When I watched the video from my lesson on Tuesday, my first thought was “I wish we had nailed that first jump.” And that was true… but my second thought was “Maybe I should edit out that first jump before posting it.”
Honestly, I hear a lot about other riders doing just that. I will reach out to someone, to comment on how much progress they have made, and I will get a response along the lines of “Thank you! That part of our course was really good! Just be glad you didn’t see the rest of it. 😉 ”
You know what? I am not glad. I am not glad because I see all this manicured social media everyday. (I am addicted to instagram… sorry not sorry.) You see stadium rounds of all perfect distances. Video stills that show the smile at the end of a ride. And you miss out on the chips, rails, run outs, scrappy distances etc etc etc.
One of the greatest breakthroughs in my riding career was stadium scribing at a horse trial. I saw WAY MORE scrappy rounds than flawless ones. I saw pros, ammies, and juniors alike all make mistakes. It became pretty apparent that our social media lives do not fully reflect our actual barn lives.
So, I left the chip in the video. I left the head flinging in the video. I post XC posts of me getting left behind and supermanning through the air. It’s all out there like dirty laundry, and I am proud of it. Because it means that I love this horse and this sport enough to keep trying, even when it’s hard.
So let’s air out those fails to the world. AND laugh while doing it!
Last Friday marked 4 YEARS with Ms. May. This mare has redefined my relationship with horses. She helped me become an eventer. And, honestly, she owes me nothing. And Yet, she comes out almost every day and does better, just because I ask. It hasn’t always been fun and easy, but it has been so incredibly rewarding to be this mare’s partner.
If you’ve never considered yourself a mare person, May might just change your mind.
The last four years might not be filled with ribbons and trophies (although… this mare has never left an event WITHOUT a ribbon), but it is filled with a lot of laughter:
About a week after I first got May, she SAT DOWN on the crossties, snapping both of them. Not because she was scared. Not because she didn’t know how to tie. She sat down because she heard that dinner was being served, and she was NOT to be forgotten.
My barn in NJ used to offer two types of hay: a super rich, nutritional hay and a decent hay that was fed in bulk since there was no grass. At the last night check, my trainer was throwing the good hay, but not the great hay. May was nickering at her and making the “feed me” puppy dog eyes. Trainer threw her the good hay. May sniffed it and started nickering again. It was her way of saying, “Excuse me, but this is not what I ordered.”
When my sister came to visit last year, we arrived to the barn to find no people there, but May hanging out in another stall that she had deemed to be “better” than her actual stall. I think both of us ended up near tears with laughter
I guess I could go on and on, but I am just so thankful for all the joy this little mare has brought me. For a horse I bought on a drunken whim, with full intentions of likely flipping her in a few months for something “better” to the pony of a lifetime.
The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster. For personal reasons, my part leaser has decided to end her lease after her show this weekend. I am sad about it, but I think we can all say that we have been where she is. She and May made a ton of progress together, and I am super thankful to have had her as part of the team for the last several months.
Then last week, my dog started acting a bit funny. In case any of you didn’t know, Hannah is truly the child in our family. She comes on family vacations, she gets special treatment… I mean, we basically bought a house with a great yard because I had promised her that when we lived in the apartment.
Over the weekend, she had started acting just… not herself. She had energy. She had her appetite. But something was just off. Then on Tuesday, she had an accident in the house, her second time in a week. The first one we had chalked up to stress after the groomers, but prior to that week, the dog had two accidents in the entire time I had known her.
By Wednesday morning, her belly was distinctly distended. Her energy and appetite were still fine, but we took her to the vet. As usual, every disaster scenario possible was flowing through my head. I am somewhat shocked that I had the wherewithal to get a urine sample and actually drive the dog to the vet.
They did a urine test, x-rays, bloodwork… and it was all pretty inconclusive. They referred us to a larger clinic for an abdominal ultrasound… which we couldn’t get until Thursday morning. My husband took that day off of work. The ultrasound came up clean, so we tested for cushings.
We had our diagnosis. Cushings. Did you know that cushings is more prevalent in dogs than horses? It’s just that most people attribute cushing symptoms in dogs to just getting older, so don’t get them tested as often. Go figure. It will probably take multiple, repeat tests and some playing around the dosage levels of the medication, but the vets were fairly confident that we could manage her symptoms.
So What Now?
Well… obviously, both of these events mean a pretty significant hit to the bank account. I debated half leasing May out again, but to be honest, I don’t think it’s fair to ask the mare to switch to another new rider in the middle of show season, especially with me planning on some pretty significant achievements. As a result, I am just excited to spend more time in the saddle again, but I think I have to rethink my show schedule. It would still be great to go Novice, but I am going to leave some rated shows on the sidelines for the next couple of months.
I am trying to sell my Dressage saddle. If I can sell it for a decent price, maybe I can swing getting a new jump saddle that fits both of us better. Then, I’ll sell off my Stubben jump saddle. However, this has fallen down near the bottom of the priority list for now.
Apologies in advance for a rather rambly, stream of consciousness post.
Riding at the horse park for our competition was a bit surreal. Spring Bay is a bit of a unique horse trial in a lot of ways. Obviously, running XC at a different venue than SJ and Dressage is interesting, but it is more than that.
As we walked from the trailers to Dressage or SJ at the horse park, you could see the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event coming together. Crews worked to build tents and platforms around Rolex Stadium. The grass on the XC field was being mowed and tended to. Even the barns not being used for our event were cleaned and prepped, ready for the 5* horses to show up.
It’s easy enough to go to a schooling show, especially in eventing, and feel like you belong. Most everyone is on either an OTTB or a QH or a mutt of some kind. (sorry May). It’s pretty rare to see the newest or the best tack/equipment etc on the school ponies poking around baby starter. If you go often enough, you get to know most of the riders/trainers/horses on sight.
So I have gotten… pretty comfortable in that atmosphere.
Then a couple of weeks ago, I ventured to the Kentucky Horse Park, as it preps for KY3DE, my over-sized thelwell pony siting in the trailer, ready for Starter. I watched the Prelim riders perform their long and complicated Dressage tests (to me anyway). I walked the SJ course when it included 3 combinations, a triple bar, and was set to full prelim height. Thinking back on it, it was the first time I have ever been in a competition ring with jumps set to that height.
Then I picked up on the chatter, which horses were just out to do the CT to start off their season, and which horses were stepping down for a confidence building start. Confidence building?!
So the feelings started to creep in. This wasn’t really eventing. Who was I to call myself an eventer? Even a recent article on Eventing Nation seemed to acknowledged it:
I think we should respect the person that chooses to compete at Novice because that’s where they are happy and are enjoying the sport just as much as the person who is running around Kentucky.
HAH! NOVICE?! Girl, those BN jumps look big right now. Did this person purposefully skip the very lowest levels of our sport? The levels that run multiple divisions in nearly every event and help pay for the judges, venues, secretaries etc etc etc? I like to think not…
I have told myself for years that getting to Novice would be really eventing, but the truth is, a couple of weeks ago, me and my horse went to compete three times in three different phases. And we were competent and competitive in each phase. To me, that is eventing.
And you know what? I had FUN! By Sunday, I was eyeing the BN XC fences with excitement instead of anxiety. (May still thinks it would have been WAY MORE fun to “gallop” through the mud over the bigger fences.)
So I look my own doubts head on, and I remind them that being an eventer and a horseperson means showing off your horse to the best of your abilities in that moment. My choice to run Starter doesn’t need any explanation beyond the choice to set myself and my horse up for success. In fact, it needs FAR LESS explanation then anyone who pushes their horses up the level without proper fitness or training.
Moral of this story? Do right by your horse, and the eventing community will always support you.