Maturity Settles In

I like to think horseback riding has made me more asking and accepting of feedback than the average joe off the street.

Also do a lot more strolling than the average joe.

When someone has screamed about the angle of your toe, while in a crowded schooling ring, two trips away from jumping a 1.10m course, and – to top it all off – you are paying thousands of dollars for this treatment, you grow thick skin and nerves.

In my sensitive teenage years, I took every piece of criticism to heart. Each correction drove a dagger into my back, and I would walk around carrying the luggage of not being good enough constantly. I’d focus and replay things my trainer said relentlessly. Instead of focusing on the content, I narrowed in on the tone. Angry and disappointed.

At the time, there were a lot of other factors and circumstances that led to this somewhat-unhealthy environment, but I also had a problem myself. I wanted to compete and do well. I wanted my horse to succeed and for me to not get in his way of doing that.

But part of me just wanted to be told I was good.

This is what we want to achieve, right?!

It’s been a lot of years since I held that mentality, and I no longer need that validation. Of course, it can be frustrating to invest time and money into this sport and to felt like it has not “paid off”.

However, people who can ride perfectly do not exist. John Madden Sales’s Instagram reminded us that even my queen, Beezie Madden, chips.

Beezie Freakin’ Madden.

To involve animals in this sport is to accept that we are fallible, and so are they. There will always be room for instruction, correction, and progression, that’s part of the reason these connections are engaging.

In recent years, I resolve criticism, rather than allow it stir up negative emotions, I can deconstruct what is being said to me and actually think logically about how to address my weaknesses (for which I have are many, and that will continue to be the case throughout my time in this sport).

For instance, I need to control my shoulders better over fences, they are too quick, forward, and snap back too quickly.

What should I do about that? Practice two point at the walk, trot, canter, all gaits (no, I am not too proud to do this even at a halt). Jump without stirrups. Actively work on my faults, and not get upset about anyone who points them out. (Holler at me if you got tips, this shoulder thing has plagued me for a while).

I am not sure if everyone experiences this cycle if their entry into the sport is earlier in their life, but this shift in perspective was a game-changer for me. Of course, it’s a no-brainer, but still a lesson I needed to learn.

Him: Patiently waiting for me to grow that brain…

I’d be curious if anyone else has gone through a similar internal battle.

 

What makes a good barn manager?

Though my job does not involve horses, it is pretty heavy on management. Organizing people, activities, thinking future, and making sure everyone is happy. Managing a barn is a quasi-dream of mine, but I fully recognize it is a challenging undertaking.

There are many types of “barn managers”. At my new barn, each trainer that leases space at this facility runs their own barn and then there is overall facility maintenance, which is probably nice for the type of trainer that wants to focus on their clients and horses.

Other barns I have ridden out of had one true barn manager, in charge of ordering hay, fixing fences, putting blankets on Dobbin, and billing boarders. She/he is a jack of all trades (and master of MANY).

Spend enough time in the horse industry, you see a share of good and bad barn managers. I’ve been blessed that, to the large majority, I’ve met mostly good ones.

Though in my recent experiences, I have elected not to ride at a place because the barn manager rubbed me the wrong way. It is probably an underrated and thankless role at times, one that rarely gets praise when everything is running smoothly and gets a lot of flack when things go wrong.

But their responsibilities are so important to the success of the business, environment, and health of horses and humans alike.

In my estimation, a good manager is made of many parts.

  • Sense of humor
    • Required. Horse people are crazy, and there are times when you have to laugh of the day.
  • Compassion
    • These animals need our eyes looking after them, and who better to watch over and care for them then someone who sees them on a daily basis? If you think about it, your barn manager sees your horse more than you do and will be the first many times to know something is wrong.
  • Detail-Oriented
    • Especially given the size of some facilities, it helps to remember all the intricacies of each member.
  • Authoritative
    • There is a fine line between too harsh and being a push-over. This is a challenging road to walk, especially if there is a staff of people to oversee and rogue boarders to deal with. Barns need rules for the safety of all, and someone needs to enforce them equally.
  • Energetic
    • Barns tend to deteriorate at a shocking rate, and horses get themselves into trouble. Someone needs to not give up on fixing things and putting it all back together.

My favorite barn manager also happened to be a life role model. A mix of people-person, thoughtful, and flexible. I say here, here to all our wonderful barn managers out there.

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What are your favorite qualities in a barn manager?

Q’rusing

This will not be the end of Q-related wordplay. If that bothers you, I feel like this is not the right blog for you anyway…

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But, like, this view though.

It’s been a while since I have written something of substance. Partially due to life and its busyness, but also a lot of my riding with Q lately is about consistency.

For me, I am getting back into the regular riding game. I need to remember all my tips and tricks, not become a useless sack of potatoes if things go wrong, and ride consistently. I am definitely getting it back, but it helps to have good eyes on the ground.

For Q, he needs lot of help tracking left, where he struggles with a weaker hind end and hard drift. Like I said in an earlier post, shoes have helped with some of his most obvious gaps.

Much of my riding has been targeting my and Q’s weaknesses, and that can be repetitive. I am riding him in a way where he is thinking about what I am asking (transitions, changes of directions, shoulder-ins, extensions/collections). I am careful to not to over-ask and to have “light” days that complement our heavier days as he gets back up to speed.

Right now, our goals for him are to be comfortable, even on both sides, and happy to work.

With that in mind, we will not be going to the Olympics next year (shocking, because if there was a pee-wee division, he’d be great for it).

But there is a fair bit of strengthening in our agenda. And he is progressing well, which also tells me it is working, slowly but surely.

I will really look forward to the next couple months when the quality of his gaits become even better. We need more balance, a buff butt, and good feet.

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Riding outside in the moonlight in mid-November? California, you win.

Smileworthy – Finding your lost glove

I lost a glove on the way to the mounting block tonight. Every time in my life, this has meant buying a new pair of gloves, because lord know where these gloves go. They sneak somewhere in the Ether next to socks escaped from the dryer, all never to be seen again.

Except once. One time, I found the missing glove, tucked in a horse’s blanket on a stall ten down from my horse’s.

It totally made my week. But I had also already bought the replacement pair. Sigh, both those pairs are long gone as well, I should say. At what point do you throw in the towel on riding with gloves? (The answer is never).

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The moose… or is it reindeer? Is it Christmas yet?

Riding Regrets

I am one of those deeply reflective types that still remembers that one awkward time I called a teacher Mom in grade school. Safe to say, I remember lots, and not always for the better.

Riding is an escape for me, and while there is tons I wish I could do better, there are not a plethora of memories that I truly regret.

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I don’t regret touring this spot though. :O

There are times when I wish I had been more knowledgeable at the time, particularly when I was riding with trainers that did not always have the horses best interests at heart. I never witnessed anything truly heinous, but I did see treatment that now leaves me disquieted.

Horse related troubles aside (so difficult to do, may be another post for that), riding offers its own regrets that I have to live with.

I was lucky as a kid that my parents entertained my riding up until I was a certain age. I wish I really basked in the glory of those times, because I don’t think I realized how difficult it would be to afford a daily riding frequency as an adult.

I try to be as thankful as I can be for what I can get these days, because that’s what I should have done back then, rather than wish for more chances to show or more glamorous opportunities.

I also regret not absorbing, writing, and thinking more when I had chances to do clinics with really knowledgeable horsepeople. To an extent, I am still in disbelief that I had the time in front of who I did. I really had no business doing that with my scrappy trakehner.

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Not the Trakehner, but instead my favorite donkey.

I’ve evolved from this thinking. For the better, thankfully.

Watching the big horse shows always challenges my envy, which I have nearly conquered now. I don’t watch with bitterness anymore. Now, I can appreciate great riders at the top of their game without wondering, what if…..

Unless you are an Olympic level rider, there will always be something just out of reach. And even the Olympic level rider have their own troubles to navigate. If we are so concerned with climbing to the next summit, we can never appreciate the view.

So the goal now? No regrets.

 

Moving Along

A special someone (whose name might be the oddest in the alphabet) is becoming so enjoyable to hack.

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The Q-test face. Yes, I’ll see myself out.

Anytime I sit on a horse, I generally am happy. Certain horses make the happiness easier to achieve.

A lot of this is personal preference. I have the opposite of an electric seat, perhaps we call it a slumber seat. I cause horses to sleep while cantering, a not at all useful skill. What’s even funnier is that I somehow think we are going SO FAST all the time.

Thus, a leg ride has never been my MO, not to say I don’t enjoy it, it’s just not “as” fun. I like spicy, fiery, and barely broke.

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I’ll take the one on the right, please. (Photo: Andy Barron/RGJ file)

When I started riding Q, he did not have shoes and was a bit over being in “school horse mode”. He certainly took advantage of riders who were earlier in their riding careers, never in a dangerous way, just to avoid work.

Thus he was a bit meh off the leg, clunky to bend, and in general duller to aids. I was also unfit even more so than my average state of being, so my riding was about as helpful as listening Google Maps in a foreign language. Communication be muddled.

His physical comfort has increased tremendously since adding shoes, and *surprise, surprise* so has his willingness! It is a remarkable difference, to which I attribute none to my riding, entirely placing this acclaim on good care.

Between myself and the other girl who rides him, we have been so in awe of his short transition. Truly, it’s amazing what a couple of seemingly insignificant changes can make. Hacking him feels less like dragging an angsty teenager from bed and more like working with an over-eager intern.

Remember folks, no feet, no horse!