Monday, December 30, 2019

Decade in Review

So uh I've been blogging a really long time and even though I wrote less posts this year than I used to write in a month, blogging still brought some of the greatest people into my life. Because of those people, I present: the decade in review, sprinklerbandits edition.

Here goes:
2010 this looks... way more pleasant than it was
In 2010, I was newly back into riding as an adult amateur. I was fresh out of college and took on a (black 6 year old) spoiled warmblood mare as a project. The goal was eventing, so we did a little of everything.

2011 yeaaaaaah i was completely terrified in this picture
2011 brought lessons and a major wreck and broken bones and moving in with a trainer and learning that my horse was all wrong for me and then meeting the horse that was so, so right for me.

2012 with this stud
In 2012, everything came together for a few glorious moments. I was in love with a giant red horse and we showed and lessoned and trail rode and played and I'll always remember that time as one of the best ever. <3
2013 this photo always makes me laugh
2013 brought an opportunity to work on the racetrack and meet new (bay) faces. Of course one of those faces came home with me.
2014 this one time we looked competent haha
It's weird to me that 2014 was five years ago. I quit my job at the barn (s), started being an adult with a career, lost my beloved Cunafish, and had some high highs and low lows with Courage.
2015 because Alyssa is the actual best
In 2015, I was determined to make showing happen. We went to every. single. show. at the lowest level available and I won this giant ribbon that I'm still proud of, haha. Good friends and fun adventures and yeaaaaah apparently you can get eliminated by refusals in a ground poles class. Now you know.
2016 football and dressage 
By 2016, I finally figured out that I should quit jumping C. Then I quit a lot more things. This picture is probably his best dressage moment ever and he looks so damn sexy and he so wasn't happy and I wasn't happy and things were about to fall apart real hard.
2017 a steampunk princess
Basically the only thing that went right in 2017 was getting a baby percheron mare that wasn't even started under saddle. Courage found an incredible new home, I made career changes, and Alyssa took some of my favorite photos of all time.

2018 when one photo is your whole year
2018 accelerated the changes that had been rumbling. My personal life fell apart while my professional life took off and my constant was my curvy baby mare. I took about 4 lessons and never went to a horse show.

2019 a whole new perspective
I spent most of 2019 getting on my feet and my beloved ZB had to take a back seat while I sorted things out.

I'm rolling in to 2020 with a black 6 year old mare and a whole new perspective on life, the universe, and everything, haha. I still have a someday goal of a bronze medal, a shorter-term goal of organizing a horse-soccer team at my barn, and an every-day goal of becoming a better human and horseman in whatever direction we go.

I wouldn't hold your breath for horse show domination this year, but maybe we'll take some lessons and get back on the bus.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Courage: The Aftermath

I saw Courage the other day.
creeper status
Teresa was here and we drove past his owner's place. He was out in the field with a buddy. He was as stunning as ever.

The thing that struck me the most was his topline.
on-track thoroughbred
3 years post-track thoroughbred
Courage was short coupled and upright and always SO TIGHT through his neck and back. I became the subject matter expect on suppling the anxious horse who held tension right in front of his withers. We did dressage exercises and trail exercises. I learned to use poles and terrain and lateral work and all kinds of things to help him. 

I did everything I knew how to do. I used all my resources to find new ways to help him. 

He built a fantastic neck for a thoroughbred and had a lot of cool buttons, but he was always .05 seconds away from an up-periscope and hard spin/bolt.
you've all seen enough photos of that so let's look at this adorable smoosh instead
So the other day, I saw Courage for the first time in two years. He's a trail horse now--he'll never have to go in a frame and be under pressure again. He spends most of his days out in a big, grassy pasture.

And after two years, that tension is gone.

He looked like a horse.


yup we're back to zb pictures
It was a strangely harmonious moment for me--not just because a horse I cared about for so long is absolutely thriving, but because of what it meant.

I'm a classic overachiever and so much of the past couple years for me has been learning to let go and accept what happens, even if it's messy.
definitely messy

Letting go of Courage felt like giving up in so many ways.

Both of us are in a better place now because of it.

We were never going to get there and pushing and struggling and training and drilling and trying.

I let him go.

A horse that suited me better came my way.

A series of dominos cascaded that I never could have planned.

Sometimes I ask myself if I fought too hard and tried for too long. If asking that was fair to him. If I should have let go sooner. If I shouldn't have posted those fail photos. If there was something else that would have just made it work. If someone else could have done it better.

If I did him a disservice.

I'll never know.

I know that some people try that hard and go that far and they succeed. I know some horses come back from the brink. They grow into lovely performance horses and their people are applauded for what they accomplished.

But I also know that sometimes they don't. Sometimes the struggle isn't worth it. Sometimes the mountain wasn't meant to be overcome. Sometimes the pasture in the valley really is the destination.

Sometimes, failing is the best thing you can do for both of you.

I failed.

Because of that failure, Courage looks better than he ever has. He's living his best life now and he's free to be the horse I always believed he could be.

Because I failed, I spend my time with the smooshiest baby horse who I absolutely adore. We jump and we trail ride and we toodle and we dressage and we play barbies and we laugh.

I'll never be the person I was before Courage. 

I'll never be able to thank him enough for what he taught me.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Achievement Unlocked

There's no question that my smooshy baby horse is a very special horse. The whole point of that "ruthlessly exclude" ethos and enlisting particular people to help me find her was to find the creature who fits my life right now.

And like. 
the only reason she didn't buck me off is cookies

I thought I knew what I was doing, but life is never quite what I expect. The little lady went from twice a week training backed up by 2-3 days a week with me to not anything. I dropped her out of training (because money is a thing) and quit showing up to the barn (because jobs are a thing) and since early this spring, she's been on a 1-2 toodles a month schedule. 
can you even with the cuteness level here?

But then September came around and I a little bit got my shit together. 

For the past 3ish weeks, I've been riding 3-4 days a week. Which, if you know how math works, you know is not very many rides. And also--those rides were things like "toodle bareback", "meet Teresa", "practice trotting on a loose rein in the field", and "JOMPING TIME". 

Which, whatever. Reality is a thing I live in and hey, drafties are supposed to grow until they're 8 and she's 6 so no rush here. 

I guess to me, that makes it even more cool to watch what a ZB can do on this schedule. 

Once this spring, I got a wild hair and popped Zoe over some crossrails. And she was adorable. 

Then a few weeks ago, I was like "what fun, let's do that again".
remember summer?
And she was adorable again. 

And then last week, I was like "yeah let's have this be a thing" because y'know. Variety. Fun. 
So yeah, that's Zoe jumping like... her 15th jump ever. Seriously. When we jump, I just put up a crossrail, pop over it, tell her she's wonderful, and move on. And by move on, I mean the first time we jumped, it was over the same crossrail like 3 times. The second time it was a different crossrail maybe 4 times, and the latest time was TWO crossrails, a total of about 7 jumping efforts.

It's fun. It's easy. It's simple. And then we leave it alone.

Remember dressage? 

I sort of do. After we'd had a couple rides this fall, I tried picking up the reins and doing that whole "riding" thing. 
in a jump saddle because reasons

She was rusty. I was rusty. Canter is definitely a work in progress because oh yeah, fitness is a thing.
maybe next year i'll learn to sit the canter
Then we left it alone, again. Next ride was a bareback toodle with no goals or agenda. Primary skills worked on were "eating cookies" and "smooshing".

We're back on our winter schedule of late night rides with my best barn buddy and the other night, before she got on, I chucked my phone at her to grab some video and hopefully get a screenshot with our fancy boots on. 

I put my leg on.

Zoe went forward.

I picked up the reins. 

Zoe moved softly into the contact. 
We stepped up into the trot. 
there actually is video buuuut guess who hasn't done anything with it
I finished that ride grinning like an idiot. 

It is so cool to be on this journey with her. To focus on the relationship and having fun and being realistic about our trajectory. To give her time to grow up and me space to live life and then start to understand that the panicked flailing and pressure and struggles of past horses really just don't matter.

Not to her and not to me. 

She's the nicest horse I've ever had. 

We're doing better than we've ever done. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Here We Are

It's been a weird year. I used to be such a compulsive, 5-7 days a week, all-horses-all-the-time sort of person. 
I'm not anymore.

I'm ok with that about myself.
she's not exactly suffering
except from a lack of cwd boots
we fixed that problem
I've come to realize, that for me, filling my time with horses was distracting me from things I needed to address. Accomplishments with horses were making up for serious failings in my personal life. Relationships swirling around horses filled a void of loneliness that I couldn't acknowledge existed.

I've had to address all those things head on.

0/10 recommend on the process, but 10/10 on the outcome.

I have never ridden less.

I have never understood more.
this view
Zoe is amazing for so many reasons, and I have never needed her more. Instead of the horse that caters to my neurosis, she's the one that meets me in the middle. She whinnies at me when I show up and she's game for anything, whether I'm out every day or once a month.

We tried a couple lease situations and found out that while for me, Zoe is the Best Horse Ever (tm), she's not into sharing. I dropped her out of training and found out that while training is nice (and fitness is not a thing she holds on her own), life is a thing we can do together without professional help.
also sunset shots ftw
I'm committed to my career right now, so horses take a back burner. I don't have all the latest and greatest toys (uhhhhh I mean more on that later). I travel a lot, I work a lot, I ride very little.

My focus has changed--instead of my emotional health every day hinging on whether a caged flight animal performs to my subjective expectations, I take a step back. I can love my horse and be ok if we have bad days.
or if our day is "play king of the mountain" on new footing
If we don't show.

If we don't lesson.

If things aren't perfect.
pats for the best mare
To me, a good day is showing up to see my adorable baby horse. Laughing at the goofy faces she makes when I curry her. Brushing her long mane. Sitting on her broad back and knowing we're both going to be ok.

She's the nicest horse I've ever owned.

I do less with her than any horse I've ever had.
awww baby mare <3
I'm more at peace than I've ever been.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Horse Pictures Everywhere

Deep breath. Here goes "ammy horse ownership, round 347". 
I was kinda coasting along with training rides and not going to the barn, but as discussed, that got prohibitively expensive and then the whole lease option did not pan out.

The current plan is that I'll just create time in my schedule to ride 3x a week.

Yes by magic.

JK. I'm working with a supportive SO and a constant level of high-functioning anxiety, coupled with a lucky break about not having to travel for work as much lately.
Straight up, I cannot (CANNOT) do the 6-7x a week rides and lessons and shows and clinics and all the shit I used to. It's just not a thing. I also cannot spend $$$ to buy custom Ottos from Germany tho my strong suit has always been bargain hunting and my weakness has always been collecting horse shit.


We're finding a new normal.

I picked three days a week to make an appearance.

I have a fantastic barn buddy who can meet me out there more often than not to help motivate both of us.

I'm mixing it up. We jumped for the first time the other day. Zoe LOVED it. LOVED. Like. Forward going. Taking me to the fences. So honest. So adorbs.

Seriously guys. This mare. If I had any other horse right now, I'd just admit the timing in life is bad right now and I can't do it all, but she's the once in a lifetime sort of horse that literally makes everything easy, so here we are.
oh hi jumping position. cool you're still around.
I've been playing in the jump saddle because I feel more successful that way and less like an abject failure. (Dressage is brutal, ok?) Today I threw the dressage saddle on to see if my sad, non-existent riding muscles wanted a workout. 

Fun fact: I actually rode better than expected.
lil baby mare starting to grow up
That's not to say it was great, but more that I was pleasantly surprised by my ability to stay balanced and hold my position and ride accurately based on a decent baseline level of fitness, even though said fitness is not from riding horses. 

It's all a work in progress. 

I literally couldn't be getting through it with a better mare and hey, any day that ends like this:
Really can't be all bad. 

My phone is full of horse pictures again.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Here Goes

After an embarrassing number of months in a row in which I absolutely swore I'd make the time and ride my own horse and get my shit together, I finally realized I couldn't keep making a mortgage payment a month to ride bareback for 20 minutes once every 30 days. 

It doesn't make any sense. 


Zoe is such a foundational part of my life that there's no way I'm letting her go. 

I did the reasonable adulty thing and reached out to a trainer I trust and set up a lease situation with a fancy legal agreement and everything

Not gonna lie, the day I put her on the trailer and watched her drive away was really shitty for me. I told myself it was a two week trial and it might go ok and it might not.

The idea of not paying $$$ to not ride was nice. 

The truth was that I didn't have time to ride if I had wanted to. 

And yeah when I got the text that she wasn't quite the right fit for the situation, I was definitely not sad she was coming home. 

So now she's back.

And now I'm definitely going to ride this time. 

Just you watch.
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