|can you feel the brain hurt?|
As has been glaringly obvious--at least to me, having to live through it on the daily, but I also think it's come through on the blog (Remember when I used to be funny? REMEMBER THAT?!)--this move to New York has not been my idea of a good time.
I had to leave an area I was familiar with and really loved. I had to give up my main support system: those friends who I have a lot of history with and, to keep this blog related, were familiar with the full story of me and my horse's partnership.
The barn I initially moved to was a wash. I drive by there occasionally and there's still never anyone there. It's a beautiful place, but it never would have worked for us. On the flip side, when I pull into Bobby's current home, there are people around, they're friendly, they say hi, they feed Bobby snacks because everyone that doesn't have to ride my horse loves him. Still, I feel like I'm struggling to fit in a little bit and find my place.
Being at a new barn, you're introducing your horse to people who have probably never seen him go before. When I initially looked at this place, I told the BM that Bobby and I were solid at Novice. The dressage was good; we probably weren't going to need a lot of help with that for where we are now. He schools 3'-3'6" at home without much issue, but what I really wanted to get help with was producing hunter-like rounds for a move up to Training in short order.
Then I came in with a horse in desperate need of chiropractic work, and he promptly got injured on top of that.
Now that he's back in work and I'm doing really top notch things like riding with other people, I end up scrambling to try to talk my horse up whenever they comment on him.
"The lateral work on Bobby is so easy. He was even starting to learn canter half pass when we moved because he was getting so confirmed with the trot half pass."
"His lengthenings? Wow. This horse has reach."
"His changes around a course are usually one hundred percent auto."
And then my weak, not far from crippled horse can barely hold himself up on a 20m circle and they just look at you like, "Sure your horse does dressage, Carly.
And not well."
Meanwhile, I haven't moved on from the walk for the past thirty minutes because I can feel that my horse is looking for any excuse to blow the fuck up, and if he hears one more horse get popped with a whip he's going to literally die. Forget trying to explain that to a new barn that only knows your dopey, sweet creature on the ground where he does no wrong. "Your horse throws tantrums. Right. What does he do? Step sideways? Do his ears fall over even more than they already do?"
It's hard riding at such a remedial level when you're surrounded by advanced riders on beautifully trained horses, especially when you know you're sitting on a horse just as capable. Deep down, I understand it's not a fair comparison at this point. My horse is currently physically incapable of performing at his usual level.
It's hard not to feel like I have to prove myself to those around me though, to show off everything Bobby can do. He rides, he drives, he does western, eventing, straight dressage, we've gone to hunter shows, he trail rides, he ponies, he rocks the shit out of a wig and a tiara....
There's no reason to have to prove myself. I know what my horse can do. I know that eventually he'll be strong enough to get even better than he was before. However, that's a lot easier to say than to embrace in real life.
Part of the hang up is how much I'm riding the "I LOATHE New York" attitude train. Any excuse to get depressed about something and blame it on the move is my life right now. And I don't know if I'm projecting the same attitude onto my horse, but he hasn't seemed like the same dude I had one state down. His personality has just seemed muted these past few months.
He's had a big change himself. He went from being inside seven hours a day for a quick nap and unlimited hay in front of his face with the rest of his day and night spent on a rolling twelve acres with three mellow as shit horses and tons of grass to graze on, to ten-ish hours a day inside with one feeding of hay in the morning only to get chucked out into a small, flat dry lot with another pile of hay and one grouchy ass old gelding for company.
He's not moving around in turnout as much, he's not getting that never-ending forage, he's not out on hills to help his weak hind end out, and there's no defined schedule at this barn for anything.
New York sucks.
As far as the whole riding plan and making goals and fuck yeah let's plan for the future where fun things are abound goes...
New York attitude: THERE IS NO FUTURE BECAUSE JUST BECAUSE.
I feel like every time I make a plan to move up to Training, I get blocked. No, wait. I don't feel that this is the issue. This is what is happening. Bobby and I are Training blocked.
Send in entry? BAM, show gets cancelled.
Fill out substitute entry? BAM, horse goes lame.
Plan on next one? BAM, NOTHING IS EVER GOING TO HAPPEN JUST MOVE YOUR HORSE FAR AWAY FROM ANY SORT OF EVENTING CIVILIZATION.
There are so few horse trials in this area that you blink and you've missed the entire season. My horse went lame at the worst time. Eventing is one hundred percent done here at this point. There are no more horse trial options.
I keep trying to tell myself that signing off on the rest of the year again is fine. We'll get it next year! But for fuck's sake, I am so over having that be my end of the season mantra. How many years am I going to keep repeating the same cycle?
New York attitude: Our eventing career is over. We're never going to be able to do another event or horse show ever again because this state is a black hole for dreams and life and unicorns.
Reality: It's time to re-evaluate my goals and figure out what the real underlying problem is.
If a prompt move up to Training is what I'm really serious about, then that needs to be my one and only focus. I need to block out everything else and start laying out a plan that reads more like a job, a serious goal, instead of a fun hobby.
It's time to get real, bitches.
I've already instigated this practice in my past few rides after driving home over the weekend and bawling my eyes out because of everything I've already over-shared above. First step? Refusing to get off and quit until I can put my horse away knowing I've accomplished something during that ride.
I'm ignoring my completely unnecessary and thoroughly unhinged competitive side and focusing on what my horse can do right now and how I can not only work to bring him back to where he was, but how I can make him even better than before.
This still involves a lot of walking. In fact, to the right, all it involves is walking. But I'm making sure that walk is ramrod straight, the turns are square, the back is up, the hind end is engaged, and someone's large mule head isn't staring at things in the distance.
To the left, right now he's going better with a canter before attempting the trot. The canter is really coming along beautifully. It's by far the best thing he's got going for him right now by some random miracle.
The trot work is a process. My mantra for every ride right now is just Trot It Out. I'm working really, really hard to not pull at all. This is SO HARD for me, but the cure is to just trot until Bobby starts looking for the bit on his own. The first day I thought I was going to drop of exhaustion by the time we got there. The second day it was only five minutes before he was reaching for the contact.
We follow all that--no matter if it takes an hour and a half to get there or thirty minutes--with a walk on the trails and a strong canter around the big field out back.
We're going to get there. It's just going to be slow, and I have to come to grips with that. The silver lining is that with my new-found ultra focus, we are not going to be Training blocked next year. We are moving up, we're going to be prepared, and we're going to be very good.
I don't need to compare myself to others. I don't need to make excuses to myself for why I'm doing something other people would do differently. No one else is riding my horse. No one else knows him like I do. Everyone's situation is different. It's up to me, and only me, to get where I want to be.