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Trial Horse

On Trial

I hemmed and hawed over posting about this. I’m not exactly secretive about my identity on this blog, but just because I choose to make aspects of my life public, doesn’t mean that everyone I come in contact with feels the same. But I started this blog to chronicle my equestrian pursuits, and this is a big deal. So to compromise, I’m going to try to keep certain details to a minimum, to protect the others involved, while still writing about this experience. Hope you all can forgive the secrets. Anyways, on to the good stuff:

I have a horse on trial! I went back and forth all last week between paralyzing nervousness and overwhelming excitement. I’m still fairly nervous (riding a new horse is always a bit scary for me), but I can’t wait to get out to the barn tonight. I have my first ride on Trial Horse (TH) this evening, and I swear if the clock ticks any slower I might die of anticipation!

Throughout this process, I’m trying really hard to take things one step at a time — I’m famous for jumping ahead. In the end, the most important thing is fit: do we work well together on the flat and over fences. Of course, I could probably write a novel on what that means, but I’m trying to keep an open mind. I just need to ride like I always do, and it will either work or it won’t. That’s the purpose of the trial after all!

I’ve never done a trial before, so not only am I excited about the horse himself, but I’m kind of excited about the process. I get to ride more and take extra lessons; I get to spend extra time out at the barn and pamper my very own pony again. I’ve really missed that, and I don’t think I realized quite how much until now. Here’s to a fun and exciting week!

Abstract dream horse painting

Dream Horse vs. Reality Horse

I am the Queen of Lists. I love to make them and cross things off — mostly for the fact that if I don’t write it down, I will forget it, almost immediately. But I also enjoy the satisfaction I get from crossing things off. It really helps me visualize my progress — whether it’s my Chore List, Laundry List or Work To Do List, so far they have served me well.

Lists also help me empty my brain. Okay, I know that sounds incredibly silly, but when I have to remember a lot of little things for a while, it’s like my brain gets filled up with all that, and then I can’t focus on everything else. So when I write it down, I no longer have to remember it and then I can focus on the big picture.

So, I’ve decided to use my incredible list-making super power to (hopefully) help ease my mind about Tracy’s Great Horse Debate of 2013. Okay, it’s not really that serious, but I am stressing about my horse situation, which is unlike me. Usually I am a good decision-maker and I don’t second-guess myself very often. So I thought I’d try a list-making exercise to help me focus.

#1 The Dream Horse

If I could draw-up my absolute fantasy horse, here is what he would be:

  • Age: 7-10 Years Old
  • Height: 15.3 hh – 16.2 hh
  • Breed: Quarter Horse or Appendix
  • Gender: Gelding
  • Color: Bay with lots of chrome and excellent coat
  • Temperament:
    • Quiet both in-hand and under saddle with no spook
    • Sweet personality (likes to be groomed) and photogenic
  • Manners:
    • Clips, loads, stands for vet and farrier
    • No vices (no cribbing, weaving, etc.)
  • Movement:
    • Hack winner with smooth gaits
    • Smooth, easy jump
    • Forgiving and can take a joke
    • Automatic lead change
  • Showing:
    • Lots of experience at 2’6″ – 3′
  • Structure:
    • 100% sound with no supplements
    • Good fit for me (not too big or too small) and I feel comfortable on him
  • I get “the feeling” about him

beautiful hunter

#2 The Reality Horse

  • Age: 7-10 12 Years Old
  • Height: 15.3 hh – 16.2 hh 15.2 hh – 16.3 hh
  • Breed: Quarter Horse or Appendix
  • Gender: Prefer Gelding
  • Temperament:
    • Quiet both in-hand and under saddle with no minimal spook
    • Sweet personality (likes to be groomed) and photogenic Nice personality — not excessively grumpy or mean
  • Manners:
    • Clips, loads, stands for vet and farrier
    • No vices (no cribbing, weaving, etc.)
  • Movement:
    • Hack winner with smooth gaits Decent movement, could place in the hack at local shows
    • Smooth, easy jump
    • Forgiving and can take a joke
    • Automatic Semi-automatic lead change
  • Showing:
    • Lots of experience at 2’6″ – 3′ 
  • Structure:
    • 100% sound with no supplements Sound
    • Good fit for me (not too big or too small) and I feel comfortable on him
  • I get “the feeling” about him
  • In Budget

What do you think of the list? Is my list of must-haves still too long?

wedding dress

Say Yes to the Horse

One of my guilty pleasures are sordid reality TV shows. Real Housewives? Heck yes. Keeping Up With the Kardashians? Why not?! Toddlers & Tiaras? Of course. But my all-time, hands-down favorite is Say Yes to the Dress. I just love to watch these girls parade around in gorgeous gowns while their consultant schleps dresses back and forth to the fitting room and their entourage oohs, ahhs and/or throws out horrendous insults. I mean, what’s not to love?

The best episodes are always the girls who come and want to have “the feeling.” They think they know what they want and usually come armed with a binder full of pictures. So the consultant dutifully pulls several options and the bride-to-be tries them on. And then they feel nothing: no hate, but no love. The dress is just eh. In the end, the consultant plays both therapist and miracle-worker and pulls out a dress that bride would never have thought of and they love it! And the magical “Are you saying yes to this dress?” phrase is spoken and ta-da: happily ever after!

This is me. 

With a twist, of course. I am not shopping for a wedding dress, but for a horse. And I am desperately seeking that “feeling.” But, just as our bride-to-be, I am terrified that I might not get it. I’ve tried a few horses, including one that was even almost the one.

On paper, this horse was great for me and even riding him, I felt comfortable. But for the top of my price range, I wasn’t wowed. He wasn’t a looker (not ugly, but not pretty), he was a bit grumpy on the ground as well as under saddle and he may or may not have been a mild cribber. Add that to his sticky lead change, and I moved on… although in true fashion there have been moments of waffling.

I know I’m going to have to make compromises: my budget is not unlimited… or even sizeable. But what compromises are right for me? Should “that feeling” play such a big role in my decision?

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.

What You Know vs What You Feel

How Do You Know?

Life is busy, busy, busy which is why the blog has been fairly silent lately. BF is in finals mode, which leaves me to play “housewife” which I’m not too great at, judging by the state of our [very empty] fridge and [totally wrecked] apartment. Add to that working full-time, taking care of the dog and trying to ride means I’m one busy lady. But I’m also doing a lot of soul-searching, which is the reason for this post today. I’ve found myself in a bit of a situation, potentially a very good situation, but I’m just not sure what to do. So I’m reaching out to those of you more knowledgeable and experienced than I: How did you know when it was the right time to buy another horse? How did you know the horse you chose was the right one?

I’m not totally in the market to buy a horse at the moment [I was planning on horse shopping in about six to eight months], but I can’t resist searching the internet. It started as looking at dream horses that I’ll never be able to afford, but over the last few months I’ve started looking at more realistic options. Which, of course, led to finding a horse that really piqued my interest. After talking it over with some friends, I decided to go out and try him… and I liked him [of course], so I convinced Trainer to come out and see him too. We all agree that there are no red flags and that this horse could be what I’m looking for… but how do you really ever know unless the horse is already doing exactly what I want to do?

Potential Horse - Jerry

But realistically, I’m not sure that my budget will accommodate all the must haves plus a horse that’s ready to show tomorrow. So maybe this horse, who needs a bit of work, is my best option. But how do I know? I’m very fortunate to be in a position where I have horses to ride and show right now, just neither are exactly what I want. Of course there’s always leasing, but it just isn’t the same; you know the horse isn’t your own and the connection just doesn’t develop as much. But maybe I’m just being stupid, young and naive. Should I really let go of those opportunities I have for a horse that may or may not work out?

Everyone has said the risk is my own. Which while definitely true, really isn’t helping me make any decisions. And honestly at this point, might be the scariest thing of all.