. A whole new test. I was determined to let go of the bad stuff in the hopes of finishing strong.

So those of you who know training 1 (or who watched the video yesterday and are very observant) know that I made a mistake on my test. A big one. The judge was so dazzled by my free moving horse at the free walk that she didn’t catch it right away either. So what did I do? I did both of my canter series to the left! Instead of going across the diagonal I did two short diagonals. Opps! The good news is that I got an instant do over on my left canter, and that I am not using the test for anything so I could care less if the test counts or not.

Minus a head toss in the upward, my out of control right arm, and having to go sideways to the downward again the second canter was much better, and I felt much more in control. I smiled my first real smile of the day to my last center line. Was the test beautiful? Not even close. Was it embarrassing? A little. Was it the best test I have done yet with Lucky at training level? YES! I was glad that Boomerang and My Trainer had not let me quit. Lucky and I still have a long, long way to go, but for the first time all year it actually felt possible that we could actually do this someday.

Considering we were blocking everyone in I untacked Lucky in record time and loaded her back up. With only being 15 minutes from home I knew I could give her a real shower and let her relax at home instead of hanging around the show. They did score my Intro C test already so I knew before I left that I had gotten a 59.25%. Since I was the only person in the class I ended up in 1st place 😛

I learned a lot from this show though. I learned I need to shorten my reins, when they are long I bump her in the mouth. I need to get better brakes on my horse at home because having minimal breaks at a show just isn’t any fun. I also learned I need to get a new show coat. I can’t find mine and a tucked in polo is just not flattering on my plus size self! Lucky and I have a long way to go before we are ready for training level at a show again. This show gave me a tiny bit of hope though.

When I went back to pick up my second test I was thrilled to finally break 60%. Sure, the judge was kind, but I need kind right now!! Lucky and I ended up with a 61.46% for 4th out of 6 in our training level 1 test. I also learned that, for now at least, I need friend support at a dressage show. I needed both My Trainer and Boomerang there to push me when I needed to be pushed. Plus having Boomerang there means I got a video of my issues with Lucky, which is something I needed. Even though it feels worse than terrible, it doesn’t look anywhere near as bad as I thought it did.

I went home feeling satisfied and content in my decision to take a little break from showing dressage. We might have a lot to fix, but at least now I feel like we CAN fix everything. We might not have dazzled, but we didn’t humiliate either, and for now that is plenty good enough.

The “I don’t want to canter” horse show – Part 3

My first halt ended up being a heck of a lot closer to G than to X. I had no breaks! Not a good way to start a dressage test. Undeterred, I reminded myself that each movement is scored separately. Who cares if I blew my first centerline, it was only 10 points. By the time I got to my first canter transition I was tense again. My test was not going very well, My lucky was not listening to me. I took a breath and asked for the canter and Lucky did a nice upward.

I was just starting to think that maybe I could save this test when it was time to trot again…and Lucky wouldn’t trot! We played tug of war for what felt like forever and lost a ton of points because cantered out of the circle and on to the next movement. Some judges would have blown the whistle on that, but this judge was kind and could tell that I was trying to get Lucky to stop. My arms and back were tight and ridged across the diagonal, so the one movement that I can usually get a good score on I blew.

Lucky and I were starting to fight with each other. We were only halfway through out test and we were fighting. When Lucky and I start getting frustrated with each other it escalates quickly. By the time we got to the 2ndcanter transition I wanted to be anywhere but riding a test with Lucky. Sure enough she threw her face in the air in the upward, and when it was time to do the downward…well…she just didn’t feel like it.
Lucky ignored my request to trot for so long we actually missed that trot section and even most of the medium walk. In fact,  I used a pully rein (which I am not proud of) in order to get her to slow down. I was so frazzled at that point that the free walk was a disaster and I was completely defensive in my riding when we trotted again. By the time we halted again I was done. I didn’t want to ride Dressage anymore. I didn’t want to do another test. I didn’t even want to be riding Lucky at that moment. I was miserable, frustrated and embarrassed.  People that know me can attest to the fact that I don’t embarrass easily, but walking up to the judge I was in full on humiliation more.

The judge was wonderfully kind. She reminded me to sit back more in my downwards and keep my hands up. She did point out that my horse was naughty, but she made things seem fixable, not disastrous like I felt it was.  As I walked out of the ring my frustration point was to the max. I was done. I was stuck in the same place I had been all year and it just wasn’t going to get any better. I wasn’t having fun. Lucky wasn’t having fun. I thought the best thing to do was just to quit for the day and try again next year.

To Be Continued…


 

Thank you again to Boomerang for taking the video…even if I don’t love what I see, it is still good to see it!

The “I don’t want to canter” horse show – Part 2

I knew I had to be a better support for Lucky so I focused on taking some deep breaths and just relaxing. My trailer was parked, I didn’t get stuck in the end, I needed to stop worrying. Having a friend there helped to distract me and by the time my trainer came rolling up the driveway I was feeling much better. I tacked Lucky up as the parking lot filled up. Remember how I was so worried about not blocking people in? Well, the next trailer rolling down the driveway parked right next to me, blocking anyone from getting out. All well. I knew I needed to stop thinking about parking and start focusing on my ride. As I finished tacking up I reminded myself that my goal today was just to try and get my confidence back up. I was doing this show to practice, so I just needed to do my best.

 

Lucky being the old lady that she is we did a nice long walk warm up. I focused on riding with my hands up and together and trying to get her to be flexible. My little rock star was slightly inattentive, but not bad during our warm up. The trot work was great. I have been asking her for a bigger trot and keeping my reins shorter and it has made a huge difference. With only 10 minutes left before my ride it was time to do the dreaded canter. The first transition was good, and even coming back to the trot was not terrible. I was all smiles. I did a few more and changed direction just as Lucky decided that this wasn’t fun anymore. On our last downward from the canter she blew me off a little, but it was time to go in the ring so I didn’t have time to fix it.

 

As soon as we walked outside to walk around the ring Lucky started to ignore me in favor of watching the pretty scenery. The ring is set right next to the woods with the field on one side and the barn on the other. It is beautiful, but also a bit distracting. Our confidence issues are such that as soon as she started to ignore me I started to be overdramatic in some of my corrections and nonexistent in others. Instead of being firm and consistent (i.e. you WILL listen to me regardless of where we are) I was harsh and inconsistent (i.e. PAY ATTENTION TO ME…look a squirrel). I was already stressed out and she was confused before we even turned on the center line for the first time, not a good way to start a test.

 

To Be Continued…

 

The “I don’t want to canter” horse show – Part 1

So between seeing the rainbow the day before and getting amazing times (even if I didn’t get them until 11:30 Thursday night) I was actually starting to look forward to the show. Even the fact that Lucky took her braids out the night before and was covered in mud (despite the sleazy and sheet I put on her) could not dampen my mood on show day. My friend Boomerang offered to come to the show and my trainer said that she would come by also to warm me up again so Lucky would have a cheering section. You know how some times you can just feel it is going to be a good day?

 

I was running a little bit behind getting ready because of what a mess my Lucky was, but with no one on the roads I made it to the show very close to when I wanted to be there. We have had a ton of rain lately…like INCHES the past week alone. Parking at this show is always interesting, but usually you can park in the actually parking lot so I hand’t been stressing it. When I drove in there were only 2 trailers there…facing opposite directions…taking up almost the entire lot! Instead of pulling up or backing in, they had just driven straight through. I tried to find a place where I wasn’t in the way, but I couldn’t really find anything. I ended up just parking on the other side of the barn to check in.

 

When I got out to get my number I knew I was going to have to move my trailer. There was no way people were going to be able to get through next to me. I do not have 4 wheel drive (which is a big frustration) so my options were limited, but I knew I had to move. After I checked in I got back in and tried to move the trailer to a different spot. Tried being the operative word because…I actually started to get stuck. I am unfortunately used to the feeling of my tires slipping at this point, so I just put the tuck in reverse and let gravity slide me backwards while I got the truck back on to solid ground. Another trailer had pulled in taking away the new option I had been thinking of so I just circled around and parked lot trying not to panic.

 

I hate driving the truck and trailer! I was all stressed out from my near miss with getting stuck so I was shaking as I circled the barn. I decided to park on the other side of the driveway in almost the exact same place I had been before, this way people could get around me on the grass, but I would be all on the driveway. I was still rattled as I unloaded Lucky when Boomering showed up to calm me down. Lucky was looking around, very interested in her soundings, but was still being a good girl. She could tell something was up with me though because she kept wanting to snuggle. I knew that if I kept this up I would take my calm horse and make her crazy out of insecurity. I just needed to get my head on straight ASAP if I didn’t want to ride a fire breathing dragon.

 

To Be Continued…

Still here…and still showing…sort of…

Sorry for the lack of posts as of late. I am officially in a funk with my riding. I still need to finish up my post on the last show with the thunderstorms and I need to write up the fix-a-test clinic. In an effort to try and stay current, I figured I would post on my next up coming adventure. Lucky and I have yet another horse show on Saturday. This is likely to be out last Dressage show for a while. I am hoping the weather will cooperate so we can do a fun show the week after, but we are looking at a very quiet summer…quiet for me at least.

I love to show. I feel like having my own trailer and a horse that is fantastic off the property has caused me to show a lot.

This year is different though. For one thing we are struggling in our training at the moment. Not doing well tends to make showing much less fun. Not that I need to win, in fact, I am just as happy with 6th as I am with 2nd most of the time. It is more that instead of going in to the ring with a “look at me” swagger I am riding more like “I hope people aren’t watching”. That is just not a good way for anyone to be. Going to a horse show takes a lot of time and effort, if it is not fun there is no reason to be pushing myself.

The other reason I am going to back off of showing? I am a home owner now…and it is expensive! My air conditioner broke a few weeks ago (right before a heat wave of course) and the outside unit needs to be replaced. Since my unit also is used in the winter for my heating it is already more expensive than normal, add to that the need for new wiring and 3 failed attempts at repairing it (trying to avoid the cost of replacing it) and I am spending several thousand dollars on that fun project. Even more fun? My roof decided it wanted to spring a leak at almost exactly the same time. Oh the joys of home ownership. My show fund, my emergency fund and my savings account will all be almost drained taking care of my home.

So I almost didn’t enter for the show this weekend. In fact, I waited until the closing date to send my entry in. If you are not doing well, and it is expensive, why bother? My trainer gave me a pep talk though and convinced me that Lucky and I do not look as horrible as I think we do. Plus this is the last weekend dressage show in the area for a long time. Since I am cutting my spending on showing way back, this is actually a pretty economical show to do (not that any show is ever truly economical). Even with gas for the trailer and entries I should be well under $75 for the day. My trainer even offered to come out and warm Lucky and I up since the farm is right down the road from her place. Her exact words were, “I know you can do well, if you need to not show because of money I understand, but I want to do everything in my power to show you that you CAN be successful, even if you don’t believe it yourself yet”.

So we are going. I entered for Intro C and Training 1 again. This is a no pressure show. It counts for nothing, and doesn’t even have real ribbons (they have the stock 1st, 2nd, etc ones with no farm name or anything). I want to believe that Lucky and I can do well. I also don’t want to end our show year in June…and on a bad note. We might still be able to go to the fun show the week after next (which has a day fee and you can do as many classes as you want), but considering it has rained several inches this month already and I have gotten stuck there even when it is not that wet, the fun show is a long shot. All I went to do is feel okay about not showing. I don’t though. I am glad my trainer talked me in to it…I really don’t want to feel like I can’t do well…