Missing Time

Between traveling for horse shows, and lessons rearranging, I was able to snag rides on the big red lesson horse last week.  He doesn’t do a ton over the weekend, so trainer offered me the chance to get some badly needed rides in.

Big red could care less if I show up or not, but both of us could really use the fitness.  Okay, mainly me.

Pictured: one very excited to see me big red horse.  I’m lying.  

Since my riding experiences lately are largely tied to riding lessons, there is always a critique or request from trainer to focus on.  Riding on my own is a bit foreign now, and while I love any part of being in the saddle, what I found I miss the most are the times in-between training.

I miss the cool out sessions, where you wander aimlessly around the ring chatting with other riders.  Or perhaps the break between gaits, where I am walked to the center of the ring and BRH (big red horse) parks himself and prays I get off and be done.  I miss taking as long as I want to clean and chat with other riders around our tack.  Or having the chance to watch friends ride before or after me.

Special appearance by indoor turnout horse slobber on mirrors.  

I really enjoyed just being able to be a usual customer at the barn.  Recently I’ve been very aware of how long it’s been since I have been an owner.  I knew upon selling O that the disconnect from the social aspect would be just as rough on me as the lost riding time.

Anyway, maybe it’s being horseless, maybe it’s being a mom, but it’s something I miss far more than the shows.  I would never trade my hectic schedule and life, but I’ve accepted that on my path there will be times where I miss out on things.  This is why I am so thankful for the extra rides offered to me on big patient red horses, so that I can soak in a bit more of those moments.

Who else finds themselves missing the little moments, the in-betweens, more than actual training when they are horseless?  I can’t be the one.

 

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.

working student life

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!

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.

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

 

I Had Forgotten

Since having my daughter, I've been in a consistent riding program. That all ended about a month ago when work priorities took over (for better or worse). After a week or two, I feel like my obsessive "must ride something now" kind of waned.

I was incredibly busy, and horses suddenly seemed like the one thing totally not worth it. Usually I have those moments while waiting on a vet bill, or after I couldn't catch my horse for an hour–the usual equestrian doubts. Having these doubts while just sitting at my house was a bit scary.

As I mentioned before, I'm attempting to revamp my priorities and get some time back for my goals outside of the workplace. Horses are the core of those. So back to lessons I went-no excuses.

Tacking up Cooper today, I actually felt anxious. Cooper had been inside for a few days because of all the rain, so naturally he would be a wild stallion right? (Spoiler alert-nope) Stupid thoughts. Sending my toddler with her grandpa, I swung up and warmed up the giraffe as usual.

The lesson was incredibly hard, a technical ride. Cooper was feeling spicy, but I don't mind a little play as long as it's not stupid. By the end I openly admitted that I was exhausted.

But then as soon as I loaded up the car, gave the kid some snacks, and headed home I could actually feel the buzz. Better than champagne, I kept thinking over my ride; how I could do better, what I can do in the gym to get my fitness back and so on. I realized that in the weeks away I had forgotten how much I love the smell of the barn, the satisfaction of patting your horse after your ride, or the sheer joy of sharing the place you love the most. Essentially I forgot that I do belong with horses, and on horses. It is a part of who I am, and while life is an insane roller coaster I am so lucky to continue to have horses in my world. So next time I forget, and am having all these insane-o thoughts about horses not being worth it, I should reread this post. Because they are.

Realistic Expectations

This post is inspired by the thoughtful comment that EquiNovice left on my last post, while I was lamenting about how I have been crying my way through recent lessons.  She mentioned that managing your own expectations were some of the hardest part about not being in a consistent riding program.  That was a huge ah-ha moment for me.

From an outsiders perspective, if you had been watching my last lesson on Cooper you would’ve seen a woman who is struggling to not pull on a more forward horse.  You might have seen a few awkward frog hop jumps, and heard said woman shout some angry words (bad habits die hard).  But generally, there was nothing catastrophic happening.  No one fell off.  No refusals.  No galloping away wildly.  Just ugly jumps and some flowery words.

But.

That was not how I saw it.  I went from owning O, to riding some sale horses, a few schoolies, to leasing Dee.  99% of the time I felt very confident on these animals.  I knew I was capable of riding them and looking (within reason) okay doing it.  Obviously there were challenges, but nothing significant that stands out to me now.  They helped me, and I felt good about myself as a rider.

The cleanest horse alive finally got some dirt on him.

When I hopped on Cooper those first rides, and it went so badly, I was honestly confused.  I’d seen much less experienced riders take him around without a single issue.  Why was I struggling so much?  My expectation is that I should not only be able to ride this dude, but also do it well.  Yet everything I did seemed to set him on fire. Our flatwork has improved, buuuuttttt I still manage to turn him into Seabiscuit over fences.  I couldn’t even stop him in a straight line.  Even with my confidence at a high I can feel how hard these rides have been on me mentally.  All because my expectations for the ride were “ruined”.


It made me question buying another greenie – was I even capable of bringing it up correctly?  It made me wonder what I was even doing riding?  I mean, after 15 odd years of riding, I probably should be able to direct my horse over a cross rail.

Please note that I am not saying I’m God’s gift to horsekind – but I truly felt I should be able to ride better than I have been.  Maybe Cooper and I just don’t mesh.  Maybe it’s because I have not been riding consistently.  Maybe it’s just been an unlucky few weeks.  In my opinion, it’s probably a combination of all of those.  Regardless of all of that, I’m trying to spend some time before my lesson really resonating on the idea that I am only riding once a week right now, and I’m in this for the fun part.  I must alter my expectations.  

I don’t need to be expecting to be the exact same rider I was in the past, when I was doing more.  That is going to lead me down a dark path every ride!  I just need to be able to learn, and manage my personal standards for my riding.    Maybe then I can learn to enjoy my rides more.