Saturday, April 26, 2014

My Spirit Animal is a Spineless Cactus

Not because they are spineless.

Because no matter what happens to them, you can't #!%*ing kill them.

This thing looked DEAD after our harsh winter. The ice, the constant freezing, the miserable weather... it killed it, for sure. The entire cactus lost 2/3s of its paddles, and most of it turned a nasty shade of puke-brown. It was dead. Poor sad cactus, you had such a hard winter, you finally gave up didn't you?

Wait... what's what I see?


But, it makes me feel a little bit better about myself. Some real sh*t can happen to me, but somehow I just kind of keep getting up and going on with life anyway.

I had a really awful day yesterday. Rolex is going on, and I am simultaneously green with envy and blue with utter sadness. I'm still fighting with this depression monster thing, and it left me in bed crying for several hours yesterday about how nothing is the way it used to be. I miss eventing something fierce, especially on days like today. Rolex fever burns everyone up, even non-eventers. One glance at the live streaming video, and I'm like a shark when there is blood in the water. I'm in total frenzy mode right now.

I can't help it. I'M AN EVENTER! Deep down in my core, that's who I am and that is what I want to be doing. Trying other sports is fun (and sometimes, not fun at all), but I have nothing invested in them and don't feel like I am accomplishing anything special when I do them. For me, eventing still is - and will always be - the ultimate pinnacle of achievement between horse and rider. Watching the riders at Rolex going around always leaves me in complete awe... there are no horses and riders like them on the planet. I just don't look at other sports that way, just don't feel that way about them. There is just no other sport out there where you combine all of these elements together into one, and you have to be good at all of them when you do it. To me, it is THE ultimate test. 

And I miss it. I MISS IT! I miss it so much it hurts. I had literal tears in my eyes today watching some of the dressage... tears for the riders whose dreams came crashing down, tears for the beauty of the horses that absolutely nailed their tests. And some tears for myself - ok, a lot of tears - because I want so very badly to be back doing the same thing.

I spent a lot of time today thinking about what I am going to do in the future. And I STILL don't have an answer. I want to keep trying to make O into an event horse because I want an event horse. But as usual, I just don't know if she is going to be that horse or not. Our dressage is still abysmal - SO abysmal - and it never improves. She badly hangs her legs over half the fences we take. She shuts down when things get complicated. She bolts when she has had enough of being compressed. 

Despite all of that, I am in love with this horse. I love everything about her, even when she is being a psychotic nutjob. The things she is really good at come so easy to her, and she tells you exactly what she thinks about the things she doesn't enjoy. She makes no apologies for who she is. I love this horse, and I want her to succeed at something she loves to do. I'm not sure that it is fair to her to try and squash her into a mold that she doesn't quite fit into. Sure, I could hammer on her for awhile and smush her into the proper hole, but then she'll just be a square peg with broken edges. And what is the point of that?

So the question now becomes, "what now?" If O doesn't want to be an event horse, that's ok! God knows Gogo would have NEVER made a barrel horse, a speedy jumper, or an endurance horse. Not every sport is made for every animal, or every person. I guess I look at O like my kid.... you know, that parent who knows their kid is a total genius and could absolutely be a doctor or a lawyer if they just put their head to it. But then your kid grows up and wants to open a smoke shop in Colorado or something, and you're not sure that you approve, and you think maybe their talents are wasted there, and what they're doing is for heathens. But then you see that they are successful and loving what they do, and you soften up a bit, because they're still your kid and you love and cherish them no matter what they want to do with their lives, so long as they are a productive good citizen of the world. I'd say that about sums it up for me. I want O to succeed at something she excels at, not be forced to do something she's not so great at.

But that still leaves me. What do *I* do about getting back into my beloved sport? I've spent a lot of time away from it, for the sake of my horse. I love my little red firecracker, and I'm not going to give her up. I've tried very hard to partake in other sports for her sake, and most of them are not things I am going to pursue beyond my partnership with her. I'm having a blast with her, but I am sorely missing the sport where I truly belong. I have other things to think about - buying a house, building my business - that take as much income as I can possibly give to them. My purse strings are tight and there's not really room for 3 horses. I'm not interested in getting rid of either of my mares. I'm not keen on catch rides or leases. So where does that leave me?

I still don't have an answer for that.

Edited to add: I'm not upset about any of this, don't worry! I'm just an adult ammy with a hobby, realizing that it is stupid to get all fussed and crazy about this kind of thing. Why not have some fun? There will be another event horse for me at some point in my life, even if the time isn't right now. I don't feel at all like I'm "giving up" on her or on any of this, I'm making a conscious decision to do something else about it instead, something we'll both enjoy, because why not? My horse is my hobby, and if I'm not having fun doing what I'm doing with her, well then why not try to find some fun elsewhere instead? Life is too short!

The one thing I do know is that it doesn't get me anywhere just sitting around and moping. If I want something to be done about this, I need to get my butt up and do something. Just like that cactus, it doesn't do me any good to just sit there and rot... I need to take what resources I have and make it work. I'm just not exactly sure how yet!

Also, how many of you have horses who also are completely cool with being ridden bareback with a halter in the middle of a giant field with loose galloping horses next door? O loves to go sans tack and so do I! It makes me smile when I look back and think about how a year ago I couldn't even ride in the big field at all without her losing her marbles. For being a hothead, she is one cool cucumber.

Poor lil' thing... I took a whole bunch of pictures of her standing there quietly in the middle of the field, and she got so bored with the whole process that she just went to sleep. Such a hard life!


  1. What I am going to say may sound harsh, but I think that maybe it'll bring you back to Earth in a way. And I'm sorry if I offend you!!

    I find that (lately especially) you haven't been following your goals that you set each month - sometimes you miss them or just skip over them when the going gets tough. I also noticed your goals are all over the place - it's like you are in a frenzy trying to figure out who you are and what needs to be done. I think, and feel, that you are in some kind of panic mode and its transferring to your horse. It's kind of like "Lets do this, lets do that, lets do ALL THE THINGS" and it's overwhelming.

    I think that having an all-around horse is a fantastic idea and a great mold to fit into. BUT, I (personally) feel like you are skipping out on things and just scratching the surface. Sure, O has done some jump schooling, but have you ever done any REAL schooling? Have you buckled down and taken lessons or participated in a clinic? Or have you focused on one thing for so long that you give up and move on? O may need you to change your thinking and what you ask of her, but I don't think throwing in the towel on each and every thing she "doesn't like" is a good idea. She doesn't jump good? That can't be fixed, but it can get BETTER. That's the whole idea of equestrianism - getting better. How is O supposed to show you that she can improve and get better without even trying??

    1. Well, yes and no to a lot of that.
      Panic mode, yes. In the past 3 weeks or so I've tanked pretty badly. I've gone from being fairly unhappy to actively trying not to kill myself, so in that way I am in panic mode a bit. But as for throwing things at her to see if they stick, no. I have tried pretty actively for a year to make her into a respectable dressage horse, and every ride is miserable for both of us. I foxhunted her once and that was great. I did a few endurance rides, and while she was great, I didn't enjoy it at all. She does well every time we jump, but she is so strong and difficult that it hasn't been a lot of fun for me. She really loves to run and turn, and has been super at barrels, which we are both enjoying. But her time on the flat is usually a very challenging, unpleasant ride. She fights me tooth and nail every step of every flatwork ride.
      When we're out on the trails or doing barrels, she is a different horse. Ears pricked, stretching out to the contact, nice and quiet, so responsive, so very happy. We work together so well when she is doing something she enjoys.

      I don't *want* an all-around horse. I want a horse that can do a bunch of stuff, but that really excels at one thing. And when she makes it so clear how much she enjoys this one thing, and fights tooth and nail about other things... it's hard to deny her that.

      But I do understand where you are coming from. I'm in a pretty bad place right now, so it is hard to buckle down and focus on one thing.

    2. I guess it boils down to, do I ride her in the things she enjoys and is happy to do, or do I just keep trying and trying (with much misery on both of our parts) to make her into this thing that I want her to be? Do I keep pouring more time, effort and money into this thing just because I want it to work?

      I also think I am going to stop blogging for awhile to try and get my act together, since I am obviously not in a very good place and nobody wants or needs to hear about it!

    3. I think blogger ate my reply.... arg!

      I understand where you are coming from - it is frustrating having a horse that cannot do the things you want to do. I am in that same situation with my own mare. She is a senior citizen and is western - she struggles with certain things and will never be a stellar horse. She had a rough life, is broken down and when we ride, it can be pleasent or unpleasent much like O. BUT, I've adapted my own riding goals and instead of being upset that I am wasting time and precious years of equestrianism, I instead reflect on all the new things I am learning.

      Please do not stop blogging; I for one love your blog and I have followed it since you first started blogging about Gogo. I remember being in Portugal and running to the computers to read the latest updates.

      I unfortunately, do not have an answer for you and O-ren, but maybe the lightbulb hasn't gone off for her yet. I know with a previous lease horse, it took nearly two solid years to get a decent Dressage test out of him. We fought, I ended up in the ER a few times and after I figured out /I/ was the problem and fixed my rider errors, we started communicating much better. I stopped being so nit-picky about everything, we worked on super simple things and I took my time - I mean, it took two years. ;)

    4. Well, that *is* what I am trying to do - figure out how to make this enjoyable for the both of us ;) I'm not frustrated, just trying to go about this in a way where we all end up happy and useful. Kind of in the way that I could sit at a desk job and technically *do* it if I had to, but I would hate every second of it... I know where my strengths are and I picked a career to compliment those. O's strengths are her fierce desire to run and ability to turn on a dime, so playing to that strength is going to give us both satisfaction under saddle.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. I think we are the opposite... we can only go in straight lines! The second we turn, she is all over the place!
      And I'm not enjoying endurance at all, so that is something I'm going to stop working towards. I am enjoying barrels though!

    2. At the end of the day though, I'm an adult ammy with a hobby... if I am crying at the end of every ride, I definitely am quick to change tactics, as life is way too short to be miserable like that. For me it is better to play to our stregths and have some fun!

  3. I deleted my response cuz of some typos plus it was insanely boring. But you read it first! can be hard when your goals and those of your horse conflict. If running barrels is making you happy keep at it! Maybe you will be able to take another horse in who enjoys eventing soon and then you can gave fun with O on trail and barrels and event as well. I hope it works out for you!

    1. I figure at this point in my life, I want to give 110% to something my horse and I both enjoy. If I have a horse showing some ridiculous talent but has some issues - like Gogo did - I am gonna put in the miles. O is showing some talent as a barrel horse, and we both enjoy that, so I might as well go for it and have some fun!

  4. I am pretty new to your blog, but a couple of things that stuck in my head about the Dressage is it seems to be an issue working in the same spot all the time. I wonder if practicing your Dressage on the trail and elsewhere where she is happy and content and forget about the 20x60 arena for a bit it might help. Let's face it, a Dressage test lasts less than 10 minutes, usually less. In an actual show in a new-to-her environment might she stay engaged enough to get to through a test happily and be able to then do the "fun stuff" at an event?

    And a side note: Combined Driving Events (CDEs): Driving's equivalent to eventing:

    I hope you are able to continue enjoying this mare and the journey she takes you on.

  5. I sympathise I really do, its hard when your horse doesn't want to do what you want to do. The switch to eventing with my jumper has made him so happy and that makes me happy, but the transition from jumpers to eventing is really not a big step. I think if he wanted to run barrels or something so different I wouldn't be able to do that because I love the jumpers, its all I want to do.

    I know you love her and want to keep her but with all the work you have put into her she has made so much progress and someone could really enjoy her at endurance or barrels, someone who really really wants to do what she excels at. Just something to think about. Either way you need to make a big sacrifice, the sport you love vs the horse you love. I don't envy you this!

  6. I would be so super sad and devastated if I couldn't keep up on that gorgeous beefcake red mare of yours, so please do not stop blogging :) Try less to think about putting a round peg in a square hole. Make the hole round. Seeing as the horse is round already, why change the horse, just change the demands.

    So you want to be an eventer. Be one!! So what if O isn't a ready made eventer, you are a bad ass ammy (in my opinion anyways) and I highly doubt one to back down. You are the one who compared yourself to a relentless cactus that keeps coming back no matter what ;) Instead of "making" O do eventing make eventing work for O. Work on things she's good at and sprinkle in things that are hard. Increase the pressure and then take it off, and give her time to think about it and figure out that she's not going to die. One of my favorite trainers/clinicians describes introducing new concepts to anxious horses like this:
    You ask the horse to do something new and their immediate response is, "I'M GOING TO DIE!". You continue asking, assuring they are not going to die, and they say, "oh... I didn't die." Rinse, repeat, over and over. They might think they'll die for days, but maybe in months they'll have something different to "die" over.

    I'm sorry this response was long and probably rambling... I've been awake for lots of hours. But I guess the gist is don't give up on what you love.... your horse and eventing. Just make them work for you. Everything always works out, always remember that.

  7. I couldn't say it better than Alicia! ^ What she said. Gogo was insanely talented at eventing, while it doesn't come naturally to O. I think there are enough elements of what O loves to eventually make eventing work for, to turn it into something she loves. Do dressage on the trail, in fields; add natural jumps when you're doing trail work. Once she loves jumping on the trail, introduce jumping in an arena and see what she does with it. This will take a lot longer than it ever took you with Gogo. But it is still something that you can work towards that involves eventually doing something you love while using the things O loves in the process of helping her fall in love with the sport too.

    On another note, have you considered the jumpers for O? It's a great way to use that love of spinning and running, except you're adding fences. Start low and see what she does. I know trainers that would *kill* for a horse like O to use as a jumper!! If she excels at it, you're one step closer to her becoming an eventer.

    Please don't stop blogging! I love reading about your adventures with your awesome O mare!

  8. O looks great in that sleeping picture. Her back looks so comfy and warm, makes you just want to climb up and take a nap with her.

    You guys will figure it out, I'm sure. Don't stop blogging.

  9. I would cry if you stopped blogging!! Please don't stop!

    I'm sorry you're still fighting the depression. Just hang in there because it will get better even though it sometimes feels like it goes on and on and on.

    I love whatever kind of cactus that is. We have some of them too and they survive anything!

    I LOVE O's roached mane! She's so pretty!

    I'm hoping this might help, but it might not... it's worth a try anyway. Keep telling yourself that even if you don't event on O that doesn't mean you're giving up on eventing completely. You WILL event again someday! Just remember that and it should make it easier to be patient. I know life is short so we should be doing the things we love, but you can't hold onto that so tightly that you rush through the right now trying to get to whatever that is. Keep on enjoying your girl right now. Things will work out in time. I don't know how yet, but they will. :)

    P.S. It's really late and I can't sleep so if that makes no sense at all I apologize!