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Life Makes More Sense in the Saddle

One Ride at a Time

While most people hate Mondays, I have grown to enjoy them for the sole reason that every Monday night I have a riding lesson. It’s honestly the highlight of my week. Tonight it was just my BFF N and I, which was a nice change from the bigger group lessons we’ve been having lately. She rode Diamond, which was pretty educational for me. I got to see Diamond do the same things to N that she does to m, and watch how she handled [well, really corrected] them and what adjustments she made as we went along. I also evaluated how I would do in similar situations… to which the answer was almost always “mine would not have been that pretty” or “I wouldn’t have known what to do.”

We mostly took it easy, Vinnie had a bump on his right leg, but trotted out sound, plus I was kind of sore [my knees and lower back didn’t feel 100 percent] so it worked out. We practiced some course work — all singles for me and just 18″ verticals, but it went pretty well. I had a few close distances, but I followed Vinnie’s motion over the jump successfully. I also had a few long distances, which I didn’t follow so well BUT there was improvement. Instead of not following and losing my leg and thus getting jumped out of the tack, my legs stayed pretty steady, I just didn’t follow well with my upper body. Improvement!
Life Makes More Sense in the Saddle

In Other News

Outside the land of ponies, the BF’s last final is Thursday, and he will officially be 2/3rds of the way finished with school. He starts a big summer internship the following week and I’d really like to get him something… I’m thinking a nice blue button-up [to replace the one that mysteriously got bleach on the collar] and a matching tie. He’ll have to wear suits everyday, so this is kind of a practical thing, but I think he’ll like it. What do you think?
Vinnie's Nose

It’s A No Go

After a lot of thinking and talking to anyone who would listen [including my faithful readers, thanks!] I decided not to buy the horse. In the end, it was my MF’s mom who helped me the most. She is completely non-horsey [as in doesn’t even know a mare from a gelding] and she just said I should listen to my gut. Simple advice, but it really hit home for me. Some people don’t get gut feelings, but I definitely do. I usually weigh all the factors and make a decision — I’m not impulsive, but I’m also not indecisive — and the fact that I was so back and forth about this issue tells me that I didn’t have a good feeling. As soon as I came to this realization, I felt so much better. Maybe I’m passing by a great opportunity, but it’s only great if I want it… and at this point, I don’t. Sorry to get your hopes up 😉

Since I’ve spent all my waking hours agonizing over buying this horse the last few days after my decision was made, I spent some quality time doing normal, adult things. I spent all day Saturday turning my apartment from a disaster zone back into an acceptable habitat. Luckily my place is fairly small, so cleaning, laundry and the grocery store only took a few hours. BF and I ended up going to dinner with his mom that evening and by the time we got back I was wiped out and spent the rest of the night on the couch watching Say Yes to the Dress. That show is like crack to me; I just can’t get enough!

Om Sunday I slept in and then went out to the barn — it was gorgeous! 70 degrees and sunny, with just enough breeze to keep us fairly cool. I rode Vinnie outside [first show of the season is three weeks away!] and he was a champ. He usually doesn’t like to be by himself, but he was fine. We did some work with ground poles, starting with an adjustability exercise, which went pretty well followed by some rollbacks and turns to help me practice using my right leg more effectively. This might sound kind of crazy, but sometimes my right leg is totally useless; I have a lot of trouble squeezing it when I’m in a half seat to move a horse over, or keep a bend, etc. I had also planned to do some two-point and no stirrup work as well, but I wasn’t feeling it and after we finished our pole work, I had already been riding for 40 minutes [which is a lot for me] so we did our last stretchy trot and called it a day.

Hosed and grazed and it was wonderful. Lesson tonight, and then I might not ride again until Saturday/Sunday.

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.

Tracy and Vinnie - TR Show 2013

Home Show Success!

So, it’s been a while since I last posted. Sorry guys. I had a blog written about my Thursday lesson, but it was just so negative I decided not to post it. I want to keep things real and write about the good times as well as the bad, but sometimes I get so down on myself and no one wants to read that; heck, I didn’t even want to read it again! So that’s my excuse for the radio silence. Anyways, on to more exciting things… like the schooling show at the farm!

I went out to the barn on Saturday to practice and of course it was absolutely gorgeous out, but it was supposed to rain on Sunday so all the jumping was scheduled to be indoors. Blech. Oh well, April showers and all I guess. After talking with Trainer, we decided on a game plan: I’d show Diamond in Equitation Flat and Vinnie in 2′ Equitation Over Fences and Jumpers. I cried a little on the inside since there wasn’t a single hunter class. I mean, I haven’t shown in Equitation in probably five years and I’ve never ridden a jumper course! All I have to say is thank goodness for being able to practice the day before!

By the time I got there the jump course was all set up in the indoor and it looked really nice, I mean I stepped into the arena and was seriously impressed. Most of the jumps had fancy wing standards with colorful poles and boxes all over the place. I even had a moment where I was just so incredibly grateful to be at a barn like this, with great professionals and a dedicated, caring staff. Anyways, practice on Vinnie went pretty well; I didn’t have much horse and struggled to keep up the correct pace, but at least our “jumper” turns went well. I also flatted Diamond in the smaller indoor to practice for our flat class. She wasn’t bad, but she did feel a little up and I was just a titch nervous, which probably didn’t help her relax. I only rode her for about 20 minutes and called it quits.

Diamond and I - Timber Run Farm Show 2013

Show Day

I woke up early on Sunday and headed straight out to the barn. It was raining by 7 am, so I was worried that the horses wouldn’t get turned out. Luckily Trainer is amazing and managed to get Diamond some indoor turnout time before they started working the ring for the show — thank goodness! She said Diamond ran around like a bat out of hell. We all figured since it was raining there wouldn’t be many haul-ins, but boy were we wrong! All in all we had about 15 trailers plus boarders; It was much bigger than anyone thought it would be!

Equitation on the Flat was first and I had three simple goals in mind: (1) stretch up, (2) keep weight in my right leg and (3) not break at the canter. I’m not an Equitation rider — I don’t have the body-type and I have way too many things to worry about when I’m riding to try to look pretty while doing it. Overall the class went pretty well I thought. I need to keep working on stretching up in my transitions and I caught myself slipping out of my right leg a bit, but I didn’t break at the canter and I did a sitting trot fairly well considering I never, ever practicing it. We ended up 4th out of 8, which I was very happy with.

 

Next up was Equitation Over Fences with Vinnie, so I swapped horses and warmed up in the small indoor over a crossrail. Vinnie had a bit more energy, and I was so proud of him for not succumbing to his fear of the bear that lives in there, haha. We tried to go over the big indoor to stand at the end, which was sectioned off as a “waiting area” but it was so crammed full we couldn’t even get in. So I hopped off and stood in the aisle for a while, waiting for our class. We did manage to get back on and over the arena to school a few jumps before our class started. Vinnie was excellent, even with lots of chaos, including one rider who was having a pretty difficult time her mount. Plus since were up there and ready, I was able to get my trip in early on in the class [there were 11 riders total!]. Overall, I was happy with my ride. We were a little wobbly in the line, and I got left behind a little bit at the first fence. Vinnie doesn’t have flying lead changes, so that always hurts us, but again, I wasn’t really going in for a good Equitation round, I just wanted to do my best to generate and moderate our pace, keep my lower leg more still and follow well. I think I really accomplished all those goals and while my trip could have been better, it was still much improved from our school on Saturday. I ended up 4th out of 11 in this class, and I was over the moon ecstatic!

Timber Run Farm Show 2013 - Vinnie in Jumpers

I took a quick break to learn my Jumper course and went back in. This trip definitely wasn’t as smooth or pretty, but Vinnie was a champ and helped me through it. I honestly don’t remember much about this course — I think I was so focused on where I had to go next I wasn’t paying much attention to how I was riding [which is funny, because even though this was the Jumper course, the only part that was more difficult was 4 to 5… everything else was really set like a hunter course]. We didn’t knock down any rails, during our trip, so we got to do the jump-off, which was super nerve-wracking because I can only memorize one course at a time, so I had no idea where I was going! I had to learn the jump-off standing in the ring, but luckily I had some great friends and the ladies at the gate helped me learn it. This trip was pretty ugly, but my only goal was to get over the correct fences, which I did. Our turn to 4 was really rough and I almost fell off afterwards, but we gathered back up and made it over the last fence. Woohoo! We even got a 6th (!!) for efforts! My first [and probably last] ribbon in the Jumper ring, haha.

All in all, this show was a huge success for me. I’m really proud that I accomplished all my goals, even if they were small and I probably could have challenged myself to do a bit better. These courses were definitely out of my comfort zone and I handled it all in stride.

Tracy and Vinnie - TR Show 2013

Strive for Progress Not Perfection

Double Ride

Yesterday was my regularly scheduled Monday evening lesson on Vinnie, but since Diamond is starting to feel better and come back into work, Trainer said I could flat her before our lesson. So I hustled out of work, slammed down half a sandwich from Subway and bolted for the barn. It was an absolutely gorgeous day: 70 and sunny with just a slight breeze… perfect weather for the barn!

I groomed both horses while they finished eating dinner, tacked up Diamond Girl and headed for the outdoor arena. Diamond hasn’t been ridden outside yet this year, and since she’s been on stall rest for a while, I was prepared for fireworks. She is, after all, a chestnut Thoroughbred mare. But she surprised me by being an absolute angel. We flatted for about 20 minutes, mostly just trotting around, and she felt pretty good. We focused on bending and giving, which was mostly successful. She can be difficult to figure out sometimes, and I’m not always sure how much I can push her. Since I was by myself, I played it safe and accepted the bend and give she gave me. I also focused on keeping my weight down, and sinking into my heels, especially through my right leg. We did a little bit of canter, but she felt wiggly and wasn’t as willing to go forward, so I just did one circle each direction. As we cooled out at the walk, I swear I could feel her grinning from ear to ear; She was just so happy to be outside, being ridden. It felt great to be back on her and I’m so glad she’s doing better. I never thought I’d say this, but I missed that mare!

After Diamond was cool, I rushed back to the barn tountack, grab Vinnie who was thankfully already clean from before, and finish getting ready for my lesson. It was a group of four of us, and everyone’s first time jumping outside this year so the horses were a little pumped up to say the least. We started with just putting a few jumps together and Vinnie wasamped. It was kind of nice to have some get up and go, instead of the feeble kicking and pushing I’ve been attempting in the indoor. Despite how excited he was, he listened and packaged, just like I asked.

Once we were warmed up and knew what our horses were like, we moved on to some coursework to prepare for the show (woohoo!). We had some really fun jumps with pretty flowers and lots of options for turns. I was riding with all jumpers, so they got to do some really tough rollbacks and bending lines. Vinnie and I stuck to our hunter stuff, which is fine by me! I felt like I did pretty well, considering. I either had great jumps, where I found the distance and my legs stayed solid or I had bad jumps where I didn’t see a distance and got jumped out of the tack. I’m choosing to view this as progress because I didn’t have any jumps in which we had a good spot, but my leg swung. Plus we were jumping 2′, which I haven’t done in about three weeks. I’m trying to remember that progress will be slow, especially when I only ride 2-3 times a week and only jump once.

I’m starting to feel pretty excited about the show this weekend!

Strive for Progress Not Perfection