Ebb and Flow

When I was younger I would have had no problem telling you that if I couldn’t compete, I don’t know if I would ride at all. I was caught up in that fantasy they sell you, with ribbons and prizes and points and glory. My identity, and a lot of my self-worth, was tied up in competing. For a long time, while I didn’t realize it then, I also definitely felt like I had something to prove.

KaiWaco3

I grew up riding at a hunter/jumper barn that was one of the best in the area. The trainer rode at the Grand Prix level, there were a lot of good amateur and junior riders in the barn, and plenty of nice horses. I was not that, nor did I have that. I was the barn rat who worked off all of my lessons and would swing a leg over whatever anyone let me sit on. I didn’t have my own horse, and the only way I went to an A show was as a groom (which I did – happily). When I was 16 I finally got my own horse, and I loved him dearly, but he was far from fancy. He was a lower level jumper with a major roar, a lifetime of bad training, messed up hocks, and zero brakes. I spent all of my years at that barn being very aware of my inferiority. I think that’s why, for a long time after that, I always felt like I had something to prove. Whether it was to myself or to someone else, I’m not sure. But I NEEDED to show and I NEEDED fancy horses. (spoiler alert, I didn’t need either of those things)

Monty
My favorite horse from those days? This weird buckskinny-looking Argentine horse that was zero percent fancy but 100% fun.

As one would guess, I eventually burned myself out. Several different times, really, just to different degrees. I am hyper-competitive, to the point where it’s mostly counter productive. As the years have passed I’ve gained a lot more perspective, especially these last few. I’ve really started to remember why I do this – why I have so many extra jobs, why I dedicate so many hours of my life to this, why I constantly try to be better. It’s not because I love showing, it’s because I love horses. It’s that simple.

I used to feel like I needed a more well-defined purpose than that. It sounds so cheesy to be like “OMG I JUST REEEEALLY LOVE PONIEZZ”. Surely to be a Serious Rider (whatever the hell that is), I needed some kind of lofty goal, a pie-in-the-sky dream that kept me motivated and got me out of bed in the morning. But… no. I don’t really need that. I like having that, because I like pushing myself to always be better. But at the end of the day the thing that keeps me going is really simple: the love of the horse. As I kid I knew that. I would unabashedly gush about how much I just loved horses. All of them. Time and my experiences and my competitive nature made me lose sight of that a bit.

firstponyride
y’all, this kid was just real pumped to be here and also this pony’s name was Cinnamon how do I still know that 30 years later?

I’ve also noticed that my fierce competitive drive and interest in showing tends to ebb and flow. Sometimes it’s like I’ve got a total one-track mind, and I’m hitting everything really hard, and my schedule is super structured and focused. Other times I just need to enjoy my riding time, without any pressure or deadlines or expectations. The latter usually happens when the rest of my life gets really stressful. I find that I just need to retreat to the thing that always has the ability to stitch my soul back together.

The month of May was a tough one for me, between the injury, the fall, some personal drama, a big upheaval at work that has brought me a lot more responsibility, having to move barns on short notice, and one of the dogs passing away. While I was originally really annoyed at having to take some time off from my otherwise pretty stringent schedule in order to let my body heal, I think it actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Henry and I had been hitting it pretty hard since last fall, and I had already felt myself waning a bit, but suddenly it was possible for me to give myself permission to just take a step back. We went on long walks. I rode bareback. I just sat on my horse and looked out at the land and let everything else go quiet. I listened to him chewing on grass and I soaked up the sun and just enjoyed the company of my favorite creature. Those are the moments that remind us why we really do this. They aren’t the ones we write about or include in our highlight reel, but they’re the ones that keep us going. There is no ribbon or accomplishment that could give me a feeling more magical than that.

Topofthehill
If your view looks like this, you’re having a good day.

Because I missed so much of May, I ultimately decided that we’re probably not going to run Prelim at Coconino. I entered Training, leaving the possibility open of changing, but I don’t think I will. The horse owes me nothing and I don’t have anything to prove (hey it only took me 30 years to figure that out) so I’d rather just go have fun and not be stressed about it, worrying if we’re ready. Right now what I want more than anything is to go spend 10 days in some nice weather, enjoy the company of my friends and my favorite horse, and just forget about the rest of the world for a while. I find myself not even caring about the horse show part. There are a lot of things in life that are truly important. Horse shows aren’t it. They’re fun, for sure, but… they’re not it.

At the end of the day I love the sport and I love the horses, and that’s what really matters. The rest of it can come and go. That’s just fine with me.

15 thoughts on “Ebb and Flow

  1. First of all you in pigtails on that pony might be more than my brain can stand cuteness wise today OMG

    Second I agree with you 100 percent on your decision to go Training. Go have fun. Enjoy the weather. Enjoy the people, enjoy your horse! You be you.

    I am sorry May was such a tough month. I look forward to following your adventures in Coconino!!

    How many of you are going??

    Give Henry a cookie for me. And hope Presto behaves while you are gone 🙂

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  2. Amen! I agree 200%. I hope your trip to Coco is wonderful and free from the bad kind of drama and full of the good kind of drama. Whatever that means. 🙂

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  3. Love, love, love where your head is at! I to have a sharp competitive edge and when I am not scoping out my next show strategy, I get jumpy. Ha! Did you get all my play on words…. My fondest time with my horses (6) is in the evening with warm shadows cast from their frames, while they munch on their hay and I just listen to them chomping and breathing. Pure heaven!

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  4. This is awesome. Your darling picture made me remember my first ever pony ride at the age of 4 – his name was Sambo and he was white and I can still remember the details of it at 30! 😀

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  5. I’m not competitive but super hard on myself that I’m not progressing as far/fast as I think I should. Especially when (not if) I compare myself to others at the barn.

    I came across this fb page a week or so ago and it warms my heart no end every time they post. And helped me remember no matter what. Every. Single. Ride. should be this joyous.

    That one is my favorite and the other night during my ride I kept saying Aria whoosh! Aria whoosh!

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      1. It’s from a page called Kizzy & Etties Pony Adventures on fb. There’s another with her jumping Cinders wearing a princess costume. 🙂

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  6. So much truth to all of this! Having not really shown for so long now, I’ve realized there’s so much more out there than just getting in the show ring. Does that mean I don’t want to? No way! I’m dying to get back to competing! And I’m waiting until I’m ready to be competitive before I go. But in the meantime, I’ve been having an awful lot of fun just hanging with my horses. I will admit though, it was really hard when I had nothing to ride regularly. The showing isn’t that important, but just getting to sit on a horse is for me. I think that might be what I love most about my naughty pony. Her sole purpose at my house is to be fun. She needs to be mannerly, and of course I’ll work on her training because it’s most fun when they listen to you… But you can bet there will be plenty of bareback days and maybe even some trail rides in her future.

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  7. This is a really good place to be in. As much as I love showing and love winning pretty ribbons, at the core of it all is the fact I love horses and really enjoy bringing my horse along. It is much more rewarding to develop that relationship with your horse than win a competition any day. ❤

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  8. Yes to all of this. Adulthood and all it’s changes whether college or career or kids has required me to abandon the all or nothing mentality in all areas of life. I learned that I have to prioritize my people (hubby, kids) over my ponies and figure out how to do it joyfully. Grabbing onto the opportunities that come along to pursue a goal (like just earning my bronze) or to simply appreciate a weekly lesson. Ebbs and flows. Grateful. Grounded.

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  9. I was pretty competitive in my youth. As I got older, and showing got more expensive, I just don’t have the desire anymore. The bad thing about not wanting to hit a certain show is that it’s hard to set and keep goals. The good thing about not wanting to show is that there is little pressure on me or my horse to be doing a certain thing on a certain timeline, and I can spend my time with my ponies doing whatever I feel like.
    Prelim will always be there – do training and have fun with it!

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