On Sundays We Wear White

For someone who has been riding for thirty years and competing on and off for most of those years, you might be surprised to know that I had yet to compete in the jumper ring in white breeches. Something I considered to be a badge of honour and also something I’ve really striven for. So, I preemptively purchased a pair of second-hand whites from H for the upcoming show at Thunderbird, hopeful I might get a chance to finally show in whites.

The week went well. We moved from the 0.9m’s to the 1.0m’s and I felt like both Fire and I handled that leap well, especially considering we did the Baby Greens for most of the year. I do feel a bit like in the last year I have ridden eight different horses while in the process of bringing Fire along and am currently struggling to try to figure out how to ride this cool new horse I seem to have under me. That’s the great thing about young horses – they’re never boring! Or at least mine certainly isn’t.

On the last day of the show, dressed in my new-to-me white breeches, we warmed up well and I loved the way Fire felt. I was feeling confident, even if the first two fences were oxers, (admittedly not my fave). We walked in the ring and all the sudden that horse under me was gone and instead I had one that was backed off and I had to fight just to get to the end of the ring. I found a long distance (my biggest weakness) to the first oxer. I was desperately trying to put her together around the end of the ring to the second oxer and when I put my leg on and there was no response I got desperate. Old habits die hard, and this one is dying a slow and painful death. I pushed coming out of the corner for a ridiculously long distance to a substantial oxer and while Fire tried to jump initially, we did not make it.

I hit the dirt and was up as soon as I could, worried my horse was going to go for a victory lap around the ring. The jump crew very kindly caught her as she ambled away from me and the jump, likely wondering what the heck was wrong with me and why on earth was I laying in the dirt? I determined I wasn’t hurt enough to need a medic unless they could repair my pride. Talked to my coach, got back on and jumped a couple jumps in the warm-up ring. We talked about what went wrong, how we needed to fix it and then our show was done, and it was time to rush home for the ferry.

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PC Totem Photographics

It wasn’t the best way to finish a show, there may have been a few tears shed on the drive home but that might have been in part because of the exhaustion and looking at the state of my bank account after paying my entries for the week. It was and still is a good wake-up call as to what we need to work on at home. When I put my leg on to go forward the answering machine cannot be on! We have since had about a month back to work and the issues we had at the show are still here but we’re working towards fixing them. While I wish we could have finished our season on a higher note this year, I am truly looking forward to the fall and winter of boot camp to get ready for 2019 Show Season and another chance to show in white breeches again. Maybe next time I’ll make it over more than one jump 😉

(Cautious)Optimism

I think if you go back through a number of our blog posts, we encourage our readers to not be discouraged by negativity, in whichever form it presents itself. But that in itself is a tad negative, isn’t it? Equestrians are such an aggressive bunch of perfection-seeking, competitive weirdos, and we ManeGirls are oh so terribly guilty of it. We have spent a lot of time working our minds around to the opposite thing, which is often helpful when you’re managing a complex, new, stressful situations with wild young horses. We figure if we just keep our bar low, we won’t be too disappointed when things don’t go perfectly.

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We all find success in different ways. For me, jumping a good clear round has always felt more like winning than jumping a crappy round with a red. This is surely not true for all, and yes, I do love to win.

This past weekend, two of the three of us enjoyed one of our local horse shows with three of the four young horses in tow. What was a low-key show was made more stressful for Ranchero, as she had two young horses to wrangle, plus she had to play Uber for the two of them. I was a bit nervous too, as my employer was a sponsor of the show, and competing on a young horse in front of your colleagues and clients is *gulp* stressful. But you know what? It was a fabulous show. Aloha stepped up a level and had some four-year-old moments, followed by some amazing progress. Cowboy competed in his first ever hunter derby against some seriously fancy ($$$) hunters and finished just out of the ribbons. Carma won a class, and came 7th in the “work-sponsored” class, a reasonable sized field, despite her nervous jockey worried about making a good impression.

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After the last day of the show, Ranchero and I were packing up (while Apes galavanted at a music festival – whatever!) and we both said aloud… “I’m really excited for Thunderbird.” I say those words with such caution. Like the second they pass my lips I think… shit. Now I’m doomed.

I don’t think we are doomed! We have been working our (nice) asses off all year. Sure, we’ve had ups and downs, but that’s training. So, TBird bound we are. Is it going to be super fun? Yes! Do we have big goals? Obv. Do we have reason to believe we can achieve them? Sure do. Is the show going to be perfect? No. But I can’t wait! 

~H

ALL of the Feelings

There are a lot of emotions tied up in riding. Like possibly ALL OF THEM. It also seems that this sport attracts people who are perfectionists or Type A personalities. And here’s the thing about working with a large animal with a mind of its own: it’s never going to be perfect… and it doesn’t have to be.

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Last week Dave Freeze from Ripple Rock Consulting came to our barn to do lessons and a lecture. If you’re not familiar with him, he offers personal coaching, consulting, facilitation and training for business professionals, athletes, and performing artists who believe Better is Always Possible. He has worked with a lot of riders over the years, and the tools and insight he has provided to me alone over the few times I have worked with him are invaluable. You can find more information about his services on his website.

The lecture was planned for Friday with lessons scheduled for Sunday. Since I work Sundays, my lesson was going to be before the lecture. I was rushing to get ready in time which is always super helpful when trying to stay calm and relaxed. When Dave asked why we were here, I started by talking about how I worry. He asked if I worry about falling off, getting hurt. I said no. I worry about EVERYTHING. And actually falling off and getting hurt is last on the list. I worry about my horse misbehaving and interrupting other people at the barn. I worry about people judging my horse and me while performing circus tricks in the ring or trying to get around a course. I even worry about made up things (like baby seals in the field). Over the few hours that followed, and with Dave and Katie’s insight I realized I am somewhat responsible for all of the actual problems we are having.

During our lesson, no matter how hard I tried to relax I could not unwind all of the feelings inside of me. I let things from the week interrupt my ride that had no place being there, work and relationship stresses. And even worse, I let my worries get in the way of the skills I have to ride my horse well, no matter what she does. I spooked at things before she did, like the lawn mower, the dogs, the bikes. I beat myself up when things didn’t go right and held on tightly to all of the things that were going wrong.

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After my ride, I spent two hours listening to Dave talk to us about how to be better riders (heck, even better people). I’ve had a lot of time to think about things since that night. Awareness is the first step in making a change, and I am ready to make that change. Let go of the worry, and just ride my horse. Dave said a few times – to remember that 12-year old who was carefree and resilient and rolled with the punches. I want to be her again, but maybe a little bit better dressed this time around.

~ Apes

Dealing with Disappointment

dis·ap·point·ment
ˌdisəˈpointmənt/

the feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations.

Defining disappointment is easy. Getting over it is a little harder. This feeling is something that we all have dealt with when it comes to horses, and it will surely come up again in the future. For me, it all started on the first day of the first horse show. Fire hasn’t been the easiest horse, and the fact that we got to the show and made it to the ring is a victory in itself. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit I wanted more.

After a couple of successful low rounds, (even if the first one involved her singing her way around the course,) I was feeling relaxed and excited for our first baby green class. As I was cantering around the end of the ring with a smile on my face, Fire exited stage left out the open gate so quickly it made my head spin. Of course, we got eliminated for that. I laughed, learned my next course, and went in and put in our final round of the day.

It sucked getting eliminated. But if that was the worst thing Fire did all day, (it was) then the day was a huge success. So, again another opportunity to feel something and then let it go. Like Elsa does in that Frozen movie, although I admit I haven’t actually watched it yet. But there’s always tomorrow, right?

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Fast forward to the next day and Fire was extra squirmy to braid. I chalked it up to her being a little out of patience. And when she was making the flehmen response, (curling her upper lip up,) I thought it was because of the new lavender scented braiding gel I was using, not recognizing that that behavior, while usually used to test scents in the air, can also indicate pain or be a sign of colic. I feel terrible I didn’t catch on, but hindsight is always 20/20, and on less than 3 hours of sleep I don’t tend to be the sharpest tool in the shed.

As soon as I put Fire in her stall, I knew something was wrong. She walked right past her hay and starting pawing in her paddock. Went down, rolled, got up, pawed, went down, rolled, etc. Any horse person knows this is not a good sign. As someone who goes from 0-60 in about 3 seconds flat, I told myself to take a breath and calm the F down. So I took a breath and called my vet.

After walking, grazing, and some of the “good drugs” from the vet Fire seems to be doing just fine under my watchful/neurotic eye. So we were a scratch for the day, but she’s ok. And that is all that matters right? There will be plenty more horse shows, but I only have one horse, and her health and happiness are paramount. But there is this small amount of disappointment in me that I didn’t get to go out there and show again today. I’m not sure what to do with it other than remind myself what is important and let go of what is not.

 

In the current world of social media and instant gratification, we are constantly bombarded with the new latest and greatest clothes and equipment for both horse and rider.  How many times have you seen something you MUST HAVE online, only to have your bank account quietly tell you that you have not yet won the lottery?

Let’s face it, horses are expensive.   So expensive that almost anyone I know that is not in the horse world is baffled by how much we are willing to spend on these four legged creatures.  And that’s just to keep Hi Ho Silver fed and in good health!    Let alone buy the fancy breeches, or a new show coat or new boots because yours just fell apart.  The majority of us work really hard to be able to participate in this sport we love so much, but how much is too much?

It has become increasing easy to casually purchase the must have item online with just a couple mouse clicks, heck I’ve even bought things from my phone while lying in bed!  But, let’s consider this, are those new pants going to make you ride better?  Probably not, no.  Yes, you will look fly af, but does Hi Ho Silver care that you have new pants on today?  No, he just wants his dinner.

How do we find balance?  How do we satisfy our need to “treat yo’self”, because we do work so damn hard, without having to eat Mr. Noodles every night?   For me, I have found that I can usually sell almost anything that I no longer have a use for on consignment for a little bit of extra dough to throw in the cookie jar.    How much stuff do you have just laying around that you haven’t even touched in ages?  Also, as it turns out, it’s not a sin to buy consignment items for yourself.  It’s common practice within the Mane Girls’ circle to buy and sell anything from show shirts to blankets to and from each other.

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Ultimately, I don’t know what the answer is and I don’t know if anyone out there does, but what I do know is we are all really lucky to be in whatever position we might be in that allows us to take time out of our day to spend with our horses, and we should always be thankful for that.    And, I know that I reeeeeeeallly want a new Antares bridle 😉

Happy Shopping!

~Ranchero

I’m a Mother%#*@ing woman

March 8, 2018, is International Women’s Day and currently, global activism for women’s equality is being fueled by the #MeToo #TimesUp movement and so much more.

Women dominate the horse world, especially at our level. Strong, independent, and amazing women. Now, more than ever, we should all be working towards gender parity and building each other up rather than taking each other down. It’s easy to get caught up in the gossip and drama sometimes rampant in the barn, but let’s all focus on motivating and uniting friends, colleagues, and the whole community to be inclusive. Let’s challenge stereotypes and bias and show the world how strong we really are!

Personally, I cannot express in words how thankful I am to have an army of powerful women around me at the barn. After just over a year of being included at Coastal Equestrian, they feel like family. And the good kind of family, not the kind that you dread seeing at birthday dinners, or special occasions. In a sport that can be super challenging at times and super rewarding at others, having people to rise to the challenge with you and celebrate the rewards of the hard work we all put in, is truly priceless.

So here’s to strong women.
May we know them.
May we be them.
May we raise them.
Today and every day.

Need a little inspiration? We’re all a bit obsessed with this song right now (warning strong and empowering language used 😜):

~Apes

 

Positive Pants

So, I was reading this very encouraging article on the Plaid Horse yesterday about Size Inclusivity in the Equestrian World (read it here). I was so relieved by this article because I had this overwhelming sense of “oh thank goodness, I’m not the only one!” By that, I mean the only one that struggles to find the right fit in a pair of breeches. Time and again I’d order a pair of pants that ‘must’ fit (because if I’m a 30 in jeans I must be a 30 in these breeches, right?), but then I put them on and… nope! The ill-fitting-new-breeches confidence slump is the worst, but it has long led me to wonder: is it me that doesn’t fit the pants, or the pants that don’t fit me? Yesterday’s article on TPH gave me optimism, and for once I felt positive.

Today, I sat down to write in solidarity with the TPH article and further promote the message of body positivity and size inclusivity (which the Mane Girls are huge proponents of, BTW). However, as I racked my brain for colourful adjectives and recommendations for the best pants for big bums, I realized that there was so much more to this. The thing that struck me was less that I was excited to hear about companies expanding their product lines to include different shapes, and more that I was eased by the sense of community. The reason the Mane Girls exists is because three friends found themselves relating to each other, sharing experiences, living our lives the best we can, dedicating ourselves to our sport, and above all working hard to be happy! In a world motivated by envy, it is hard to find your happiness and I’ve found that finding real, like-minded people to share experiences with is the secret sauce.

To TPH, I say thank you for including this article in your blog. To Lauren Mauldin, thank you for sharing your experience. To everyone else who, like me, sit and wonder and worry, please know you’re not alone. When you have a community to lean on, it’s so much easier to fit into your Positive Pants.

~H