The Only Constant in Life

is change.

It goes without saying that, since we missed our show, my blogosphere activity has dwindled. I have been at the barn, although not as much as the prep leading up to the show. Unfortunately, I return with no good news.

Without explaining a very long story, I have made the extremely difficult decision to sell my horses. This includes Nibbles. It’s not a decision I make lightly and it is one that I’ve been considering for about a year. My personal life just doesn’t allow for horses at this stage.

If you know anyone who might be interested in a horse like Nibbles, please email me at rablair3 [at] gmail [dot] com. I am also still trying to sell my grey mare.

I’m not sure what to do with this blog for now. I have so enjoyed getting to know all of you. It’s just so painful to read about horsey experiences when mine are ending for the foreseeable future.

How to Eat an Elephant

f593d05af13062d0a744203061e51be9Finishing your undergraduate work has some side effects not listed on the label. In my experience, they include:

  • Anxiety and sometimes extreme frustration over the job hunt
  • Disappointment when you don’t meet your family’s or your own expectations for post-grad life
  • Gnawing sensation in the stomach when deciding to continue onto grad school immediately or wait
  • Changes in mood and behavior, especially as related to the ability to make decisions

Joking aside, I finished my bachelors a year ago this month. Like so many things in my life, I’m not where I thought I would be at this point in my life but I’m also not so far from where I’d “ideally” like to be. I was very fortunate to find a job that I could pour my education and passion into not all that long (4 months) post graduation. I don’t make much at all but I feel blessed to be able to work full-time in the (indirect) equine industry.

So why do I feel frustrated and like I’ve let myself down? In talking to friends and peers, I think a lot of us feel this way after we graduate. When we started our four-year degree, we wore rose colored glasses and had dreams as big as the campus we now frequented. Somehow, real life has  a way of changing your path, little by little, in many beautiful and sometimes difficult ways. In my previous post, I talked about how I didn’t know what my goal with horses is. Can you believe it: 24 hours later and I still don’t have it figured out. The horror!

The advice I try to remember and have to constantly remind myself of is this: focus on what I can control right now. Break life up in to bite-size pieces and work on them, one by one if that’s what I need. I don’t have to have the answers to the universe before I turn 25 (which is in less than 6 months :x). I’m pushing myself and doing the best I can with where I am and that’s enough for now.

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A Lesson & Goals

When I left you last, I had a lesson looming. The day after my lesson, I left town for a few days for some R&R. The R&R was semi-successful but it broke down like this:

Day 1 – 11 hours driving, dinner in the city
Day 2 – touring the city, out for drinks that evening
Day 3 – 11 hours driving, crash upon arriving home

So it wasn’t so much R&R as it was just getting away but I suppose it served its purpose. But you don’t really want to hear about that; you’re here to read about my lesson, I’d imagine.

As it turns out, the trainer I took a lesson with is someone who Karen from Contact works with. I worked my normal day, changed in a restroom, and then rushed to this new farm amidst Derby parade traffic. I made it there on time, although my schedule and Karen’s didn’t match up this time, I’m pretty sure I spotted the handsome Hampton in his field.

As it turns out, I’d be riding a solid citizen named Pirate, who I did not manage to sneak any pictures of. Pirate is a bay Thoroughbred gelding whom I was told would take care of me but test me at the same time. I immediately liked Trainer upon meeting her in person and we chatted lightly while I tacked Pirate up. As luck would have it, Trainer’s saddle was stolen so I took my dressage lesson in a jumping saddle. Not ideal but it got the job done.

We headed up to the dressage arena and Trainer told me to just get to know Pirate so she could watch me. For a Thoroughbred, Pirate’s gates weren’t all that lofty which was good for me because I’m very much out of riding shape. After I confessed that I had previously schooled all of first level and pieces of second, Trainer asked me to make some adjustments and see how Pirate did. As I’ve basically only ridden babies for the past six years (has it been that long?), my riding has become very defensive. I used to have soft, following hands but it took some work to get my hands and elbows out of baby-green-horse-don’t-kill-me mode.

Overall, I was thrilled with the lesson. I rode for a solid hour, trotting and cantering. My groin muscles are still cursing me but it was worth every minute. I’m going to experiment with how to recap lessons as I definitely intend to continue. For now, let’s see how a list format works:

  • In the trot, I post very quickly – as soon as my butt hits the saddle, it’s off again. This is likely from riding Arabians for years and years. I worked to slow down my tempo; Pirate was a much happier camper when I accomplished this.
  • In the canter, I need to leg go of the horse’s face. In Pirate’s case, he was not going to run off with me. In a really cool moment, Trainer had me ask for the canter and then throw my reins up to his ears and ride only from my seat and legs. In response, Pirate gave me the most beautiful and round canter. I’m sure I was grinning like an idiot.
  • I need to get out of the habit of using verbal cues. Again, from breaking baby after baby, I use verbal cues on dead broke horses without even thinking about it. I need to quit cheating.
  • To my own surprise, I remember how to leg yield and even did some while trotting circles to sit more on his hind leg.
  • I need to work on achieving more bend with my inside rein. My inside leg/outside rein aid is definitely still there.
  • Apparently Pirate has a “trick” where tracking right, he will hop out of the arena if you try to steer him with your inside rein. I’m proud to say that we remained firmly in the arena – until the end of the lesson when we walked on the buckle in the large jump field<3

I think the lesson was a huge success and though I had to take a few walk breaks because of my lack of stamina, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I was able to achieve in an hour. When we were getting started, Trainer asked me what my goals were. Originally, I told her I’d like to get my bronze medal. I mentioned that I’d like to do this in five years, thinking this was reasonable. Thankfully, she was honest with me and warned me against getting stuck and becoming a Training Level Professional (and I know exactly what she is talking about). She said I’d have my bronze well before five years. In regards to my own mare, Nibbles, I wanted to take her out at Intro in 2014. I told her I wasn’t really sure what my ultimate goal with Nibbles is. And I don’t.

Which brings me to the big point of what has been bothering me: What is my goal with horses? It used to be to run a small breeding program and show when I could. I had that breeding program and was forced to sell it (and still am). After dabbling in the market, I know I no longer want to try to breed and/or sell in the horse world. I want to be able to enjoy my horse(s) and not worry about making a profit from them.

So what’s my goal? I told trainer I honestly didn’t know at this point. This was very frustrating to me. In a perfect world, I’d love to be able to ride a competent Grand Prix test one day. I’m not delusional enough to want to go to the Olympics (kudos to anyone with that dream!) but I’m also way too competitive to not compete.

My dreams and goals are very much a work in progress. More posts to come I’m sure. Readers, help me out – what is your goal with horses? Why or how did you come to decide on that goal?

A Bucking Good Time

I went to the barn last night and worked Sara first, after my blog hop post got me thinking. Despite the intense wind, she did really well on the lunge and with some in-hand exercises. She was very light and responsive and engaged – which she hasn’t been for a while. While I was working her in a nearby pasture, her pasture mates decided to gallop and buck wildly. Sara wasn’t happy but all she did was toss her head. She joined them when I turned her out.

I caught Nibbles amidst the frivolity and cross tied her. She left her brain in the pasture and just about flipped out (her friends were still in a mad frenzy). I brushed her for 10 minutes and gave up; she clearly wasn’t in any shape to get on and I only have 15 minutes left at the barn. I turned her back out and decided to take some video of the horses having a good time. No one was particularly upset about anything – they were all just bucking and leaping and enjoying themselves. I thought you might enjoy Nibbles’ acrobatics. Glad I wasn’t riding that!