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.
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.
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.
You knew this was probably going to be a series of posts, right? There is no way I can find my joy in one day. Nope, this is going to be a month long endeavor, maybe more. And really, there's no reason we can't spend every day finding our joy.
This past Sunday, we were expecting rain all day, so I planned my weekend accordingly. Of course it didn't rain until later in the day, but once I decided not to ride, I stuck with my plan. With Christmas just around the corner, there was plenty to do. A few days ago, as I was listening to Christmas music on my way to or from work - I can't remember which, but it doesn't matter, I heard a lyric that really spoke to me. I can't remember what song it was, but the sentiment was something about this being the happiest time of the year.
That really got me thinking about what December should be about. No one cares right now if Izzy and I can get a left to right flying change. No one cares if the connection is solid. And sure as sugar no one gives a whoop if I am riding every day or not. I decided to focus on finding my joy by expressing gratitude and spreading some good cheer.
I spent most of Sunday buying and wrapping presents. I may or may not have gone a bit overboard. I bought six presents for the lady at work for whom I am a Secret Santa. I don't know her, nor do I even know what she looks like. Do I care? Nope, I bought every single thing on her list. Those gifts are all wrapped and piled prettily in my classroom awaiting the designated hand out days.
The best part of Sunday though was helping the ranch's handyman apply for his California Real ID. Reggie is a great guy. If he even thinks I need help with something, he's trying to do it before I can ask. He gives Speedy his Prascend Monday through Friday, but if Reggie thinks I am late, he'll give it to Speedy on the weekends and then text me so that I don't go out unnecessarily. Sometimes I show up, and he's put fresh wood chips in my tacking up space so I don't have to work in the mud or dust. Sometimes he brings me fresh fruits or vegetables or even tamales from a local shop.
So when he mentioned that he was trying to get a replacement social security card so that he could get a Real ID so that he could fly to Mexico in January to visit family, I stopped in my tracks and asked a few questions. Reggie's English is pretty limited, but I speak Spanish (mostly) fluently. Reggie and I long ago worked out a good system for communication. I don't always understand everything he says, and occasionally he has to find ten different way to explain himself, but we eventually laugh our way through our language limitations.
Getting a Real ID, especially here in California, involves hopping through a bunch of hoops. The easiest way to get the job done is by doing most of it online. Reggie is a little older than I am, and like a lot of people of my generation, he doesn't really do technology, so we had a few extra hurdles.
On Sunday morning, I gave him a call so we could complete the application from my computer. The first hurdle we had to jump was getting him an email address. Once we were in person again, and I was holding his phone, I realized he already had a gmail account, he just didn't know it. Next, we had to create an online account with the DMV. Somewhere during that step, I realized we needed to be in person as Reggie doesn't know how to text photos, and we had quite a few documents to upload. I eventually just drove out to the ranch.
When I pulled in, Reggie was waiting with all of his documents neatly stored in clearly labeled files. We set up an office on my tailgate and got down to business. The whole process took several hours, but most of the delay was on my end. I speak Spanish a lot better than you would think, but I am lacking the vocabulary for technical things like insurance forms, tax returns, and other legal documents. Eventually, we got everything filled out and uploaded, andI was even able to help Reggie make an appointment at the DMV. How anything related to the DMV can bring someone joy is a mystery, but helping Reggie brought me even more joy than the shopping did.
I am slowly finding my joy. How about you?
And so it begins ...
I am not one to sit around and complain for long, so as soon as I realized that things were not so rosy and bright, I sat down and reevaluated my life choices. Izzy's not the only one whose choices are questionable. Apparently, mine are as well. It's not that I am making bad choices, it's just that I need to make fewer choices. Right now, I need to do less, want less, go less, and expect less. I think that's the way for me to get more. More done. More accomplished. More happiness.
That's the short term plan anyway.
On Thursday, I wasn't feeling much like riding Izzy, so I didn't. Instead, I decided to spend some time with Speedy doing girl loves her horse kinds of things. Since Speedy doesn't show anymore, I don't worry so much about his old man whiskers and overgrown bridle path. Even so, it's fun to spruce him up, so I dragged out my clippers and gave him a haircut. I added some conditioner to his mane and tail and then gently untangled his hair. I also banged his tail, something I hadn't done in a while. While he looked a lot better, he's still a grey horse living outdoors in early winter.
After seeing how good he looked, I decided to hop up on him bareback and ride around the neighborhood. Even at 18, Speedy still has the best back for riding bareback. His ribs are well sprung, and his withers rise gracefully from his back. He already had his riding halter on - it's a rope halter made with rings which I long ago attached reins to, so I grabbed my helmet and lead him over to our new mounting block. It works great for sliding a leg over.
We ambled out and down the long driveway as Speedy grabbed mouthfuls of newly sprouted winter grass. Before we had left the driveway I was smiling broadly. We headed out to the old golf course and circled through the cherry trees like we had done the week before. Before we were halfway home, Speedy got a wild hair, lifted his back, and proceeded to dance his way back home. Not going to lie, there were half a dozen moments that I thought about walking back on foot. He may be small, but he's quick, and when he decides to get his sas on, he's hard to sit. Whether by luck or skill, I managed to stay on despite his desire to remind me that he's still got it. I love that horse.
By the time we got back, I was laughing aloud, grateful to have found some 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%: