From Endurance to Dressage
In honor of the Advent calendar ...
#3 Even though it was arctic cold on Tuesday, I hopped up on Izzy for a short ride around the neighborhood. It was so cold though that I couldn't bear to change, so I rode in what I had worn to work, my jeans and Dublin river boots (which I have NEVER worn to the barn). Izzy was his regular OH MY GOD I AM GOING TO DIE self which meant I warmed up in no time. For the first half of the ride I had to whack him repeatedly in the ribs with my very round and rubbery heels when he refused to move forward. For the second half of the ride I had to FIRMLY half halt and remind him that we have never galloped home, and we weren't about to start. We both lived.
#2 Upon arriving home, I looked around in complete puzzlement because somewhere on my person I had acquired a rattle. It seemed to be emanating from my feet, but I couldn't see anything attached. I pulled my boots off and shook them. Nothing fell out. I shook my right boot again and heard a very definite rattle. What the heck? I again flipped it upside down, but again nothing came out. That was when I saw the hole in the heel. I pulled back the flap of rubber and a handful of gravel fell out. Well nuts. I recently wrote how they were looking a bit shabby. I am going to see if it is worth getting them resoled.
#1 Once my boots were sorted out, I noticed two packages sitting on the table. Oh, goodie! Even though I knew they were likely Christmas presents for friends and family, I was still excited. I love to wrap presents. When I looked more closely at the labels. I realized they were not gifts for other people, and they were not filled with something new and fun. The small box was from Valley Vet, and it had Speedy's newest round of Prascend pills. Meh. The second package, while bearing a very exciting Dover label, was also less than thrilling. The shape was a dead give away. Inside are my new muck boots. Also meh worthy. To be honest, both packages are still sitting where you see them, unopened. I have better boxes to open, gifts for some kiddos that I am heading off to wrap right now.
My joy meter is ticking upwards every day.
Today is a day to celebrate. The winter solstice is upon us which means that beginning tomorrow, we will begin accruing daylight instead of losing it. Today, we will have only 9 hours and 48 minutes of daylight. By Saturday, we will have one additional minute, and the following Saturday, another minute more. By the middle of January, we'll have 10 hours and 3 minutes of daylight. And by January 31, we'll have 10 hours and 29 minutes. That day, the sun won't set until 4:54 p.m. in my latitude.
It seems a small thing, but for someone struggling to find joy, daylight is a balm that soothes the soul. While Saturday's weather was so gloomy and cold, we did enjoy an hour of bright sunshine right in the middle of the day. My husband told me that while golfing on the north side of town, the sun never broke through for him. I was so grateful for that brief hour of sunshine that I spent it chatting with the ranch owner with the sun shining full on my face.
I am more fortunate than most. Beginning Friday at noon, I have two weeks off which means that I can be at the barn much earlier in the day, and if it is cloudy or foggy, the sky will still be brighter than it would be at 3:30 when I would normally arrive. When I go back to work on January 9th, we will have 9 hours and 58 minutes of daylight, 10 full minutes more than today. It's not much, but it's a start. Each day we will gain a minute or more which will make the days not only feel longer, but less rushed.
Even if it is just by a minute.
The more time I invest in finding my joy, the more joy I find. Many of you have reached out with hugs and support - which I have truly appreciated, and many others have admitted to feeling much the same way. Even a trainer colleague of my own trainer wrote a blog post about how important it is to take time off to breath and reset. I have passed the point of feeling guilty about the break I am taking, and each day I feel more and more energized.
On Sunday morning, I slept in until 7:30 - the first bell at the school where I teach rings at 7:15, so 7:30 is really late for me. I spent the morning making pancakes, doing laundry, and tidying up my house. Rather than feel as though it were a chore I could barely stand to do, I did it cheerfully with a renewed sense of energy. When that was done, I made myself a cup of tea and did some last minute Christmas shopping. Not once did I think about zoning out on the sofa in front of the TV.
Over the past few weeks, I have worked very hard to overcome what is no doubt a bit of depression. I've done that by taking some pressure off of myself and by giving. It sounds so counter-intuitive that by giving we will feel filled, but I have found it to be true. The more I've given - whether it be my time, money, or just a kind word, the happier I have felt. There are many studies that prove this to be true. When we give, we feel happy, our blood pressure is lowered, we create a sense of trust and cooperation that strengthens our ties to others, we feel a sense of gratitude, and giving is contagious. When one person gives, the next person is inspired to pass it forward.*
I am feeling more and more eager to get in the saddle, and I have been riding, but if I don't ride the rest of this week, or even this weekend, I know it will be just fine. Izzy won't forget what he's learned, Speedy won't feel neglected, and I won't become any less of a rider than I already am.
I will continue to give myself a break until I no longer need to, and in doing so, I am sure to find my joy.
In the past nineteen days, I think I've ridden eight or nine times. I usually count the days I haven't ridden. I am finally feeling fine with being an "underachiever." It has certainly taken a few weeks for me to let go of the guilt of needing time off, but I think I am there.
When I woke up on Saturday morning, I saw that the valley was socked in with Tule fog. For those of you who have in lived in California's Central Valley, you'll know that our fog is not like any most have ever seen. It can be so dense and wide spread at times that visibility will be less than 50 feet for miles. It's also really cold. It was in the 30s on Saturday morning with humidity near 100%. I waited until after ten o'clock to head out to the ranch, and even then it was still just a few degrees above freezing.
While it was miserably cold and wet, I was feeling pretty cheerful about a ride, something that I haven't felt in at least a month. I considered just hacking around the ranch, but I figured Izzy and I might both warm up if we actually worked. I was right. By the time I had two hooves picked out, I was removing a layer. Weather has never been a riding detractor for me. Cold or hot, I'm game. So while I have been checking out for the past few weeks, it has had nothing to do with the weather.
It was cold enough though that I opted to ride in my tall muck boots. Nothing hurts more than dismounting onto frozen feet. With a flannel jacket, gloves, and my feet snug and warm in my muck boots, I actually headed up to the arena feeling pretty lighthearted, which was a welcome change from the gloomy me I've had to live with the last month.
I didn't have any kind of riding plan. Izzy hadn't been worked in at least five days, so I knew he'd let me know how he was feeling. Pretty dang spicy was the answer. There was lots of sassy head shaking, ear flicks to see if I was paying attention, and a few little woohoo moments. I love riding in my tall muck boots because they're a bit thicker than my leather tall boots. They give me the feeling of a shorter stirrup along with a wide foot bed. I have a velcro butt anyway, but with those bad boys on, I feel invincible.
Knowing Izzy was too hot for precision, I spent most of the ride cantering around. Eventually, I started asking for some shallow loops and fifteen-meter circles. Izzy has figured out that anything done off the track while cantering probably means a flying change is coming, so I tried to reduce his anticipation by not asking for the change. Until I did. It was fugly as all heck, but for the first time in at least two months, I finally got a left to right flying change. So yeah, I am pretty much the bomb.
Maybe if I take another two weeks off, we'll have confirmed changes.
Being honest about imperfection is hard, but if just one person leaves my space feeling better about herself because she recognizes that she's not the only one, then my honesty, humiliating as it is, will be worth it. Here goes: I had a hard day yesterday. It wasn't worth getting upset over, but when you're searching for your joy, it doesn't take much to knock the smile off your face. I drove home from work in tears. I called my mom, and then I made cookies. Cookies solve a lot of problems.
Today, my 5th grade team is treating the rest of our staff to a hot chocolate bar with sweets. We have hot chocolate packets and every single topping you can think of: marshmallows, whipped cream, hazel nut creamer, chocolate sprinkles, cinnamon, and both chocolate and caramel syrup. We also have cookies. Lots of cookies.
I wasn't supposed to bring cookies. I bought the hot water dispenser and a bunch of the toppings, but when your joy is flagging, baking for others can change your perspective. So I pulled out my mixer and whipped up a some good cheer. My happiness cup is not overflowing, but it's not empty either.
It's funny how the act of giving serves to fill us back up. Find your joy.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: