Monday, January 24, 2022

Finding The Joy Again

    I've been in a major riding slump since basically the end of May. That is a long slump. I've piddled around the arena, returned to the trail, did some hunter paces. Started riding Hammy more, Eeyore less. Got Leonard. It has all been fun, but riding has remained a chore. Something I have to do because I have the horses and they need the exercise. Tacking up takes me all of 10 minutes yet those 10 minutes remained an obstacle I didn't have the energy to surmount. It is easy to blame it on work stress, family life, running, cooking more at home to eat out less, farm chores as we prepare for a new major project to start in February. Always some excuse, right?

We had a fair amount of snow fall two weekends ago here in SC. The horses had been kept inside incase it turned to freezing rain, but by afternoon it was only snow. which meant they could go out to play. Old Man Pete here had a complete blast. Don't let this 32 year old lovable face fool you, he was a beast. 

I learned a long time ago though that people make time for the things that matter to them. If I really wanted to ride, the time would be there. 

Then on Sunday I had a girl come out to try Eeyore for a potential lease. I hopped on him first to show off his training which, while rusty from lack of use, was still solid. We even jumped for the first time in...gosh...many months. As I slid off to hand her the reins, I realized something. I had enjoyed that. Like, really, really enjoyed it. For the first time in over 6 months. As I watched her ride, her trainer giving her a lesson, I found myself thinking "I want to tackle that exercise...that looks super fun!". Eeyore was a perfect gentleman for the girl (I believe she was 12 and has recently outgrown her beloved pony) and both seemed to really enjoy the afternoon. 

He rolled. Ok. No big deal. Pretty calm. 

I'm not sure if she wants him or not yet. She has another horse to try this week before making a choice. Honestly? I kinda hope she doesn't though I will honor the offer if she does.  Eeyore would be having the time of his life with his very own 12 year old girl fawning over him plus I liked the trainer and her approach to him. If they weren't 3 hours away, I'd sign up to ride with her myself. 

Then he got the zoomies. I know...this is the most flattering picture of poor Eeyore ever taken. Ha!!But Pete was cantering everywhere. I can't recall the last time he went above a trot. 

And that folks was my light bulb moment. I finally figured out what had happened to my mojo. 

From January to May 2021, I pushed hard with weekly Trainer AB lessons. In the beginning I looked forward to Wednesday afternoon like a kid waiting for Christmas morning. As things progressed, I found myself waking up that morning with a knot in my stomach not of excitement, but of dread. Things were spiraling in the wrong direction. I don't blame AB. I still like her as person. I still respect her as a horsewoman and as a trainer. If someone asked, I'd highly recommend they take a test lesson with her to see if they fit without hesitation. But for us, things were not working. 

He came back to Eeyore once Eeyore had stopped rolling (I swear he rolled half a dozen times), looking for a fight.

Part of the problem was that AB is competition focused. This showed up in our lessons frequently. The best example I have is with rushing fences. Eeyore can get quick to the fence. Her approach to jumping is to always go forward no matter what. The underlying thought was that in a competition, be that stadium or on xc, the horse must always go forward to the next jump. Teach them to land and move it. You can't halt on the back side or circle. Well, you can, but not without penalty. Her motto is "if you can't do it at a show, don't do it in practice". So we rode forward which, for the two of us, resulted in more rushing. I asked to do grids. I asked if we could halt. I asked if we could circle. Nope, nope, nope. Must go forward.  

In addition, she started to get after me for doing the very things she had taught me to do. Now I know that expectations change as skills improve and new tools are learned. A simple conversation of "I know I taught you to always do X but now I want you learning Y" is fine. However it was more of a "Why would you do that? That isn't correct.  You need to be doing this instead." It made me feel stupid. Add to that her insistence that I get Eeyore cantering in the field beside the pasture even when I was very very uncomfortable even walking his sassypants self out there, and well the lessons became nightmares for me. So I stopped riding with her in May 2021. I was at a low point. Mentally I couldn't add up all that money and time on weekly lessons leading to me feeling worse about my riding. Why bother with all that if this was the end result?

He found it. Eeyore is always ready to play. 

I took time off. Sent Hamilton off to endurance camp while Eeyore sat in the pasture getting fat in the summer sunshine. I figured fall would bring cooler weather as well as a change in heart for me. It didn't. I blamed not having the right jump saddle for Eeyore instead riding in the Aussie which gave a really good excuse for not jumping him. How can I if I don't have the right tack? I rode Hammy more, and Eeyore even less. The more time I spent not riding, the easier it became to continue to not do so. 

 Then this weekend happened along with the epiphany. I want to ride again. I want to jump. I want to return to lessons, probably not weekly ever again but twice a month was nice. I need to find a new trainer which is difficult given my time constraints, not boarding and lack of wanting to be a hard core competitor. I have one in mind though. I'm ready. I'm ready to go back to it. Thankfully Eeyore has been waiting for me. Perhaps he is about to embark on his own new adventure for the next year, I will know more by the end of the week. If so, I have Leonard to learn on. If not, I'll have my trusty, opinionated sidekick. 

I told Pete he was going to be sore the next day but he didn't care. He was having a blast out there. Kinda made me feel bad for moving him South. 

It is a good feeling to have it back and now I feel unstoppable again. Lesson learned though. No matter how much I like or respect a trainer, if it isn't working it is time to move on. 


  1. I wondered what was up. I agree with you 100%- you need a trainer who aligns with your goals. Sometimes it's great and then, as things change, it no longer fits. It doesn't mean it was all bad, it just means that it's time to change.

    I didn't share this broadly but I was getting in the same space with my previous coach (for different reasons). Lessons became haphazard and I wasn't getting the same joy from them. Now with my new coach I feel energized and ready to tackle more.
    I can see how having 3 horses who need work would be a challenge! no matter how motivated there is only so much time in the day.

    1. Things had been so good...until they weren't. Having 3 horses was never the plan. Hammy doesn't count because he is truly a horse who can be ridden daily or yearly and be the exact same beast. Plus he hates the arena so he is my trail buddy. Leonard is probably only a temporary addition, but we will see how things shake out.