Self Preservation

I think a lot of riders can relate to the ‘good old days’ when falling off was no big deal, or when you would literally ride anything someone pointed you at.  I was definitely that kid and that teen, and I attribute many skills I have now to valuable lessons taught by those horses.  But a surprising takeaway from all of that is now, as a young(-ish) adult, my self preservation drive is sky high.  Gone are the times I would hop on a strange horse, or be the test drive dummy for someone else.

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This one wasn’t scary.

In some ways, I honestly hate it.  I hate that I second guess things.  I hate that I get anxious about certain horses.  I hate that I grew to resent my own horse, when she began to put me in a precarious situation over fences.  I used to be brave, I used to push the envelope, and I used to beg for a challenge.

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Teen me being dumb.

Whereas in the past few weeks, I pretty much broke down to my trainer about her well trained thoroughbred…and asked that I not ride him anymore.  He was never dangerous, but I was so focused on my anxiety over him, that I had stopped learning and stopped enjoying.  Again, stupid self preservation.  At this point in my life, I’m not willing to keep pushing if it doesn’t feel right.

Changing lanes a bit, my husband grew up around horses, and broke his own mare to ride in middle school.  Since then, he has sat on a lot of baby horses, and when his mare’s first colt was old enough to be ridden, he wanted to do it.  However, this time, he grabbed me as back up, had a lead horse to help, and kept it very short.  As he got off, he laughed at my teasing and said “I’ve got too much on the line now”.

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And it’s true.  As kids we only really answer to our trainers, maybe to our parents.  But as adults, we have family who rely on us, trainers who care about us, careers to maintain, and lives full of things other than horses.  So while I hate the second guessing, and the general increase in anxiety, it’s important as adults that we be our own advocates and do what feels right.  Even if it means slowing down the growth process a bit.

Everyone loves to ask me what I’m wanting to buy next, but my honest (and boring) answer is something that I feel safe on.  They laugh, but it’s true.  Apparently I’m past the days of reckless bravery…and that’s okay, I’ll just have to find a way to fill that void with a boatload of confidence and experience.

Happy Friday everyone!

Frugal October

I’m not naturally someone who spends easily spends money.  I tend to overthink my purchases, and am definitely the chick who takes stuff back…all…the…time.    Because I have to be sure.

There are two areas I can be kind of dumb with money in.

  1. Horses
  2. Daughter

Luckily for my finances not having an actual animal to spoil helps out significantly with item #1.  It really just leads to obsessive online horse shopping.  I mean, I would’ve taken this one if you forced me….https://canterusa.org/horses/listings/bout-time-again-16-hand-6-year-old-solid-gelding/

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But anyway, my daughter has halted her latest growth spurt, quickly followed by my car needing 4 tires, our deck needing redone and did I mention my car got 4 new tires?  So frugal October has officially kicked off.  My husband and I gave this idea  whirl earlier in the year when our home decided to stop working and needed some interventions.

It’s an easy principle….for one month…anything out of the ordinary, or things not needed — just don’t push buy, don’t swipe that card.   If it can wait, it should.  It seems easy enough, but has a big impact.  The first time we did it we managed to completely compensate for our household updates.  It really says a lot about how the little things really add up.  It feeds my constant Mint.com obsession, and makes me feel good about adulting.

Obviously if I forget my lunch at home (ahem-yesterday) no I won’t go hungry, I’m going to go grab something.  But it just means that I make the effort to plan for purchases.  Maybe I ought to skip one month of my wine club subscription thing and go grab some cheap stuff at Trader Joes?  Maybe my frozen chicken meal will be better than ordering chinese tonight?  I will say that like many rule structures – it does automatically make the opposite reaction very tempting.  In this case buying stuff or shopping now seems much more fun.  Even the little things.

A short list of random things I’ve now decided (within the past few days) I want…but not need.  Yet.

I want this rainbow crop.  It’s so obnoxious.  My black one disappears constantly…sometimes it comes home to me…most recently it has not.  No one will steal this thing in a hunter/jumper barn.

Or these adorable stickers I can adorn all the planner pages with?  And there are more for when I purchase dream horse 2.0!

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Etsy link: https://www.etsy.com/listing/505361287/multi-colour-horse-backriding-planner?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=riding%20lesson%20planner%20stickers&ref=sr_gallery_15

 

Personalized Chirstmas stockings…I need them right?  Even though my mantle doesn’t let us hang stuff?

And of course – something for the tiny human.

Most of these are pretty inexpensive.  I could and should just grab it, but stupid Frugal October is only 5 days in.  So I’m waiting.   Whew.  Adulting is a lot of work, and an effort in self-control.  Wish me luck!

 

 

Not Much to Say

I’m a little stuck.

While I have 1000’s of thoughts and ideas running through my head constantly, and about 50% of them are devoted to horses, I just don’t feel like I have much to say lately.  Or rather nothing interesting to add to the conversation.  My status right now isn’t changing, I’m horseless, will remain horseless for at least several more months, and am honestly riding once a week.  Frankly, I’m really boring at the moment.

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Obviously I could rant about how frustrated I am to not be able to ride more, or how I (of course) keep finding all these perfect Horse2.0 candidates now, or even about my anxiety about remaining a hunter for the next 30 years of my life.  But, I don’t have the oomphf necessary right now.  It’s like I’m in cruise control; just along for the ride.

I’m hoping that over the next week or two I can really regain my focus and get my thoughts converted into text, but for now I’m happy to read along and follow everyone else’s stories.

An Unlikely Friendship

Recently trainer and I decided to take me off of my friend the giant giraffe horse in order to build up some confidence and inject a bit more fun into my lessons.  At first I hung out with my favorite (other) red schoolie, but due to a scheduling conflict one evening I was placed on an older grey thoroughbred gelding.  Since he’s been around this area a lot doing a variety of jobs, I will respect his confidentiality and call him C.  Ironically all of our current schoolhorses (save one) have a C name.  Anyway, back to topic.

C is maybe 16hh?  It’s hard to tell because he wears one of those giant wither pads.  He’s a flea-bit grey, and doesn’t really have any classic beauty to speak of.  Typically he’s seen dragging his lesson kids around, while they kick-kick-kick to keep him going.  I’d only ridden him one other time, schooling him for a horse show.

Armed and ready for flatwork.  

I tacked up the old man, gave him some loves and extra curries, grabbed my stick and headed to ride.  Flatwork was exactly what I figured on.  He bulged thru his shoulders, and refused to go in a straight line.  Also – what is canter?  Why even try?

BUT.

Then we started jumping.  My lesson mate is a catty little jumper mare and her owner.  So the courses are usually focused on technical details and winding courses.  To my shock, after seeing where we were headed, C’s little grey ears went forward and he never looked back.  He did little bounces, we wound around the outdoor, jumped little boxes, a sort-of flying change, and he even bothered to shake his head at me in mock wildness about a distance.  It was adorable.  He has obviously had significant amount of quality training done over fences, and his rhythm and pace were the easiest things to just set – and let him go.  We even came around to a higher end of a little funny shaped standard-less jump and he bounded over it like he was a teenager again.

Bad at selfies.

I literally laughed my way around the whole course.  And he was ready to do it again, and again.  We ended on a high and he got loads of cookies and pets for being such a stud.  I mean I’m still smiling thinking about it, like two weeks after the fact.  My trainer said that while he’s an old man now, he was “pretty cool” in his day, and I would agree, and say that he’s still pretty cool now.  Just another reminder of how much the older horses, schoolmasters really have left to contribute.  It feels good to look forward to lessons again, where I know I’ll learn and be able to have fun as well.

All Four Legs

After my emotion packed lesson last week, my trainer and decided I should take a few lessons to get my confidence back and see where we go next.  I arrived to find myself assigned to an old favorite, “my” beefcake red lesson pony.  While he was never my favorite when riding him before I bought O (which seems like a very long time ago), I became very attached in past years since he hauled my pregnant butt around for weeks and kept us both very safe after I got back in the tack .

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He wasn’t quite as excited to see me as I was him, but obliged and let me tack him up and pull him to the outdoor.  He actually really warmed up nicely and seemed to appreciate having someone who knew a bit more than “up, down, up, down”.  I was feeling pretty good about myself, and we headed around to warm up over a little crossrail.

He gave the crossrail an unusually big jump (for him) and I am pretty sure I mentally squealed a little at how sweet this boy was.  The fun ended when he landed, and somewhere between putting his back legs down and cantering forwards, he seemed to lose track of his front legs.  Horses need all 4 legs, and unfortunately for us, this meant we were thrashing around in the arena dirt, as he desperately tried to get off his knees.  I thought for sure we were going to roll right over.

Somehow after a full 8-10 feet of knee sliding/thrashing he righted himself and halted.  He was blowing very hard and I immediately reached forward to give him giant pats.  I literally cannot believe we didn’t go over.  After swearing to red horse that I would personally take care of him for the rest of his life for keeping us upright, I trotted off.  Big red was obviously super sore on his knees, and we decided to cut my lesson off in exchange for a cold hosing.

So that’s how my second lesson in so many weeks, was cut short.  This time for a very different reason.  Regardless, I am very lucky and glad that my horse was able to get us both back up after his trip.  He got lots of cold hose time, then wrapped up and extra cookies in his stall.  My trainer reported that he was feeling so much better the next day and went back to his normal life. She also joked that she really is trying to make it fun for me.

Note:

Cathryn at Two and a Half Horses is sponsoring an awesome header contest.  I’m photoshop incapable, but someone else should try!  Great prizes and blog!

Why Lesson Programs?

Lately I’ve noticed a shift in local equestrian programs where the “lesson program” is becoming less and less prominent.  Obviously clients are still taking lessons, trainers are still training, but the days of operations having a whole string of lesson horses, and days full of lessons are waning.  When our facility hosts local shows, it’s obviously what programs in the area still host the full lesson program experience, with their half dozen lesson ponies and bombproof geldings, versus the smaller groups of client/owners.

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Bombproof hony – not a schoolie

My own trainer has been scaling back her lesson program in favor of really spending time with the clients she already maintains, many of which are showing or traveling on a regular basis.  She isn’t concerned at all about the change in process for her riders.  Most of her clients have owned before (like me) or already own a horse in her facility.  And while I understand time is money, and she needs more time, seeing the lesson program get smaller provokes a lot of feels from me.

As I’ve mentioned, I was a lesson kid and barn rat for years before I took on a “real horse” lease.  And now, I’m right back in that world of being a catch rider and lesson kid.  This is close to my heart, in my mind a vital step in the journey of horseback riding as a whole.  I just wonder how trainers are recruiting and gathering new riders without watching those people coming up through the lesson horse program.  Perhaps just my area fits into this need due to the variety of options, or the influence of our culture?  I’m not sure.

I feel like there is so much learned from riding many different horses, and having lessons on a consistent basis.  Not to mention the risk for a parent, or an adult re-rider based on whether they decide to continue in the sport and the sample size of time they’ve really spent with horses.  It was mentioned that if you want to run a successful lesson programs now, you have to teach all the time, every day – all day, to make the economics work.

Maybe I’m just witnessing a very small niche of the area doing this, but I had to ask.  What are you seeing in your area?  Are the big lesson programs still thriving?

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My favorite grey schoolmaster

 

Know When to Fold

Last week I had the last lesson of the day with two other adult ammys and I was pumped!  It had been a long week and I desperately needed a win on Cooper.  Which in hindsight is not smart to put that type of pressure on horse or human.

As I’ve mentioned he is still one who I just can’t seem to figure out.  We walked, we trotted, it was okay-ish. Flatwork for the two of us comes together slowly, so I spent a lot of time circling and trying to install forward, but not fussy with my body. By the time we cantered, I was getting crazy with my hands, and Cooper was practically backwards in the bridle.  We were going horribly.  My trainer was on us, trying to work us through the hot mess.  After a circle or two that was marginally better, I gave Cooper a pat and changed direction.

This way was so much worse.  He was bouncy, I was holding him (making him more bouncy) and honestly I could feel the tears threatening.  I am not a crier, but that night nothing my trainer said was sinking in.  Basically I had no right to be on a horse. I was frustrated at the horse, even more angry at myself, and honestly a bit scared that I was going to send this mild-mannered horse into hysterics. I’m told it didn’t look that bad, but it felt bad.  I pulled him to a walk, waved my trainer down and told her I was done for the night.

She gave me a very odd look, but nodded and she advised a quick walk around outside to calm down and sent me off.  I was horrified, and felt every inch a dramatic ugly crying quitter…even though I made it all the way to our outdoor before any real tears came out.  Those might have been more about the embarrassment too, but that doesn’t matter.

I couldn’t think of another time in my 15+ years of riding that I’d ever walked out during a lesson.  

Even days later, thinking back, I am still embarrassed.  I think I did the right thing for myself that ride – since my brain, body and horse connection wasn’t there.  But it still sucks.  I totally felt like I let my trainer down.

Another adult ammy talked me down from my crazy place when Cooper and I finally made it back to the barn, and trainer texted me to check in.  She reminded me that it’s supposed to be fun, and if it’s not I need to tell her.  

I think we might do some confidence boosting types of rides on some horses I’m really familiar with before tackling Coop again.  You have to know when to admit you need a break, even if it sounds stupid.

I want to ride him well.  But forcing myself in this situation isn’t going well either.  I’m really hoping that I just need a mental break to regain my sea legs, before diving back in.