Friday, June 23, 2017

Journey as a Rider

As I have recently done for Q and Stan, I intend to also write a specific post about Griffin and where we're at with things. But then Emma had to go and pose questions that really got me thinking. So, sorry, Grif, but I'mma write this out first.

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Do you define yourself as a rider by your goals or ambitions? Are they inextricably linked to your specific horse? Or maybe instead, your preferred means of deriving enjoyment are defined by the horse you have currently? 

I'm a rider first and foremost because I love horses, being around them, training them, caring for them, and everything in between, good and bad. Horses scratch an itch that none of my other hobbies can. I can't explain it better than that. Secondary to this love, however, are goals and ambitions. I'd say that most simply, these goals and ambitions are to be the best I can be while helping my horses to be the best they can be.

The life of owning, riding, and competing three horses of my own wasn't what I envisioned for my journey with horses. However, it is where I AM. And in an effort to live fully in the present moment and make the best of it, I'm doing all I can to help each horse find success within jobs they enjoy that I also enjoy. I include the caveat, "that I also enjoy" because there are a few disciplines I have zero desire to ever dabble in. Fortunately, those are so few that I shouldn't have a problem finding other fun things to occupy my time (and money)! It is also fortunate that each of the horses I have right now is athletic and capable of pursuing many disciplines.

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The first lesson pony: Rocky. Also, there are horses all along the bottom of my t-shirt. Obsessed

From the moment I sat on a horse, I wanted to do more than walk. For a time, after a bad first fall, the canter scared me, but once I moved past that I wanted to canter lots. I wouldn't necessarily say, "I wanna go fast" because I don't have much desire to gallop hither and thither, but I DO like feeling like I'm going somewhere and doing something. While I always dreamed of jumping, the opportunities to do that in my area were slim growing up (and now, too). Trails were easy to come by though! Before I ever knew endurance riding was a thing, I spent hours out on trails every week trotting and cantering up and down mountains, through creeks and rivers wherever I could find to go. So it's no surprise endurance makes me happy. And now that I'm coming to a point in my life that I have the time and the means to travel to event, I'm finally pursuing that, also.


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Have you had to make decisions about buying or selling a horse based on its suitability for your goals or purposes?

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Orion. The first horse I owned for 5 months in 2011.

Horses that I've spent time with in life have largely come to me through serendipitous events. I borrowed horses growing up and didn't own one until 2011. That horse, documented shortly during the beginning of my blogging time, was a crash-course in Conformation 101 for me. He was NOT suited for anything I really wanted to do (endurance or some sort of jumping) and ultimately I sold him because I didn't want to spend time and money on a horse that I couldn't pursue what I loved most with.

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Yep, hard to believe that's Griffin nearly 5½ years ago. 

Griffin came along a few months after I sold my first horse. He was an ugly little 18 month old intended to be a learning project for me for groundwork. I took him on in order to learn something and maybe keep him. I learned a ton, decided to keep him, and we continue to learn together. Fortunately, his "ugly" was only a phase and he grew into a really nice critter with the best personality ever. He loves jumping the most, puts up with dressage, enjoys the trail, and is very "gamey" in the way that cutting horses are when allowed to chase/herd dogs. As chronicled on the blog, we've pursued jumping, dressage, and trails so far. I hope to put him on cattle and see if he'll work a cow some day, too.

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The second morning with Q the weekend I met her. I was leaning heavily toward buying her.

Q is the only horse I have intentionally purchased with some semblance of a plan to do so. I knew I needed a "riding project" in addition to Griffin as a "groundwork project". I'd been hunting for Arabians for a month or two online. I'd found one mare in Kentucky at an Arabian re-homing facility that I really, really liked, but I was too hesitant about the financial burden of two horses to bite the bullet on her (ultimately, the guy in charge of that place kept her for himself because she's so nice). When my riding club went to a horsemanship and trail ride clinic, the cowboy had Q and was looking to get rid of "that crazy psycho". She was super comfortable to ride, jumped neater than any horse I'd ridden prior, and had the build/breeding to stand a chance competing in endurance. I adored everything about her after 2½ days with her and the rest is history.

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4 year old Stanley!

Stan, with whom I spent many years during HS and college with, fell into my lap last summer when his owners decided to "get out of horses". I always knew this would happen at some point and had no hesitation telling them I'd take him. He's an athletic horse that, to this day, hates working in arenas and loves being on trail. While I plan to do an LD with him in about 6 weeks, I don't know that I will continue to pursue endurance with him after that. It will largely depend on how difficult it is to manage him metabolically as I really don't have a great desire to micromanage that aspect of endurance much more than I have in the past. I don't feel the need to compete Stan to feel fulfilled.


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Do you feel like there's something bigger out there, something more overarching in your own journey as a rider, independent of the horses that may come in and out of your life? Or maybe you feel the opposite - that it's less about striving forever for something, and more about enjoying each good moment as it comes?

I try to enjoy the good moments as they're presented. Have a horse that likes trails? Pursue trails and endurance. Have a horse that likes jumping? Pursue that. Have a jack of all trades? Do it all!
That being said, I am a competitive person and do enjoy working toward goals. As my horses have expressed their opinions on favorite jobs, I have stretched us both forward to see how far we can go within those jobs. I enter with cautious optimism about achieving what starts as an easy goal and move upward from there if success is found. I don't believe that I must achieve a certain level within endurance or eventing to feel fulfilled/successful. I will pursue the sports within my horse's realm of ability and enjoy every moment along the way.

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Have your opinions or thoughts on this matter had to change over time due to different circumstances? Or maybe you've never actually thought particularly deeply about it at all? 

I hadn't thought deeply about it until these questions. 😉 But now that I am... yes, my thoughts and opinions have changed over time as life has presented options to me.

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Once I learned it was a thing, I wanted to do endurance. I didn't know at what distance though and was honestly intimidated about each longer distance until I became confirmed at the one below it. Q succeeded at LDs, so we tried 50s. She succeeded at 50s, so we did a 100. I'd still like to do more of that if she still wants to tackle it. If/when she doesn't want to, I absolutely WILL one day find another horse who wants to. I'd love to be able to pursue more 100-mile rides and participate in 3 to 5 endurance rides per year. I have zero desire to win any ride, but have every desire to complete the rides with a sound, happy horse.

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Griffin loves jumping and doesn't mind our dressage work. I'm pursuing eventing and fulfilling a childhood dream to jump and go fast in the process. We're also pursuing dressage because as an adult I am fascinated by it and see huge value in it for myself and the horse. If my summer competitions at the elementary division go well, I'd like to pursue beginner novice in the fall. (We regularly school 2'6" and 2'9" at home, so if I can get our dressage to a good point, BN seems more than achievable.) If BN goes well, I will absolutely dabble at higher levels within eventing as long as I feel comfortable and the horse can handle the questions.

17 comments:

  1. I love how well-rounded your adventures with horses are. :-) Onwards and upwards.

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    1. I have a hard time focusing on just one thing!

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  2. oooh i love how you really broke each of the questions down! this topic is so fascinating to me bc it really sheds so much light on how we each enjoy our horsey lives. i think you and i are similar in finding ourselves serendipitously with a horse we love (in my case, isabel), and branching out to find channels in which we could succeed. my thought process had to change to be a little more purposeful when it was time to start looking for a new partner.... but again, that still boiled down to looking for something likeliest to be enjoyable and bring happiness.

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    1. I love that you posed the questions to get me thinking! And yes, we are in this for enjoyment so may as well get the most out of it where possible.

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  3. Eventing and Endurance are my two sports as well, but I doubt I'll ever do more than the lowest levels of both. I like mixing up both and I think doing well at one would require some dedication to it. I look forward to seeing you do BN with Griffin this year.

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    1. It's so hard to balance two disciplines! While I admire those who can excel at high levels within them, I know I'll never be that person unless I end up with a freak if a horse.

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  4. You said that wonderfully! This is one of my favorite posts of yours :) good luck at your HTs and at BN. You are far braver than I am!

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    1. Griffin has helped me be so comfortable. He's become so reliable in our work at home that I don't bat an eye at 2'9" because i know he's gonna take care of it. Easy to be brave with a good horse I guess. Q doesn't instill that bravery in me at all haha

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  5. I love everything about this post. Your adventures on all the horses sound like so much fun

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    1. I try to have the most fun possible:-)

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  6. Simply because jumping scares me, I want to learn to do it. Christopher Reeve's accident was on my birthday and after that I said, "Riding is high enough, I don't need to be higher off the ground." But I still want to, just to conquer the fear and to see if I can learn it.

    I went to a show jumping tournament a few weeks ago and again was blown away by the bravery and focus of those horses, and condition, and total calmness. There was one jump almost every horse refused or balked at, and I couldn't figure out why, except that the standards were more solid than the others. I wish I could have asked you. One girl came off at that jump and took her entire bridle with her. The horse stood there patiently as she stomped the ground angrily.

    What about Griffin for endurance? He seems perfectly capable.

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    1. Reeves' accident shook a lot of people - my mom still quotes it at me sometimes when I express my interest in jumping. But to my understanding, it was a freak thing. The bridle came off when he fell, too. I've come off my horses a LOT (thanks, Q) and always manage to roll off and dissipate my motion as one is supposed to do. Not saying I am immune to a bad accident, but I have tried over time to mitigate potential damage by practicing proper falling. There is risk in every sport. I think it is important not to over-face yourself with whatever you set out to do...hence my slow entry into eventing with tons of schooling at home to prepare and no lofty goals!

      Griffin did do one LD last year. He wasn't in peak shape for it, but he did get through. And I'm sure he could absolutely find success with endurance! I just don't have the biggest desire to do that with him after riding him over jumps. He absolutely lights up when he is allowed to jump. He becomes a different horse than he is at any other time and it's so special to get to be there with him guiding him through something he so clearly enjoys. The only other thing that lights him up like that is when he gets permission to chase/herd the dogs on occasion. One day I'm going to put him on cattle and see if he's the same. It would be so fun to do some cutting or team penning!

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  7. I'm loving these posts. What is so cool about your journey in particular is that it's so well documented on here!!

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    1. I'm loving everyone's posts, too! And haha, yeah...the journey is kind of painful to look back on sometimes, but I'm really grateful it is there for me to learn from.

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  8. BABY GRIFFIN! Lol I truly can't believe that's him. I only believe it because I saw him as Baby Griff with my own eyes. And, I know it's crap, but the choices you made relating to one particular animal were smart... that said, BABY GRIFFIN! And a personality to boot. I'm thinking Jean-Luc's still my flamboyant BFF who considers shopping and food a sport. If any of the herd's personality traits could rub off on him, I pray they all come from Griffin!

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    1. Aww, I'm sure Griffin will be flattered to know that. I did see Jean Luc playing and raising a little hell like Griffin does so often the other day. Perhaps he's more like him than you think!

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  9. You've totally turned me on to endurance and I'm super sad because I don't really have a ton of trails in my backyard. I mean I can haul to the foothills but that makes it an entirely different ball game

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