Horses Handed Down

It was an assumed part of having a child with my husbands background that said child would need to, at minimum, be able to handle horses, or sit quietly enough in a saddle to get drug along with a group.  His family still actively use their horses for work on the ranch, and we always planned on any kids we have being able to contribute as well.  From my perspective, though, I dreamed of cross rail classes and braids and bows.

Getting to ride Dad’s horse.


That was until recently.  A friend of mine, whose teenage daughter had caught the horse bug from her Mom early on… she had trained relentlessly for her first Grand Prix with the horse of a lifetime.  The girl is an amazing rider and she was more than ready.

Yet, just weeks before their big moment, her handsome gelding started acting off.  Fast forward to an intensive vet appointment that left the young rider, her coaches, her mother, and even the vets in tears.  Her gelding was done, they weren’t sure if he’d come back to be riding sound, let alone jumped again.

Always interested in Dee.


Everything in my soul ached for her.  All those years of dreaming and suddenly it was all over.  I watched her mother experience it all right with her; the heartbreak was palpable.  Obviously her gelding is living out his days as a very attractive lawn ornament, but where does it leave his rider?

My point here is that the night I learned about all of this, I swore up and down that I could never let my daughter get into sport horses.  The highest of the highs could not be worth the lows, right?  I didn’t know if I could support the heartbreak, the one you know will come.  They are horses after all.

Who doesn’t love a teeny pony?

 

I want to know, would you pass down you love of horses?  But risk watching and experiencing the heartbreak with them?

Every day I bring my daughter to the barn it becomes more of what she knows.  She’s happy there, and people are constantly offering me lead line mounts.  I’m pretty sure my trainer has a pony in mind for her (shh don’t tell my husband) down the line.  But I’m terrified for her.  Not just of her being trampled on, or falling off, but of having her heart crushed by these beautiful animals.  I know all sports can be brutal, but there is something so deeply emotional about horses.  They really become a part of you; which is wonderful until the moment it’s not.  I can barely handle it for myself, I cannot imagine watching your child go through it.

Yet right now, it’s safe to dream and allow her to love horses as much as an one year old can.  And I’m trying not to stress about the future, whether it holds cross rails or soccer practice (or God forbid both).  We’ve got a long ways to go until she has Grand Prix dreams, and that is a huge relief.  For now we’ll continue celebrating days that she stays in the saddle for more than a few seconds.

What Next?

Wellllllllllll, alright game plan time.  

Since the husband and I made the decision to not pursue buying this year, I’m living the quiet riding lifestyle.  I’m stealing rides on some lovely beasts who reside at the barn and reading everyone else’s blogs to fill in my horse quota.  I’m kind of in a holding pattern until I can either find a new lease, or stumble upon a similar situation for my lessons.  I have great faith that something will come wandering by, but in the meantime I have been soaking up the extra quality time with family and friends.


So it looks as if I am going to rock out as life as a lesson kid again.  I’m sad to not be riding as much as I was with Dee, but it still feels good to be riding period.  That’s what I need to focus on.

My first real lesson as a free agent was this past week, and I was so pleasantly surprised!  I always worry that since I had been riding the same horse for a long time, that I’d struggle with a new mount.  Well, my trainer must have a sense of humor because she put me on a 17hh+ red giraffe masquading as a thoroughbred.  He is long, bouncy and jumps quiet and flat.  So essentially the only thing he has in common with Dee is his species.  Ha!  But I had a blast.  And by the end I figured out how to steer again and we had some nice moments.  Not sure he’ll be a permentant fixture in my life (he has a lesser), but I was very glad for the ride.  


I’m the worst at photos. Here’s the giraffe feasting after our ride.  

This week everything will settle into my new normal, lessons midweek and hopefully a borrowed ride during the weekends when they are available.  It’s going to be good.  

BUTttttttttt if anyone knows of a magical unicorn who wants to be leased by yours truly-just let me know!  

 

Celebrating Dee

Thank you for all the sweet and positive comments everyone left on my last post.  Now that I have a little distance I’m feeling a lot of peace about all things Dee related (as I hoped I would).  She was a fantastic ride, and did so much for me over the 9 months that I leased her from her family.

But.

I knew that regardless of college, or barn moving, that it was a short term arrangement, and the objective was that at the end of the lease everyone would continue to be friends, and I could continue to see Dee if I chose too.  Although it involves more of a drive now, I can say that all of those things are true.  As such, I am calling the lease a big success.

In the beginning the lease was all about:

  1. getting Dee fit
  2. seeing if I could manage my daughter along with more horse responsibility
  3. having something consistent to ride in lessons/shows etc.

Under item #1: great success — no other words necessary…just transformation pictures:

Item #2: You can read about some of my most upfront struggles, but generally I learned that I am capable of handling my half-lease commitments.  I should recognize that it won’t ever be as easy as it was pre-child.  (I know that’s an obvious “duh”, but worth noting.)  Dee served as my sounding board/ guinea pig for all things tiny human related.  Scared of this stroller?  Nope? Okay good.  Able to eat goldfish/cheerios and not my daughter’s little fat fingers?  Whew – a yes.

While she gave me the mostest of mare glares for some of my worst moments juggling everything, she was a rockstar and showed me that horses and small children can work.  With extreme planning and safety precautions…but what happens as the result is so worth it.

img_2848Hearing my little girl chattering at Dee, or having her bring us her “riding” boots at the house and say “dee – dee – dee” over and over again (her version of requesting to go the barn).  It’s the good stuff, and it’s worth the extra time I don’t get to spend in the saddle.  If anything it makes the time I do get even better.

As for item 3…When I first joined the trainer I ride with now, I came from a barn rat background where I had leases going every which way, riding sale horses, naughty school ponies whatever…It had been a very long time since I’d really ridden in a school program.  After O left, I had the baby and I worshiped the schoolies who brought me back to full strength.  However, my trainer doesn’t keep a huge string of lesson horses, as her business is primarily in buying/selling and maintaining her clients horses.  Lessons are mostly owners.

I have nothing against the cute horses that we currently have in the string, but I feel like I have no right to take their rides from the 9 year old who is doing up-down lessons.  That doesn’t seem right…and honestly I’d rather the little girl get her fix.  I’m not going anywhere, and I’m not in dire need of a horse fix all the time (at least not like a horse crazy 9 year old does).

Dee was a perfect fit for my situation.  She already lived at our facility – was barefoot – hardy – and pretty unflappable. Having something nice to ride every week was a huge load off my shoulders.  When you have that established you can really set some goals and objectives as a pair.  It felt so great to be a partnership again, and to feel confident in my riding.  I think it’s obvious as you reread my lesson posts that I was never let down by this little mare, and I feel good about not letting her down.

After looking at our unwritten goals for this lease, I feel so much pride and happiness now.  I can look back over the past months and be so glad I had this experience!  What an awesome little horse, I’m so glad I got to get to know her better.  Thank you so much to her family for sharing her with me!

My biggest takeaway from this lease though, is what I hope will continue to drive me forward.  It’s a thought that popped up a few days after she left.  There may be days where I’m dying to ride, or days I’m too busy to even consider riding, and that will be hard.  I know now that I will always make something work, and riding will always be there for me.  I don’t need to sell my soul for the future to get here faster – because riding will be waiting, whenever I am ready.  Dee helped show me that in some things you really have to continue to follow your heart.

As for the next chapter?  I have a post coming about that, but I will tell you I’ve already bargained for some awesome hacks on friends horses in the next few weeks.  That should keep me occupied for a bit!

 

 

A Chapter Closed

I haven’t gone into much detail about Dee’s owners because it’s a need to know basis right?  Dee is one of their 3 horses.  1 gorgeous baby hunter, 1 Grand Prix level jumper, and Dee.  With two teenagers riding and competing (in different arenas) and three horses on the docket you can see why they started looking for someone to lease Dee last year.  Since I have known them, and their horses for several years it was an obvious fit for me.  At the time my trainer was not convinced and pushed back.  Dee’s family and I didn’t back down and so began my lease; on a month by month basis to be sure it was the best fit.  


I went into the lease knowing that she would leave our area this August to go to college with the oldest daughter.  Now you can read back over our past 9 months together, but what I’m writing about today is that our lease has officially ended. 

 The families lovely Grand Prix horse hurt himself and is taking a 6 month vacation; leaving his very talented rider is horseless. So…you can see where this is going.  The girl would like the rides, and I understand that.  


I’ve said all along that what I have with Dee is very much a professional relationship.  And it’s true.  I was incredibly shocked by the emotions I felt when they told me that not only is the lease over as of today, but they are moving facilities.  They had their reasons and none of them were crazy or wild.  Losing some of my favorite people at the barn, and my favorite little mare is a doozy.    She’s been a bright spot in this rough few weeks at work, my partner in fitness and horse shows, and while she doesn’t give a fig about me, I do adore her.  


Tomorrow she’ll join her “big brothers” in the trailer and head off to her new home.  And while today I get to be a bit teary and slump around the house, I know that her people love her and will provide her all the best.  I’ve already told them that they won’t be able to get rid of me that easily, and we’ll just have to do drinks in lieu of rides for awhile. Plus a date to shove Dee full of cookies once they settle in.  

 I’d like to write about all the wonderful things that came out of my lease because there are so many…but not quite ready for that yet.  Obviously I knew the lease wasn’t permanent, but I have honestly no idea what is next for me.  I was hoping for a few more weeks to figure out a game plan, but I should’ve know planning around horses is useless, haha.  


And so ends the Demelia chapter of this riding adventure.  I wish her all the best, and hope that I get to see her someday soon!  It’s been a real pleasure having her in my life.  

Thinking Back and Forward

My current crazy train keeps going, and horses continue to be a bright spot. Lesson with bonus drinks with barn lovelies is tomorrow, so I’m real excited for that!

However, today I was going through my poor half-dead, cracked, hot mess of an iPhone to make sure I had everything backed up for my new one, and I found some pictures I just really wanted to share.  They both made my heart happy, and just a little sad.  But I think all big life changes prompt that kind of emotion!

Olive

My Olive, the week I bought her. I was infatuated.

Seeing these photos of O and my journey, especially in the one above where we are a brand new partnership, makes me crave that relationship again.  The bad memories seem to be the first to fade for me.  I know why it was hard to be an owner – but it doesn’t seem as important as time moves on.  As my time with Dee nears it’s end, I really find myself wondering what to do next.

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O was always ready for a selfie

After some heart to heart chats with my husband, I do understand and grasp that this is not the right time to buy a horse.  Not with my career, not with some upcoming home and car improvements, it’s just not ideal.

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And I’m not willing to do anything until the situation is as near to perfect as possible – I need to set myself up for success here!

So what’s the plan?

Not a friggin’ clue.  And that’s terrifying for someone who literally plans things for a living.

I guess I’ll just have to make it up as we go!

1, 2, 1, 2, 1…

I don’t care how old I get / how advanced I might get…my go-to for courses, especially ones with plenty of long approaches, is to count.  I know some riders sing, others talk, but there is something ridiculously therapeutic about counting 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2 and so on.  With a greenie like O was when I bought her it helped me regulate the pace, to be an active rider.  With Dee it operates in the exact opposite way, it distracts me from micro-managing the long approach or picking at the distances.  But regardless, it is my go – to maneuver.

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Purple thinking hat on!

This weeks lesson had a long approach small single to start off, where you really hard to get the pace early on.  Then a long 3 stride off a short approach.  To a nice moving two stride.  To another super long approach single oxer.  So lots of great questions!  My job was to get the pace early on, keep Dee bouncy and block that outside shoulder around the turns.  After running through each component individually, we strung it all together.

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Matching game is strong (for hunters)

 

And it was good.  Like it felt good, Dee felt good, pace was correct.  I even gave a tiny, slightly embarrassing “whoop” at Dee once we landed the last oxer.  We let her be done with that.  It couldn’t have gone any smoother in my mind.  It might have been due to my obsessive 1, 2, 1, 2 (you can totally hear me coming to the oxer) counting, but whatever it is, I’ll take it!

Please also note, that I had packed for my lesson the night before, grabbing a purple Kastel shirt.  Once at work, I realized I had both a purple saddle pad AND a purple trimmed bonnet in my car…cue fabulous idea to convince the two other adult ammies in my lesson to go matchy match.  One went all navy, one went all black/grey and I was in purple.  I don’t know if Dee has ever even wore a horse hat, but it was really fun dressing her up!

An Exercise in Happiness

As I mentioned lately I have been stuck in this funk for a few weeks.

I usually would feel comfortable telling people that I handle stress well.  Deadlines keep me sharp, challenges are welcome, and I don’t mind being pushed.  I, at my core, am a people pleaser, and am content to work hard in the hopes of being recognized down the line.  I also admit to being stupidly hopeful that people are generally good.  Lately things, and people, have been letting me down.  I started not sleeping, grinding my teeth, and bickering with my husband.  In his endless wisdom (and ability to not get angry), he volunteered that we should talk about what was really bothering me.

So, I made a list.  Because 1) I love lists.  2) Lists can solve anything.  Specifically this is a process that I’ve gone through before whenever I have to figure out where my head is.  Half the time I stress about things, I already know the answer on how to fix them.  Seeing the answer on paper, written out – with clear directions, is a whole different thing though.  And I need that at times.

Sucky List: All the things that are upsetting me

  • People suck
  • Husband hates my haircut
  • Baby is teething / hence baby is not sleeping
  • I’m not sleeping
  • Got the bill for my little trip to the ER
  • People suck

Once they were out on paper – it looked kind of stupid that I was that worked up over all of this.  But I kept going.  Part 2 in the exercise…

Happy List: Some of the things that make me haIMG_2042ppy

  • Family
  • Horses
  • Wine (or Champagne – I’m not picky)
  • Good food
  • Cooking said good food (with glass of wine)
  • Reading

Sounds simple, but all of the things that make me happy?  They were all action items.  That week I planned a trip to the library to get more books, updated my reading apps on my phone (axis360 is a favorite), went to the grocery store and picked out my favorite recipes.

Besides the obvious, my family, I knew horses would be on my list of positives.  After my list directive, I scheduled a few lessons, grazed Dee, hacked around the farm, galloped around the front yard, and generally just immersed myself in all good things horse related.

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Selfie outtake of sorts

On the day of one of my lessons, I actually texted Trainer and told her I wasn’t sure I should ride.  Obviously confused I explained to her that you have to be able to stop angry-crying long enough to get around the arena.  She held her ground, saying that it would help.  Wellllllllllllllllll, I was running almost 30 minutes late by lesson time…I showed up, and promptly melted down…Dee’s owner and I had had a miscommunication and she’d already ridden her.  (COULDN’T HANDLE-NEEDED RIDE SO BAD)  After some texts, we figured out that she had just taken her on a bareback walk and a lesson was definitely a good idea.

I gathered what was left of my brain, and got Dee ready.  When I met the Trainer in the ring, she just said “Get on, let’s go gallop at some fences.”  And so we did.  After a easy warm-up, she set up the fences to a healthy 2’9” and sent us off.  Dee was really into it; I couldn’t stop laughing at her “being wild”.  We had some really lovely jumps, but honestly, I just remember how much fun I was having.  How stupid happy I was; laughing out loud happy.

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Stupid happy.

Anyway, I guess you are always learning to push back on the sucky parts.  But my focus should be on my bottom line – do what makes you happy.