From Endurance to Dressage
My life sits upon a tripod. The first of the three legs is my home life which means my husband and our two dogs. The second is my barn life which includes Speedy and Izzy and their health and happiness. The third and final leg of my life is work. The work I do as a teacher is very fulfilling and as such, it is something that keeps my cup full. Usually.
I don't know how many legs most other people use to hold up their lives, but I suspect it might be four, with friends being the fourth leg. It's not that I don't have friends, I do, and very good ones at that. It's that those personal relationships are either intertwined around my home life or barn life. I am so busy with the third leg of my tripod - work, that my friends have to fit in with family or horses. I don't think I have any non-horse friends.
I have placed firm limits on the friendships I might develop at work because any work-friendships that might go sour have the very real capability of negatively affecting my career. I make it a point to be friendly at work, but professionalism has to come first which means none of my work colleagues are counted as friends. I enjoy good relationships at work, but I keep them work focused.
The problem with a tripod support system is that it is very easily toppled over. When one leg goes, I am knocked off kilter living a very unbalanced life. That has been my last month's experience. My work life has gone completely out of control. If you want to watch a train wreck, grab some popcorn and buckle up.
The main reason things have gone so haywire is that I am very good at what I do. Speedy and I are both schoolmasters, and in my case SCHOOL master is a literal reference. After thirty years in the classroom, I have things mastered, and I do ALL THE THINGs. If my district wants to try "this" strategy, I do it. If my district wants to implement "that" plan, I do it. Three weeks ago, due to low student enrollment, our virtual program lost half of its teachers when combination classes were created. I went from teaching 5th grade virtually to teaching 5th AND 6th virtually.
I am making it work because that's what I do, but it is overwhelming. On Saturday morning, I woke up in tears. I cannot do a job part-way. I am all in, all the time. My version of teaching means I teach EVERYTHING, and I teach it WELL. After three weeks of living that way, I fell apart because it is not possible to do. I have been working 10 hour days for three weeks. On Saturday afternoon, I worked another 4 hours - unpaid, and on Sunday I did the same. Since I am a salaried employee, I do not get overtime.
After talking things over with my both my husband a horse friend, the ranch owner, I realized that I need to find some short cuts. I went through work schedule and started crossing things out. And once my red pen got going - it wasn't really red, but it felt like it, every stroke of the pen lightened my load. I also reorganized some parts of my school day. Doing that, combined with a possible big change that I should know about in a day or two, helped me sleep much better on Saturday night. Well, that and the massive tin roof sundae I enjoyed with the ranch owner on Saturday afternoon.
Ice cream makes everything better.
Wow. Summer went by way too fast. For most of you, it will still be summer for another month or two. My summer ended yesterday. I'm a teacher, so summer equals no school. When school starts, summer is over.
My students don't come back until August 16th, but I am going back to work today. I applied for a position as a mentor teacher, so today I will attend the All Mentor Training. As a mentor teacher, I'll still be teaching during the day, but after my students go home, I will be supporting up to two teachers as they work to become fully certificated.
One Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday I will be attending my school district's annual Educator Learning Summit. It's a three-day event where the district presents all teachers with the year's foundational plan which is referred to as the Daily Keynote Session. In the afternoons, we are usually presented with a few Choice Options. Since I have been teaching so long, much of the day is spent listening to stuff I've heard many times before. I get it though - teachers that are at the beginning of their careers haven't heard the information yet, so it's important that we all hear the same message. As a mentor, part of my job will be to support my mentee as she tries to implement the district's goals.
Next week is just as busy. On Tuesday and Wednesday I will be working at my school site with my principal and staff. We'll engage in some professional development - similar to what we'll go over this week, and then have time to plan as a grade level. My principal will take what we learn at the Educator Learning Summit and fit it into our school's plan.
Besides spending two days working with my staff, I am scheduled to attend two days of new teacher meetings on Thursday and Friday. On those two days, the new teachers will be discussing Classroom Management and Instructional Design &Lesson Planning. Mentors are urged to attend in order to support the new teachers. I have heard that space is limited, so I won't know until later today if I will be attending those two educational days or not.
On Monday the 14th of August, I'll spend another day in meetings. The next day will probably be a day where teachers can get their rooms unpacked and set up to receive students. The kids start on Wednesday which doesn't give teachers much time to actually do classroom preparation. Books and supplies need to be handed out. Lesson plans need to be written. Copies need to be run, or in my case, online lessons need to be built. There's a lot to do to get ready for this year's crop of students. A lot to do and not much time in which to do it. This is my 30th year doing it, so I am pretty sure I can handle it.
August is typically hot as hell, so I don't usually get much riding done, but it works out because I am so busy getting my classroom up and running. And with Izzy's pastern still healing - I promise that post is coming, it's probably a good thing that I am too busy to get much riding done anyway.
How many days until summer vacation? A lot!
And none of it had a thing to do with horses. My life has three legs: home, horses, and work. Home is everything that has to do with my husband, the dogs, or the house. Horses is everything equine related: care, riding, showing, seminars, and so on. Work is ... well, work. When those things collide, I get stuff done, but not necessarily stuff that I wanted to do.
This week, all three of those things ramped up. On Tuesday, I had my husband leave work early to pick up the dogs so that he could meet me at the vet for vaccinations and exams. We unloaded the dogs, he left, and I wrangled both dogs in the door. The receptionist gave me a smile but there was a big question mark on her face. My appointment was on a Tuesday, just not THAT Tuesday. Sheesh! What a wasted afternoon.
Beginning on Wednesday, I've been administering California's version of state testing. My students work virtually, but for testing, half of them have come in the person. The other half meet on Zoom with a different staff member. Even though she's proctoring the test, I am still responsible for keeping things organized. It's challenging to keep kids quiet and focused while also keeping them excited about school. For my in person kiddos, after testing, we've been playing Hues and Cues and spending some time outside having the first P.E. time they've had in three years. We have another week of testing to go. It's exhausting, but I still enjoy it.
On Thursday, which was only yesterday but feels like last week, I met my husband at a doctor's appointment during my music prep. Normally, we're not allowed to leave campus during a prep period, but as a favor, my principal let me leave for a bit rather than getting a sub for a half day. I also take care of in-school suspensions which means I had a detainee? yesterday that I supervised and tutored. So in all, I tested all morning, supervised my new friend, left school during my prep period, came back and finished the last part of the day with my kids, and then helped my detainee catch up on the work she missed while being suspended. To say I wore a lot of different hats at work yesterday would be an understatement.
I did make it out to the barn yesterday, but not to ride. I was too tired. Instead, I turned dIzzy out into the yard to let him visit with his gal pals and talk shop with the stallion. Speedy got to come out for a bit as well so that I could evaluate his level of lameness after his weekend abscess. He looked sound at the walk and about 90% sound at the trot. He should be good to go in another few days. Today I should finally have an afternoon to myself so that I can ride. I have a lesson tomorrow. I need to look like I've been doing something all week.
And now I am off to the donut shop to get my students some motivation. TGIF.
Yesterday, while driving to work, I heard something on a podcast that resonated really strongly with me. The speaker - forgive me as I didn't catch his name, said that there are three main types of fear:
I know that all three types of fear are something I struggle with, but fortunately, my fear of failure isn't that strong. I don't like looking inept, but it doesn't stop me from trying. A real fear of failure, according to the interviewee, will prevent one from even trying. The fear can be so overwhelming that a person would rather not even try rather risk failing. That would be very frustrating.
Fear of success is also something that hovers around my peripheral vision. I didn't know it was there until I earned my USDF Bronze Medal. When I heard that I had earned my final score, I burst into tears of relief. Within a half an hour though, I became anxious. I didn't even take an hour to celebrate my success. Earning that medal made me feel as though things had just gotten real. As a medalist, I felt that there was an expectation to continue succeeding, and I worried that I wouldn't be able to do any better. I still worry about that. The fear doesn't stop me from trying, but for some people, being a one hit wonder is terrifying.
The third fear, fear of judgement, does color my thinking. I wish that it didn't, but if I am being truly honest, it does. I very much worry about what people think. I do what I am going to do despite rail birds or critics, but negative feedback hurts. That makes me wonder if writing in this space has been my subconscious's way of forcing me to confront that fear. Because really, who would deliberately share their opinions, failures, and innermost thoughts in such a public way if she didn't seek out judgement? Me, apparently.
The speaker pointed out, specifically in reference to fear of judgement, that it is important to be one's authentic self because we can't please our critics. They don't like us anyway, and they don't want to like us. So why waste time worrying about appeasing their sensibilities?
Which brings me to the interviewee's suggestion for dealing with fear. First, he said, make a list of every single fear you have. Then, work hard to check them off. Confront the fear, take steps to eradicate it, and then, once overcome, strike it off the list. With enough work, we can all become fear-less. We all know it's not that easy, but it is certainly something worth doing. So, here I am confronting my fear of judgement.
I am an awkward rider who loses her balance frequently. I am tight through my elbows and struggle with following my horse's movement. My sitting trot is more about bouncing than sitting. And sometimes, I am afraid of losing my seat and hitting the ground. Speedy made things look easy, Izzy makes me look like the rider I am. Despite all of these marks against me, I am still going to be my authentic self because those who judge me harshly, don't like me anyway, so why should I care?
Face you fear, cross it off your list, become fear-less.
Most happy hours come with booze, and that is a good thing. I'll have a bourbon. Neat, please. This one was not that kind of happy hour. Instead, my Friday happy hour was filled with a wonderful, beautiful, sunny sky.
I have made it through the darkest part of winter and already feel a sense of gladness and joy. I made it to the barn at my regular time on Friday, about 3:15. It was cold and there were scattered clouds, but there was actual sunshine. I saddled Izzy and had a very pleasant ride that finally used more than a single 20-meter circle. The arena had finally dried up enough for me to have 35-meters of length. It was enough to do a few changes of direction and try a bit of a canter lengthening.
While it was a short ride, I never felt rushed or hurried. With the sun still above the treetops, I found I had enough time to trim Izzy's bridle path and then pull Speedy out for some grooming, too. Both boys' bridle paths had gotten a bit shaggy, but over the past two months, there hasn't been daylight enough to do those small chores. Those few minutes of daylight we gain each week are finally starting to show themselves. As I walked towards my truck ready to head home, I glanced over to see the sun still peeking through the trees.
Happy hour, indeed. I'll have another, please.
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%: