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Be Led By Your Dreams Quote

Time to Move Forward

I have a confession to make: I have been waffling.

I began this year (in January) riding a different horse, Diamond, with the goal of showing her at 2’6″. In April, I realized it wasn’t going to happen for various reasons, and decided to show Vinnie again in the same division as last year. We’ve had our ups and downs so far this year, and while I know it’s really only the beginning of show season, I find myself at an impasse.

I have improved tremendously from last year, even if I have trouble seeing it in the videos. I can feel it in my riding and my trainer agrees. I feel like I’ve already accomplished what I can with Vinnie: he is back to his old self and I am more relaxed and actively thinking while in the show ring. Plus I’m making great strides in lightening my seat, keeping my weight in my legs and following over the fence.

So what now? I’ve been thinking about leasing or buying a horse for a while. But for me, there are so many questions that go with the process, it’s exhausting just thinking about them:

  • Should I buy or lease?
  • What is reasonable for my budget?
  • What should I compromise on?
  • Will I hate driving so far out to the barn all the time?
  • Do I have time for a horse?
  • What if I buy one and hate it?

After reading that, don’t you feel like you need a margarita? Because I do. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg that is my waffle. I’m sure I’m probably the only horse-person on the entire planet that is so anxious over whether or not to purchase/lease a horse, I swear.

When I get overwhelmed (which occurs with annoying frequency) it’s almost always the small stuff that bogs me down. I can handle a busy day at work with a million things to do, but if I also have a ton of chores to do at home — I’m instantly stressed out. So I make lists and try to boil it down to the essentials:

In the end, what am I most concerned about? What is the real debate here?

The truth? I’m nervous. I want to make the right decision, both on what to do horse-wise, but also for myself and my family. Horses have always been such a big part of my life, and I don’t want that to change. Riding has always been my escape, my gym, my social network. Showing has always been my moment in the spotlight, my chance to show off and my confidence boost. But all that means nothing if I drive away family because of my decisions, or if I can’t pay my rent. What is the correct balance?

In my pondering, I’ve realized that my situation now is not so different from the situation I was in when we bought my first horse: I’d accomplished all I could on my lease and I wanted to move up and accomplish more. And that is exactly where I am today.

So in the end, I will work out all my questions and insecurities. We will make this work, because that is what my family does; what I do. And in order to move forward with my riding goals, I have to find another horse.

It’s time. I’ve waited until I was ready — emotionally, financially (well, as much as one can be when a horse is involved) and riding ability.

Am I scared? Kind of. But sometimes you just have to jump and have faith.

social media

Equestrian Social Media

Social media is one of the biggest phenomenon of our generation. It has transformed communication, business and marketing and created an entirely new way of doing things, at least for those of us who have embraced it. There are so many social media channels to choose from — from blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vine, Instagram, Foursquare, Pinterest; the list can go on and on and on. Each avenue provides a different iteration with unique possibilities.
In my experience, sometimes us equestrians are not at the forefront of embracing technology, including social media. And I will admit, I’m not necessarily the first one to jump on the bandwagon. But, horse people are inherently inquisitive and we love a good story — and we love pictures. And videos. Well, at least I do. So I thought I’d share some of my favorite equestrian-inspired social media channels. This list is sure to do two things: 1) waste a lot of time or help you procrastinate, whichever way you like to look at it and 2) let you oogle all the pretty ponies and their accouterments, which you will never be able to afford — my two favorite pastimes!
New Vocations Facebook Page

New Vocations Facebook

New Vocations is an awesome OTTB rehoming charity headquartered right here in Fly Over Country. Even though I’m not in the market for a green OTTB, I can’t help but peruse all the [very pretty] horses that get posted daily on the New Vocations Facebook page. They take the most adorable pictures, paired with equally adorable captions making it really entirely too easy to fantasize about my next horse…

Reed Kessler’s Instagram

I have a mild obsession with Reed Kessler to begin with, but she is really hard to resist when she posts such cute photos of her horses all the time on her Instagram. Cylana begging for treats? Yes please! Goose passed out in 10 feet of shavings? Adorable. Oh, and don’t forget her photos from all around the country as she travels to all the shows I dream about.
Reed Kessler Instagram

Chronicle of the Horse Forum

I’m sure everyone has been to the Chronicle of the Horse [COTH] forum at least once, but it’s just fantastic. It’s the online equestrian version of Desperate Housewives; never a dull moment and always entertaining. It can be educational informative if you remember to take everything with a grain of salt. Never-the-less, COTH never fails to provide entertainment if you’re in the mood for a bit of salacious gossip.

SmartPak Blog

Equal blends of truly educational blogs from assorted vets, farriers, etc. and life events from their staff and sponsored riders, the SmartPak blog is always a good read. Of course, they have wonderful photos and engaging graphics to go along with everything… which I love. They generally recommend their own products (which I admit, can be annoying sometimes), but the information is pertinent and it’s not an overwhelming sales pitch. Plus, I have a strange fascination with the SmartPakers (I love to know what they did over the weekend!) and it’s always interesting to hear what their sponsored riders are up to.

BigEq.com’s Pinterest

While there are a plethora of great equine Pinterest boards, being a hunter/jumper myself, I just love BigEq’s. Three words: very fancy ponies. Everywhere. All the time. Jumping, cantering, posing. It’s AA Circuit overload and I just love to drool. Plus they always have a few artsy shots, which are pretty cool… mostly because I have no photography skills what-so-ever and would never even think to take a photo from that angle. A photo beneath the horse as it jumps so all you see are its fancy knees and belly guard? Awesome.
BigEq.com Pinterest

So those are my favorites. What are yours?

Vinnie June Delaware Ribbons

The Calm Horse Returns!

Last week was pretty hectic, and by the time Friday arrived, I had adopted the following attitude: Just Fuck It. I had to work a full day on Friday (no half-day for me), so I didn’t arrive at the showgrounds to school until just after 6 pm.

I unloaded, set-up Vinnie’s fan and decided just to hop on and find out what I had to work with. Lo and behold, Vinnie was lazy. And the clouds parted and a chorus of angels sang hallelujah! Okay, maybe that part was just in my head, but I was so happy! We went into the ring, jumped every jump all in a row and were done. Schooling took all of 15 minutes from start to finish and I was beyond thrilled!

Saturday

Saturday morning dawned hot and humid, with highs in 90’s. Sam didn’t get home from his out-of-town work trip until 1 am, so he slept in since I wasn’t slated to show until around 11 am, and this show is notorious for running behind. Then at 9:30, we got the announcement: “six trips and flat before the start of Limit Rider,” at which point I panicked, just slightly. Our plan was to show in the first rotation of my division, do the warm-up trip and if Vinnie was too strong, we would drop down in the order, get off and lunge.

So I called Sam, who was luckily already on his way. I got dressed, tacked up (all by myself! look at me, being all adult-like!) and went out to the warm-up. I trotted and cantered, then went over a little vertical twice. Vinnie was his perfect, old self: a total push ride, without a care in the world. I got dropped in the order to the second rotation due to conflicts in other rings, which turned out fine because Sam made it to the ring just as I was going in for my warm-up trip.

I didn’t manage to get any photos/video from Saturday, but man, did we kill it. I mean, we just murdered those courses. I rode really well, flowed and stretched up. It was absolutely glorious and I came out of that ring beaming! We placed 8th in one of our over fences classes, which in a division of 13 with no lead changes is pretty darn impressive, if I do say so myself.

Vinnie June Delaware Sleeping in Stall
“I’m so tired I need the ground to hold my head up”

I was much more prepared to go early this time and everything was all good. I was more tired, so I felt like I didn’t ride quite as well as I did on Saturday, but still much improved from the last show. Here was our best course:Sunday

We ended up placing 6th and 7th in our over fences classes! I was thrilled — I think we were the best team out there without a lead change, and that is fucking fantastic. We opted out of the under saddle — I was hot and tired, plus in a division that large, we just weren’t going to be competitive. I don’t need to practice the flat; the last two shows trainer has said I showed to the best of Vinnie’s ability on the flat and we didn’t place (which is fine). But I wanted to end on a great note, so I was happy with that decision.

All in all, definitely the best show this season and I am really, really happy to finally see some progress in myself, and see that reflected in the placings from show to show. Plus, I’m definitely well on my way to accomplishing my goal of riding better at each event!

Vinnie June Delaware Ribbons

Vinnie cantering

Handy Hunter?!

Despite some tough questions this last horse show raised, I’m officially calling this last weekend a success, even though I didn’t bring home a single ribbon. That, in and of itself, is a big deal as I am currently attending meetings for Satin Lovers Anonymous and I honestly cannot tell you the last time I went home from a show without swag.

We went to a brand new venue, both for myself and Vinnie, and I was very impressed — the rings were big with excellent footing and the show was very efficiently run. Everyone was very nice and it was great to see some new faces.

Schooling on Friday sucked, as I said in my last post. But I got over it, got through it and the show went on. We changed our plan of attack a little bit on Saturday morning: I lunged (a first) and then hacked, both of which helped to have less horse (still a lot of horse, but less).

We hung out most of the morning, and right before we went to go grab lunch, my parents made a surprise appearance! Friday was my birthday, so my amazing boyfriend arranged to have them come down to watch on Saturday. He’s the best! It was awesome to see my mom and dad and of course, in true horse show mom fashion, there were birthday presents, a cake and an awesome flag day hat. My “in-laws” and Sam’s step-brother also came down and brought presents too. It was so great to have most of my family there to support me — I am truly blessed!

Anyways, back to the horse show. I did a warm-up and two hunter trips on Saturday. The warm-up was solid, the second trip not so much. I didn’t flow and my trainer said I kind of sat up there like a bump on a log (although she put it more nicely!). I regrouped for the third trip, which was much improved. We noticed that I’m focusing down too much, especially in my simple changes and I’m still struggling to flow. Whenever I don’t flow, I sit down hard and encourage my already forward pony to go even faster; talk about a vicious cycle!

Vinnie Limit Handy Hunter June 2014
Blurry, but you get the idea.

Sunday I opted to just do my two trips and the under saddle without a warm-up. As soon as I got my courses, I was in a tizzy. The second trip was a Handy Hunter round, which I’ve never done before. Here’s the course:

Notice the second jump — the yellow trot jump. Except, it really wasn’t a jump — it was hay bales with brush in front and a log on top in between two other jumps. It was the only fence we didn’t school on Friday. Insert total panic attack here. Vinnie is notorious for jumping slightly scary/new jumps like they are 3′, and I usually do not have any semblance of grace when this occurs. In fact, I’m usually just lucky to stay on. So I fretted and worried and tried not to think about that jump the whole day… an endeavor I was mostly unsuccessful at.

Once we finally were ready to show, I went in with as much confidence as I could muster. My first round was okay, with most of the same problems: not enough stretching up and not enough following over the fence. Then we did our handy hunter. And look!


We went over the trot jump PERFECTLY! And our line after that was stellar. The rest was meh, but honestly, I was so thrilled about the log jump that I didn’t even care. We did get a score, which was kind of cool, as I’ve never been in a class that announced them before. We got a 55, which I know is not very good, but considering we have simple lead changes, and I’m struggling in general right now, I was honestly happy with that!

Vinnie Limit Hunter June 2014
I know my position is nothing to brag about, but this is literally the FIRST picture I have ever posted from this angle… because the rest have been just downright terrifying.
gold trophy

Struggles of Adulthood

So I started writing my post-show recap and realized I needed to write a post about one single moment, before I get to the good stuff. I’m going to be honest and preface this post by saying: you really don’t have to read it; it might be long and boring and short on pictures — but I need to write this for myself.

We schooled Friday afternoon, and as predicted, Vinnie was uncooperative. He was up, looking at everything and not paying one ounce of attention to any request I made. Right then and there, I almost called it quits. I’m so sick of this attitude. If it’s not fun, why do it?

I remember horse shows being loads of fun, and parts of it still are. I love hanging out with friends all day, eating good food and watching pretty horses go around; and all of those things still happen and I still love it. But what I loved most about horse shows was winning. I miss being good; I miss being competitive. I know, it was just 4-H, and honestly, I’m not trying to make it sound like I won the Maclay or the Congress, but I’m a competitive person. I’m so competitive I couldn’t stand to play softball in high school because the other players didn’t try as hard as I did. And now horse shows do not fill that void for me anymore.

So where does that leave me? The thought of not showing anymore makes me kind of nauseous — I don’t really think that’s what I want. Maybe I need a break?

Let’s take stock of what is holding me back from being more competitive:

  • Strength: I need more strength in my thighs and core.
  • Endurance: Only riding twice a week isn’t enough — but part of that is my fault. I need to ride for more than 20-30 minutes during my hacks.
  • Hunching: I need to stretch up (and not hunch over), even when I’m half-halting with all my might.
  • Flowing over Fences: I need to fold my hip angle more and not perch or pose over the fence.
  • No lead changes: Vinnie does not, and will never, have a lead change.

All of these things are fixable (except for the last one). I can ride for longer intervals, focusing on exercises to help my strength and quit hunching. I can practice more jumps and work on flowing over each fence.

All in all, I think I need to remember that I’ve changed and that horse showing is different for me now than it was when I was 16. I no longer think I’m immortal, I’m the one that pays all the bills and I’m the one shouldering all of the responsibility. But does that mean I don’t enjoy it anymore?

What do you think? Has showing changed at all for you as you’ve gotten older?