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. 
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