Quo Vadis is Latin for “Where are you going?” (Before I decided on a business degree, I was a philosophy and classical studies major so forgive me the chance to toss in a little Latin.) In this mini-series, I’m going to articulate where I’ve been, where we are now, and finally where Nibbles and I are heading. This is a personal exercise to make me think critically about my goals but also to further introduce myself to the wonderful blogging community that has supported me so much already.
I haven’t talked all that much about my riding history on this blog. Heck, as far as you guys know, I don’t even ride my beasts. But I promise, I really did used to be competitive and I really am getting back in the saddle (when Nibbles returns home from Trainer E and hopefully even before). I think it’s obvious Nibbles is with a dressage trainer so that is our present aim. I don’t have any long term goals at the moment that I’m willing to utter out loud. As far as I’m concerned, completing the goal of getting her broke is still worthy of celebration. I failed to do that with my past main-mare. That being said, full-training doesn’t last forever which means it’s almost time to look at setting goals for myself and my horse. *gasp*
So before we dive into where we are going, I thought it would be useful to look at where I have been. If you’ve read my About page on this blog, you have heard some of this before.
I started taking lessons when I was 8 years old. I started at an Arabian barn that showed on the Arabian A-circuit – that’s a world in and of itself. I should really scan photos because in looking for a picture of me in those early days, I can’t find anything digital…that ages me a bit.
In 1998, at age 8, I was showing as a hunter on said Arabian circuit and the mare I was riding helped me win Regionals at KHP. I had been riding for a little less than a year at the time. To say I loved riding and competing was an understatement – even as a kid, I dealt pretty well with the nerves because I just loved being out there so much. To say Morkie was the best teacher isn’t enough – she was just as competitive as me but knew infinitely more.
In late 2000, my family moved for my father’s job, meaning I had to leave my first-and-only trainer. Since starting in 1997, I hadn’t purchased a horse of my own because my family couldn’t afford it. Instead, my trainer bought a gelding named Shelby she scouted for me and I helped start him and then took him to his first show. He has a very famous brother, HSA Halley’s Comet. Shelby had a penchant for terrorizing my trainer (we’re talking scary bronco style) but he was like the heart horse who was never mine and never tried anything with me. My trainer coached me through teaching him how to drive which he LOVED.
After moving in 2000, I didn’t buy Shelby but instead got the once in a lifetime chance to “buy” Morkie for a song. To give a little context, Morkie was born in 1986 and was purchased for $35,000 as a foal. Although she was older when she came into my life, Morkie was a nice mare and an even better teacher. She was the perfect first horse.
Finding a new trainer was hard, especially at a young age. I tried a few who claimed to know a lot but turned out to know very little (as in throw them in side reins and then throw the kid on at the last second). I bounced around barns with Morkie and taught beginner lessons for fun after people who saw me ride asked for help. I backed a lot of horses, catch rode in a few local shows, and even tried showing in 4-H with Morkie. Fun fact – 4-H judges don’t care so much for Arabians in the south. Ask me how I know. But we had fun!
Around 2004, I found a home as a working student with a BNT (at least in the Arabian dressage world). I helped handle her stallions, breed mares, imprint the foals, leased a solid Second Level gelding and in turn got to take lessons. I rode there for a couple years and moved on.
We landed next at a small barn that I ended up running the summer camp for. I started a couple OTTB’s and rode Morkie. It was then that I also rescued Tiki and started down a (very long) natural horsemanship rabbit hole. This is around 2008: I’m not in a regular lesson program with anyone, and am slowly telling myself I’m not good enough to ride my horse or I’ll hurt him. Morkie is still around at this time but was diagnosed with DSLD so was enjoying retirement.
In 2009, I bought a four year old, super athletic mare (and just months later, Morkie passed…). I had every intention of backing new mare myself (which I did) and showing her (which I did not but once). That same fall, I started on my bachelors fulltime. I had graduated high school four years earlier (at 16 if you’re doing the math and scratching your head) and struggled with the decision of making horses a career. I ultimately decided to go to business school and get an Equine Business degree that conveniently is a Bachelors in Business Administration meaning it could be multi-purpose.
Pro tip: don’t buy a baby horse with no trainer and start college the same year.
While in college for four years, I took a few lessons from natural horsemanship trainers. They were helpful, don’t get me wrong, but I had no real plan or tangible goals. I also found a dressage trainer who gave me bareback lessons in a hackamore on her schoolmaster. That was fun until she started with some disturbing behavior. The whole we-don’t-use-saddles-here-ever thing should have been a give away but I digress.
In 2013, I was graduating college. While in college, a series of offers led me to putting together a breeding small program (beginning with pretty, super athletic grey mare). Not long after, I lost an imported broodmare who was 90-days in foal to my stallion and that was the start to things careening off the track I thought was right. Tiki had to be put down after a long battle with EPM (that he had when I rescued him I learned later). Morkie has been gone for four years by now. I was able to sell a project horse. But I still had a lot of (unbroke) breeding horses, realized breeding was a money pit (at least for that breed in the post-2008 market), and no clear goals.
By January 2015, I managed to sell two mares, leased out one (whose foal you see sporadically here), and then had to put down my fantastic breeding stallion after a freak pasture accident. That left me with Nibbles whose backing I chronicled on this blog. In May 2015, Nibbles left for Trainer E, getting the kind of education I am way too rusty to give her.
All told, I’ve been out of the saddle since 2009 and I haven’t been taking regular lessons since I was a kid.
Nibbles will come home before too long. It will be up to me to continue her training unless I can find another trainer in the right situation (cost, location, all that). This time, I will approach my plans strategically instead of sailing along, letting time pass me by while nice horses become pasture ornaments.
But here’s the beauty of it, no matter how tempting it is to feel sorry for myself – that is my history. The past. It doesn’t define where I’m going.
Stay tuned for Part 2!