Trajectory

There can be real frustration in riding so many horses over your lifetime. Sure, it is really wonderful and valuable to sit on a lot of different types and get to refine the asks.

But, sometimes there is not a sequential progression as a rider. I step into bad habits on specific horses and jump to another before I fully resolve them.

Because of that, I feel as though I am a library of slightly-aggressive, make-it-work methods. In fact, my recent solo hacks has been really restorative for me to focus once again on the fundamentals.

In my collegiate and early adult riding, much of the focus has fallen on the needs of whatever horse I was riding, and you can see the evidence of that in my weaknesses.

A dirty stopper encouraged me to drive with my tailbone.

A heavy mouth gave me broken wrists and open fingers.

A speedy, flat jumper gave me quick, over-active shoulders.

All of my mishaps originate from poorly-executed attempts of correcting a behavior or dealing with a quirk.

 

Some flavors of this definitely happened.

I’ve become this patchwork of the past horses I’ve ridden. In turn, this has made me cautious, skeptical, and untrusting.

I need to become a better partner in the future, because they do not deserve to be haunted by the horses of my past.

I continue to struggle with linear growth as someone who, by the nature of my circumstances, will always be hopping from horse to horse. I can ride almost anything, but I want to excel and really communicate better with the animals that I sit on.

I do think I am getting more opportunities for specificity now, and I am hoping that when I one day own my own horse, all my tools and tips will help that horse as a well-rounded rider that can handle curveballs.

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Loved this horse, and trusted him wholly. I am hoping to return to that.

 

 

 

Go Big or Go Home

As a female giant, I often feel like I miss out on some of the more fun aspects of riding. Mostly ponies. I wish I could ride ponies and spitfire smaller horses. Of course, I can do these things now, but I feel like a real squishing evil villain when I do.

And, as is now well-documented, my continuing journey to fight my over-active shoulders does not help small ponies. Apparently it’s not advised to push your nose beyond a pony’s ears in a two-point. I cannot imagine why…

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Why am I wearing bicycle shorts? Why is there no saddle? Why do I have a fanny pack? Unimportant – look at the pony squishing.

I finally got to reap some benefits of this unasked for height though. This weekend, I got to ride a super fun 18 hand (ish) horse.

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Le sigh…. Also note his withers are taller than me (5’9″).

At times you get on these big guys and they ride like a pick-up truck. Hard to turn, brake, and lacking of “sporty” features. This guy was a total exception, would ride around engaged, easy to bend, and light in the hand. Super fun to jump.

He’s for sale. I need a sponsor.

Although, given his height, I worry about soundness and trailering, guy that big cannot go in any old trailer.

All you nice people out there with money, please buy him and do awesome things.

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.

 

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.

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!

“Home”

I don’t think I would consider myself officially moved until now. I have lived here 1/3 of a year already.

It was not when I found an apartment, started my job, or bought a couch. None of that really gave me true peace like finding a barn does.

I had forgotten how magical barn nights are when it’s warm enough to be in a T-Shirt.

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Pure Happiness

Truly I forget how much these animals do for me and my mental health. I wrote earlier about my must-haves.

I am so lucky, this place check all 5 boxes. Horses are tremendously happy; people are present and kind, and the facility is great.

For the first time ever, I have a regular view of the mountains while riding and gosh, it is awe-inspiring to watch the sun set over them while riding.

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The cutest face. He puts up with me.

If I could bottle this feeling and sell it, I am pretty sure there would be world peace.

By the way, that chestnut face is Q, and he’s our newest friend.

 

The Right Thing Comes Along – New Horse

Horseback riding has offered me continual trickles of heartbreak. The sport of the wealthy teaches you to gather what you have and repeat, This is enough. I have enough. Even if what you have does not include an 8 year old dark bay with grand prix jumper potential or a tack room full of French saddles. Humility and gratitude, forcing me to cherish every moment with these magical animals, contribute to a better mind and spirit.

Thus, when stars align and the universe smiles down, sometimes I think I have to shake myself to wake up from a dream.

It’s happening though, I have a horse to ride in my new city! Better yet, I will not be out of house and home.

Over my 16 years, I have been blessed to ride many types, and can safely sit on most. Not talking Olympic level talent, but I can keep my wit and humor on the spooky and green.

As expected, this guy may be a bit of the latter (not as much of the former).

This is big news for me. I cannot wait to share more details.