Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Considering, Contemplating

I've made it a point over the past few days to really sit down and think hard about what I *really* want out of my horses, what I want to be doing, and what I want them to be doing. Honestly, since I lost Gogo, I've sort of been whirling around without any serious goals to aim for, and sometimes I feel like I am really struggling to get back to that level of commitment. When I had her, everything in life completely revolved around her and our career together - we were like mac and cheese, we just went together and completed each other. There was never ANY question about what our collective goals were, and it was very hard when we lost that due to her injuries. I didn't really know what to do with myself at the time, and now, several years later, I don't really know how to quite get myself back to that pre-injury mindset that I had.

What do I WANT to be doing with my horses? What I really want, if I am honest with myself, is a horse who will win the dressage and skip around clean XC and stadium, and who will be capable of Prelim if we get there - who doesn't want that? Eventing is part of my very being, part of my identity, and trying to leave it completely is just not possible. I don't want to and I don't think I could. 

What do I NOT want to do? I don't want to wind up in a situation where I an projecting my desires and dreams onto an animal that can't physically or mentally handle them. Immy, as the prime example, was not ever going to be mentally capable of being an event horse, as much as I tried and as much as I wanted her to be. I did the right thing and made sure she was in a situation where she would be comfortable and happy, even though it wasn't what I had originally planned. As for O, I'm on the fence. I feel as though I have put a huge deal of pressure on myself because of the close proximity of the AECs. I mean, they're right HERE! Why wouldn't I want to shoot for them, I can do it!

But at the same time, I don't want to set either of us up for disappointment. While I might be able to help her jumping form out, and her canter as well, there is only so much that I can do to really improve those things. I don't want to expect things from her that she isn't physically really capable of, and I don't want to be disappointed in her for something that isn't her fault. It makes me sound like a snob, but I just don't want to show unless I am going in there to win. I don't enjoy going into a show feeling unprepared or like we are going to make fools of ourselves, especially at expensive events, so I am quick to back away from it. I don't want to dive into this with her thinking it will be just like it was with Gogo, when it will not be anything like it was with Gogo (and shouldn't be). O is not Gogo and will not ever be anything like her. And somehow, the thought of eventing with her has just not brought out the same level of excitement in me that it ever did with Gogo. 

Could she do it? Of course she could. To the level I want? I don't really know. Should I keep pursuing it, or pursue other things? I don't know that either.

What I do know is that there are so many other things that I want to do with her - the things I outlined in my last post. I find myself trying to rationalize wanting to do these things, for reasons that I don't really understand (i.e. why I should do them instead of eventing, which I feel that I *should* be doing, although I don't know why exactly I feel that I *should* be doing them other than they are the only things I know how to do). I think that is exactly what it boils down to.... eventing is the only horsey sport I really know how to do. It is the only thing I have ever done, for as long as I remember. It has always been what I have done. 

Of course I still want to event. But, I need to have a horse that will be that knockout specialist in that sport to do it the way I really want and O doesn't fit that kind of mold. O is much more of a jack of all trades than say Tre, who is probably going to be REALLY great at eventing and really BAD at things like chasing cows, running barrels, and trotting for a million miles up the trail. (I mean you never know, but she is a very different mover and a very different personality!) O might not be that knockout dressage horse, but she can still do it. She might not be a fantastic jumper, but she can still do it. She might not be a specialist at anything, but she can do EVERYTHING. And seeing that in her - really stepping back and seeing that - is kind of exhilarating. I mean, what CAN'T we try and not expect to probably do reasonably well at? 

So, I got brave. I signed us up for our first little endurance ride. It isn't even an LD (which is 25 miles), it is an intro ride that goes for more like 10 or 15 miles (the ultimate noob level). At this point, we can do that in our sleep, but this is a brand new experience for me. I've been grilling poor Funder for help, and if anyone else has some tips, I'd love to hear them! This is a big branch-out for me... I've never done anything quite like it before. I'm excited, and a little bit nervous! It is hard knowing I am going to walk onto a property and have literally NO idea where to start, aside from what I have been told to do. 
Feel free to chime in and help or offer advice/encouragement/anything you want! It is on Nov 9th, so we have about two weeks to mentally prep for it. Holy moley, I can't believe I am doing this!

In other news, Miss Tre is turning out to be a super cute little mare. She is your typical dinky QH mover until you activate her and get her moving, and then she can be quite fancy. She is going to be an activate-activate-activate kind of ride, which is going to be a nice change. She has a beautiful, quiet, lopey canter - naturally, she wants to be a bit downhill, but when I have asked her to slow and gather herself on the lunge, she can practically canter in place. I haven't been on her since our first ride - I wanted to get a week or so worth of solid workouts on the lunge under our belts first, to better gauge her personality and attitude - but she has gotten better and quieter every day. Tomorrow is supposed to be nasty and stormy, but maybe I can sneak in a quick ride before the weather turns nasty!

Geez is she cute or what? If I can rotate that energy towards her hind end and lift her front end up, she'll be adorable in the dressage!


  1. Oh, Andrea...you would be doing yourself an absolute disservice to NOT be going to a show with the goal of winning. It's completely un-snobish, actually. A few years ago I would have thought the same, but wanting to absolutely prepare yourself, to be the true, honest best, to give you and your horse the greatest chance at ultimate success, well that's hardly snob-ish. That's good horsemanship. That's giving a damn about your animal to the point where you don't even want to go if that animal isn't ready. I think that's very noble, and those honest intentions don't exist in the show world anymore. Plenty of people can afford lessons and equipment, fancy trainers, a big trailer and the fees for all the shows in the world, but they don't have a lick of horse sense, at least not enough to perhaps look at their animal and say, "maybe this isn't right for my horse". Their hearts aren't in it for the shared glory of horse and rider working (and winning!) together. Your's is :)

  2. I know what you mean when you say that you feel you SHOULD be doing something, but you want to do something else. Oh the conflicts!! Just keep doing what you're doing, and it's ok if you're not doing what you think you SHOULD be doing just because you're doing something different. It's not the same, it's not wrong, it's just different! And that's OKAY! Take on these new adventures as a new education for yourself as a rider, dive into endurance and keep that love of eventing with you :) Eventing will always be there, but it's always fun to try something new too :) Give yourself the permission to enjoy what you're doing and ride on, girl.
    Ride on

  3. I think the key is for you to have fun and the horse to be faced with goals that they can realistically accomplish. I've been guilty of expecting things out of my horse that they physically could not do, and it's something I think a lot about with Simon.

  4. I think it's awesome that you're able to say that you don't want to project your desires onto your horses. Sometimes it's hard listening to them, but when you can, it makes things so much more worthwhile, as I think it gives them a say in what they want their life to be like as woo woo as that sounds lol.

    And awesome about the wee endurance ride, I've done one and it was such fun. Totally different to any other event I had been to.


  5. I think you've done a great job with O, however jumping wise, she's not going to be a safe event horse, she gets too far under her fences and is inclined to leave her legs dangling. Fine for wee, non technical stuff, but not so great for someone that really wants to do stuff. I don't know what it's like in the US - but here there would be peopel that would put out serious money for a horse like O if you can polish her up a bit more. Something that can do a bit of everything, from low level jumping/eventing/dressage. to a bit of stock work, to hacking out maybe not so much on an endurance ride, but on a multi day trek. And being small she's nice and easy to get on and off if you're out in the back country, and only have rocks to use as mounting blocks!

    I'm sure more work will improve her canter, and she will become a better horse.

    She really reminds me of one of my old ones, that could cut out a sheep and hold it in a corner until it could be grabbed, while I held a wiggling, new born lamb between my jump saddle and my body (we farmed sheep, not cattle), could do a passable dressage test and scoot round an XC/showjumping course up to about 3ft, and cruise along happily in a group on a trek. He was a horse that could do pretty much anything, was unflappable unless you were being a turd, and he thought you needed to focus, and hauled my ass out of so many situation I should have never got him into!

  6. You may not remember me -- we met briefly at Huntington a couple of years back -- but fwiw, I've been on a related journey this year: taking a break from eventing for various reasons, trying distance riding to fill the gap, deeply ambivalent about not eventing (and don't feel that I'm done with it for good) but not interested in beating my head against walls or in overspending my horse and likewise not interested in just kicking around a level that wouldn't pose a challenge for us as a pair. I've worked through it some on my blog, especially from late May to early July, when I had planned to do one event this year (Huntington, actually!) and then ended up changing my mind.

    Long story short: fistbump of solidarity:

    What I actually meant to write was, distance riding is a ton of fun and I absolutely recommend it for an eventer not currently eventing on a given horse! I've always kind of thought that it would be a great way to prep a young eventer; now I think it may actually work better the other way around. Having a horse that understands problem solving and being out there alone and going when you put your leg on even when the setting or question is a little weird, and understanding yourself how to ride effectively and helpfully during an athletic performance, honestly gives you a head start on many, many newbie distance riders.

    My big takeaway from our first season (three days of 25-mile CTRs, two of those back-to-back, and 36 miles of an endurance 50) has been that 1) if this sport is a good fit, it will suck you right in but that 2) people are people; the community is not quite as magically all-helpful and all-welcoming as advertised -- but many individuals absolutely are generous and kind and fantastic, so all is well as long as expectations are reasonable, and most importantly 3) no one is kidding when they say that 25 miles is achievable for a sound and reasonably fit horse.

    I felt (and still feel!) very at sea because so much of what I'm doing now is _so_ different than what I'm doing before (have blogged about that at great length, too). But we went into our first (hilly!) 25 off several years of basic event-horse conditioning and 3-4 rides that I'd measured at 12-15miles. Horse did great. This is much more of a big deal to us than it is to them.

    Have a good ride! Funder is fantastic and I'm sure she has you covered, but feel free to hit me up if you want.

  7. *clap clap* So happy to hear about the LD! (and jealous!) That's just awesome!

    I know you've put a lot of pressure on yourself about what you "should" be doing (ask me how I know about this personality trait ;p), however - if you can at all squirm out from under all those expectations, it'll feel empty at first but in the end it can be oh-so-freeing as time goes on.

  8. I think your mindset is headed in the right direction. When you figure out what you want to do, you will know. Have fun and good luck!

  9. Play to all of your strengths (yours, O's and Tre's) and you'll find success (this is my 7:54 fortune cookie style comment).

  10. I think it sounds like your head is in exactly the right place. You are looking at the horse and letting them tell you what they will be good at. I think that is the smartest thing you can do. Why challenge a horse and put them in a situation where they will be unsuccessful? Don't doubt yourself. You know the horses. You know you. You are doing the right thing. I can't wait to hear about the new adventure in endurance riding!!!

  11. Hi Andrea! I love reading your blog and want to chime in on the endurance stuff...
    I have a mare much like how you describe O. My girl is also a jack-of-all-trades and reasonably well suited for lots of different sports, but not a total expert at any. Therefore, we just completed our first 15 mile event earlier this month! First off, I want to state that even if it is "only" a 15, there is a BIG difference between having ridden 9 or 10 miles before and doing 15 on one day! I have never been so sore in my life (and I used to train with eventers, so I'm pretty hard core about conditioning and such). Be sure to take good care of your own body as well as your horse's. (I think my intense muscle cramping was from lack of potassium... load up!) We did our 15 miles in 2 1/2 hours. I'm not sure if I remember you mentioning whether O is pretty strong in your hand when you get going or not... but if she ever has been, be prepared for her just wanting to GO out on the course! My biggest regret for our 15 was using new rope reins... as soon as they got damp in my hands they were very slippery and hard to grip as my mare tried to outpace all the horses around us (she's a nut). Another regret of mine was not packing my own sponge on course. They sell special endurance sponges that clip to the saddle... either get one of these or make one with twine. Soak the sponge before you leave and then clip it to the saddle for your water stop. Take advantage of all water stops and encourage any attempt at drinking that your horse may make. Mine didn't drink during the ride, she tends to be picky about drinking, but if you want to continue in the endurance sport I'm told it's really important to encourage any attempts you do see in hopes that they start to learn the importance of taking advantage of it.
    Ride at a pretty steady pace, but do be sure to walk the last leg of the ride! Our P&R's (Pulse & Respirations) were a little high and we attributed it to not having walked quite as much towards the end as we should have. Get plenty of sponging buckets ready before your ride... I can't believe how many we went through! Probably 5 or 6 Cosequin-sized buckets of water.
    Also be sure to practice jog-outs before your vetting in, but also before you vet out. They are expected to jog as soon as you ask them when you vet out after the ride, and my mare wasn't in that mindset and was understandably lazy after having done the 15. I know that if I'd just asked her for it on my way to vet out she would have been in a better mindset and they wouldn't have docked the extra points. They want to see them happy to continue to work for you, essentially.

    Good luck and have a blast! It's a really awesome experience.

  12. Yay for the beginner endurance ride! That sounds like so much fun! I think you and O will do really well with it.

    As for the eventing with O... has anyone watched you jump her from the saddle? The video you posted of her jumping on the longe looked difficult because of the small circle. She might be different under saddle. I don't know anything about eventing, but maybe it would be helpful to go to an eventing clinic? That way the clinician could see her jump under saddle, offer advice and then you could discuss with someone who understands the sport whether she has a future in it. Don't write her off too soon. :)

    Tre looks fantastic. She is so cute!

  13. This is the only video I have of us jumping, and even though they are small, it's not pretty!

    I wouldn't say I am writing her off... just accepting that she is a jack of all trades and master of none.