Another horse chapter closed…

Today marks the end of my half lease on an amazing horse that I was lucky enough to ride for the last year and 8 months. I have one ride left on her this coming Saturday, and bittersweet it will be. Reasons don’t need to be elaborated on. It was time. 

But what this blog is about is what this mare did for me. In September 2011, I sold my horse to the people who were leasing him and was a bitter, jaded, angry person who swore off horses and riding. I was done with it. I never thought Id go back, it was time to try something different! Only, nothing really can ever replace that passion when its ever present. But I was unlucky enough to have a job that consumed my life so I didnt get to try those other things. And the horse bug kept nipping at my heels. 

I would venture to a show now and again, go back to the barn to say hello. I tried considering riding other places, but I knew in my gut no one could compare (see previous blog) to my trainer. So I started talking to my trainer about taking lessons. We dont really have lesson horses, and I wasn’t going to ride my old horse any time soon. So I got a “we’ll figure something out.” 

Then came the text message from a friend, asking if I might be interested in half leasing her horse. Again, for undisclosed reasons, I had been approached to half lease this mare, this amazingly talented, sweet, award winning mare. OF COURSE! 

And during my time with her, I have been reminded of many things. I learned to trust again, to know my horse and their body language and how to distinguish between a spook and just going on tour to check out the world. I learned how to ride a very talented, but crooked horse who not only needed to be straightened out but also needed to be left alone. I have always very much been a push ride lover, but this girl has since  changed my mind. I’ve learned how to ride quiet, how not to pull, how to stay out of her way. I regained a confidence I never thought I would find again. She saved my tush more times than I can count, and I only fell once. And that once was my fault and she did all she could to stop but wasn’t able to. 

I got to horse show again, for the first time since I was 14. It was scary, it was thrilling, and it is one of my favorite memories. I learned how to ride a hack winner, how to get my horse to move off my leg into their bridle and stretch out. I had to remember how to ask for lead changes, and how to get a horse to land off a jump on the correct lead. I learned how to get down a line and not  be scared. 

When I first started riding seriously as an adult over 7 years ago, it was an old grey mare that brought my soul back to life. And again, it was a grey mare who reminded me how to confident in my ability to ride well. If I ever win the lottery or somehow manage to stumble across enough money, I will buy this mare and never let her go. I haven’t felt this way since my pony, Billy. Dont misunderstand, I loved my horse I owned for 4 years. He saved my life and taught me a lot of different lessons, but his greenness and my fear were not a good combination. But I am able to ride him now with a confidence I didnt have before. And that is because of this grey mare. 

I will still see her when I am at the barn, and I may even give her kisses still when no one is looking. But she has left some big shoes to fill when it comes time for me to find my next horse. 

I am so grateful for every second I spent with you, my dear, in and out of the saddle. I will never be able to thank your owners enough for the time they gave me with you. You are so special in so many ways. I will not forget what you taught me. Thank you. 

It’s back to weekly lessons for me, and saving pennies in hopes that I will be able to afford something in the spring. The bar is high. 

Even the best can be shaken scared

Even the best can be shaken scared

While I’ve admitted openly before, I am not a fan of the big equitation classes, I enjoy when you see these teenagers who we think are holier than the rest admit to the same fears and nerves we all struggle with. We need to remember these two very important things when it comes to this sport we hold so dear. 1) We are only human. Unless it is something we do day in and day out, we cannot expect to be perfect every time we decide to show. 2) Horses are big, big, flight animals. We practice, we work hard, we learn something with each ride. But at the end of the day, they are too big for us to bully or fight them into doing something they dont want to do. You have to know when to say when. People love to judge these kids because they were born with an advantage in life and can use it. But at some point, talent and hard work outweigh money. 

Im dying to see the final test video. As soon as I find it, I will post it. It sounds like she rode the shit out of the course. But I refuse to sit and watch the wannabes. And my computer hates live video feed. 

Excited for adult week because….THEN ITS ZONE FINALS!!! Several friends are competing, others I know via showing, and Im excited to go watch. I dont know why all zones dont have finals. States too far apart? 

The day you realize your trainer is one of the good ones.

Ive now been with my trainer for over 7 years. Started out doing stalls in exchange for lessons, bought a horse that ended up not being the right fit for me, and then being given an opportunity to half lease an amazingly talented, sweet mare who has my heart wrapped up around her right now. And when you spend that much time with someone who you trust to have your best interests at heart, you become friends and build a relationship with that person. However, at some point during your journey to whatever kind of rider you dream of becoming, especially if part of that is showing, you start to see other trainers and riders. You see how they teach their students, you hear what they tell them, and you start to pick up on things your trainer tells or doesn’t tell you. So when you hear those trainers schooling a client, and that client proceeds to win or place high in almost every class, wouldn’t that possibly lead you to question what’s missing from your current program? Especially if you arent winning or riding as well as those around you?

I remember that moment of clarity very vividly. I always knew my trainer was able to teach each one of her students in a way that works best for them. But one day, at a rated horse show, I listened to her training some clients, while simultaneously listening to another well known trainer in the area. Only, what they were saying didnt make a lot of sense to me. It didn’t really give them a solution to how to manage their horse’s negative behaviors or how to ride through them to get around the course. That rider went in, and her horse stopped in every. single. class. She had no spurs, she had no crop, and each time it was obvious her lack of courage to ride aggressively to get her horse over that same jump was missing. And I realized — she had never been taught how to ride a refusal. It probably never happens at home, so it was never a topic that required discussion. But we talk about how to deal with refusals at home, even if no one refused during a lesson. Why? Because knowing how to handle yourself in that kind of situation makes you a stronger rider when faced with it.

This type of thing grew more apparent the more I went to horse shows. Then I noticed articles being posted on facebook about riding styles and basic skills that are imperative to a good ride, regardless of discipline. And each article I read, the same thought passed through my mind — we talk about this stuff in our lessons. These are the things that get drilled into my brain with each ride, the things I force myself think about when Im hacking to ensure Im doing it right. The things I do to prevent myself from missing a distance or pulling when I get scared. I am far from perfect, but my trainer teaches us these things. And like the cartoon lightbulb we are all so familiar with, mine finally went off. I ride with a fucking amazingly talented and knowledgeable trainer. Not only is she amazing to watch ride when she needs to school a misbehaving baby or working some kinks out of a seasoned show horse, but she teaches us the basics day in and day out in hopes that one day it will stick in our dense skulls.

So when I see these articles being passed around and people finding them to be so insightful and so amazing, my response is usually, so? Is this something new? Are you one of these people who finds yourself reading these articles and thinking you aren;t being taught the basic important skills of riding? So when is it time to start questioning what you are being taught and consider moving on to a trainer that will? Or are you more comfortable staying where you are because you dont have high aspirations to do big things and would rather stay some place that makes your happy? Or is your current trainer willing to work with you when you bring her this new information and helps you incorporate it into your riding? What do you want from your riding? What are your goals? When you can answer those questions, you will know better where you should be regarding a trainer who can take you where you want to go.

It took me a long time to find the barn I ride at. I tried many places and all I ever got was, “I can’t teach you anymore, you know it all.” Only, I knew I had far more to learn to be the kind of rider I want to be. I stumbled across my current trainer by accident in an ad in a local newspaper. And of course I have moments where I question if I should move on. But at the end of the day, this woman teaches me the things I want to know. When I talk to others about horses, not only can I have a competent conversation regarding riding, but about horse health, care, wound care, turn out, stall care, hay, feed. Granted, a lot I learned on my own because I’m an admitted horse geek who wants to absorb all the knowledge I can. But I don’t know where I’d be without my trainer today, to guide me in the right direction and teach me those important things that not only make me a better rider, but make me a better horsewoman. Which is a big part of who I want to be. I owe her more than I can ever repay. And she’s far from sentimental, so saying these things to her has to be in passing.

But thank you, trainer. I was lucky to find you as my trainer, but I was even luckier that we got to be friends. I am forever in your debt for all you have taught me and all you will continue to teach me. You obviously see in me what I know deep down I am capable of but am too afraid to let it out. You’re far more gifted than you let yourself believe you are. And without you, I would not be the horse woman I am today. Because Im not just a rider. Im a horse woman. Thank you to the moon and back.

Capital Challenge Week!

On a completely unrelated topic to the Capital Challenge, I’d like to add to my previous blog on Reed Kessler and her announcement to remain in Germany and train over there. Everyone has an opinion, don’t they? Because she’s young and a public figure of our sport, we all get a say, don’t we? No. No, we don’t. Reed is 19. She has a rare talent that the majority of us can only dream of. And sometimes, in order for our talent and ability to grow, we need to move on to new trainers and new perspective of what we want to achieve. So good for you, Reed. I can only hope that the Prudents are being as cordial as the articles make it seem. And so what if this is a wrong choice? All you can do is learn from it and make it better. So kudos to you for being so brave and I hope it serves you well.

Capital Challenge takes to another phenom of our sport — Victoria Colvin. She won the equitation final on her jumper/eq mount, VIP Z. Congratulations, young one. Again, you are another so many of us can only dream about having a 1/16th of your talent. I did not watch her trips, as I am not a huge fan of the eq finals. I find in an effort to be the “prettiest” rider, a lot of youngsters think you need expensive horses, expensive extras, and big names to do anything of merit. I also can’t stand watch rider after rider sit down on their horse’s backs over the jump even before their front feet touch the ground. I miss quite a few of the older eq riders. I hope things change.

I also feel that with the Capital Challenge, comes a lot of riders and trainers we don’t typically see because of all the future classes. Which leads to not some of the greatest trips for a multitude of reasons, and the only classes worth watching are the indoor classes with the usual names and the horses we’ve seen most of the year. Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m glad the opportunity is there for these up and comers. But if I’ve said it once, I will say it until I am dead on the floor — money can buy a lot of things, including the quietest, most talented horse, the most amazingly talented trainer and pro rides until the end of time. But it cannot buy YOU talent or the ability to see the difference between someone blowing smoke up your ass because they want your money and someone who has an actual clue about horses, training, and how to get the best out of both you and your horse. Just because you can afford to chase points to qualify for the big shows, does not mean you really deserve to be there. And my heart breaks quite often when I see someone with indescribable talent, who doesn’t believe in themselves and doesn’t think they are worth the time to be seen by a big name who can recognize their talent from the first second a foot goes into a stirrup. This is one of my biggest issues with our sport. But, take it or leave it, and no matter how hard I’ve tried, I cannot leave it. So I’m forced to take it.

Victoria Colvin is the phenom on the other end of the spectrum, when compared to Reed Kessler. And I think a lot of people compare the two and so many prefer a rags to riches story over a riches to riches story. Sheer luck and parents who love horses seem to be how Victoria Colvin was found and had so many doors opened for her. I love watching her ride. I love watching her float her reins 5 strides out and how she stays out of her horse’s way unless something needs adjusting. And to an everyday Joe, those adjustments aren’t obvious. She is a beautiful rider, she respects the animals she spends so much of her time with, and she appears ever so grateful for those who give her the chance to shine.

I watched her last year at Devon, on Memorial day when she was showing one of her horses in the pro divisions. And I don’t mean in the ring. I mean, I did watch her in the ring, but we were lucky enough to have a box that day, so I was able to see the schooling ring. Filled with horses, grooms, trainers, assistants, wanna-bes, and fans. When Tori got off her horse after their trip, she not only loosened her own girth, but she helped her groom put on his scrim sheet. She thanked him for his help and talked with him for several minutes afterwards. They laughed, and appeared as if they genuinely knew one another. She didn’t go off with Scott Stewart or any of the other big name people. She stayed with the groom. She then went with her mom somewhere. The only reason I knew it was her mother besides the striking resemblance, was that she had sat in front of us during Tori’s trip. And like any anxious show mom would do, she watched with her fists gripped and on the edge of her seat, and cheered the loudest when their round was done. I have no doubt that Victoria Colvin has friends her age, who come from money, who she shows with and rides with, and gets to be a kid with. But the kindness and refreshing friendliness she had with her groom is what I feel is going to keep her going far in this world, whether it’s horses or something else. She rides the same way, and that is what separates her from the rest. At least that’s what I see when I watch her ride. And I’m sure every time I get to do that, I sit with my mouth wide open with my chin in my hands, in awe of the talent that fills the entire ring. I wish there more people like her in the world, not just in our horse world. Compassion is a lost art, and very few understand how it works.

Oh, and I’m absolutely in love with Way Cool. I have a thing for big chestnut geldings, so while Jersey Boy is #1, Way Cool is high on my list.

So my love of indoors probably won’t start to get obsessive until Harrisburg. I love PNH. It’s ranks closely behind Devon. So good luck to all showing this week!

Indoor season is upon us!

Capital Challenge is two days away, beginning the wonderful time of year known as “indoors”. I wish my computer wasn’t such a piece of garbage, because I would be watching the live feed all day if I could. Especially because this year I know several people who qualified for them, all juniors, but exciting none the less. 

I also believe that indoors levels the playing field a bit. I have seen a horse that trucked around show to show beginning at WEF, winning everything, turn into a completely different horse in an indoor. Indoors are scary, and when you add in no schooling except for hacking, and then put them in a ring with jumps that are closer together and big, the situation changes. So good luck to all who qualified and remember inside leg and look forward! It’s not your horse’s job to focus, it’s your job to ride them through the spook and redirect their attention on the job at hand. And if you have a crappy trip, and don’t thank your horse for not killing you in that ring and for trying their best with what you give them, you just dropped a few notches in my book (please know I feel this way about all show people, indoors and outdoors. Horses are animals and we can’t expect them to be perfect all the time. Especially if we fail to remember how to ride them the right way to enable them to have a successful trip). 

 The big equitation finals are coming as well, regionals are done and the top of each heap are moving on to the next steps. It feels like a trend right now. Ever since Animal Planet’s show about it. So good luck to all who made it. I can’t wait to see how everyone does. 

I hope that the Washington International HS is bigger than it was last year, because it felt like a lot of people skipped it. I would like to see it stay big because I like to see the competition in different arenas and how they do with the change. Fingers crossed. 

And Zone 2 finals are always exciting. Zone 2 is so competitive, so to be able to watch the most competitive people in this giant zone gather together to compete against one another is fun. This is a day I could spend every waking moment watching every horse go around the ring. I’m an admitted horseshow geek. I am also taking of my best friends this year to experience it because she’s never been a she knows a few of the many people I do, who are showing. She makes fun of me and my love of tradition in the show ring. So I can’t wait see her eyes bug out of her head at the hair nets, fake tails, braids, and muted show coats. Don’t get me wrong, I love her despite her obsession with newmarket, orange tack and the mess of hair that hangs out of her helmet when she rides. And she loves me despite my loathing of her newmarket orangy tack and my need to even do a 10 minute hack with a hairnet and clean half chaps. I’m just excited to expose her to this level of showing. She doesn’t have to show in it, but she knows so many people who take part in it, it’s time for her to learn and understand why things are done the way they are. I love to teach, I love to share, I love to point out why horse A is going to win the hack today because of how the judge has been pinning or because of how the horse is moving. LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

It’s a baby free zone day, and I’m taking advantage of it. I dont think she knows what she’s in for.