Good thing Speedy doesn't care. He likes me no matter how bad I am. The feeling is mutual.
This is not a new topic; it's one I come back to now and again. Does anyone ever feel that they are good? And I mean the kind of good where you don't have to qualify it: yes, I am a "good" rider compared to a non-rider. In my world, you're only "good" if you're Carl Hester or Steffen Peters or Isabell Werth or any of a half dozen names. How can I say I am a good rider when people like that are in the world?
At the El Sueno show a week ago, I warmed up with riders doing Prix St. Georges and Fourth Level because the show is run from the higher tests down through the lower levels. At the time, I felt comfortable warming up in that crowd and never worried about running anyone over. Later though, I wondered to myself what in the world I thought I was doing in such prestigious company.
No matter what level Speedy and I do, I still feel like that endurance rider giving Intro Level a try. Speedy looks exactly the same to me as he did eight years ago. He's lost most of his dark gray coloring of course, but I just can't see the "wow" that everyone else tells me they see.
Here we are at Second Level. No matter how many people remark that Speedy is moving so much differently, I still feel like the bumbling Intro rider who's trying to fool the judge.
Does that feeling ever change?
Someone recently told me to remember that Speedy wouldn't look the way he does if I weren't doing something right.
It's a crisis of confidence for sure. Maybe I'll feel "good enough" if we make it to Third Level. Or does the feeling come at Fourth? Please don't tell me that Carl Hester walks around feeling like a walking train wreck; my already minuscule ego couldn't handle that.
Good thing Speedy doesn't care. He likes me no matter how bad I am. The feeling is mutual.
Oh, it's real, but it's not everything.
If you're a blogger, you'll know what I mean when I get to my point. If you're not a blogger, the following might come as a surprise.
The blogger you read and follow, whether it's me or somehow else, is more than what their blog reveals. I've said this many, many times; I am very honest. I don't hide the bad days or the low scores (plenty of those lately) or the moments that make me want to pull out my hair.
What I don't always share are the great moments. I have plenty of them, but frankly, it's boring to only read about unicorns who poop rainbows. People want to see the train wrecks, the disasters, the carnage. It's much easier to connect with someone who struggles. Seeing other people go through your EXACT struggle gives you hope, especially when you read about a solution that worked.
Even my fifth grade students know that every story has to have a conflict. Conflict creates reader involvement. The better the conflict, the more engrossing the story. A narrative without a problem is just a dull series of events that no one wants to read.
What all of this means is that you probably have a somewhat skewed idea of who I am really. I am what my blog reveals - intense, dedicated, driven, goal oriented, hard on myself, etc. What my blog might not reveal is that I am also pretty funny and very happy.
I ride with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, because riding, showing, and teaching are her passion. That's true of a lot of trainers, but what makes Chemaine different is that she also needs it to be fun, really fun. During our lessons, you'll hear more laughter and F-bombs than anything else. Yes, we're working hard, but we're also enjoying the heck out of it.
You already know that I am pretty self-deprecating. I truly find everything funny, especially my own goof ups and mistakes. Life is just too danged hard not to find the humor in it. So when you hear me complain or whine or lament, remember that is only part of my story. Behind the scenes, I am laughing at the 2 I got for my last simple change and wondering how I can strap my butt in so I don't actually have to learn to sit the trot.
The struggle? Yeah, it's real, but it's also really, really funny.
I usually plan out my show schedule for the whole summer. I take into consideration our vacation plans, when the school year ends, and when it stars up again. I try to make all four of the shows that are in Tehachapi (an hour and a half away), RAAC, and one or two other USDF shows if the budget allows.
Last summer, I was broke, so the planning was made a lot easier. We had bought a new house in October so my show budget was pretty small. I am not as broke this year, but I am a lot more busy. Which brings me to the go or don't go: I have a show entry sitting in front of me that needs to be postmarked by tomorrow.
I got a raise this spring although I won't see it until probably June. On the other hand, I am taking two courses from the University of Phoenix which is costing $600 a class; ouch. The show entry is $500, and I'd have at least another $125 in gas and meals. I sleep in my living quarters so at least there's no hotel bill. I have it in my budget if I want to go, but it is a lot of money.
The real reason I am struggling with whether to go or not is time. I just don't seem to have enough of it lately. I am a little over halfway done with the first class, and it is taking me way, way more hours to complete the course work than was advertised. And I am "good" at school. It's what I do all day long.
The course ends on the Monday after the show. I have the final project completed already which means I'll be less busy the final week of the class. I just don't know for sure that I'll be finished with the rest of the work by the time I'd need to leave on Friday. On top of that, I am not sure how many afternoons I'll be able to commit to Speedy for schooling and show prep.
There's one last thing to consider. Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, is completely booked up for the month of April. If I go to the show, I can get a lesson and show coaching. If I don't go to the show, I won't see her until some time in May.
My gut is telling me that it would be a lot healthier for me to not go to the show. I am still dealing with frequent migraines, and added stress is not really helping.
But still ... why do all this work if I don't get a chance to show it off?
The use of the plural might not be accurate; there's really just one. I hate to even say it out loud because saying it makes it even more real. But here goes:
I really hate being a hack.
The Urban Dictionary defines a hack as a mediocre or second-rate practitioner. Sucking at home, in private, is no big deal. I can do that all day long and not feel bad about it. At home, I can laugh it off and come back tomorrow for another go. Doing it in public is another story.
Making my debut at Second Level at a show where everyone knows me is my worst nightmare. We're going to be mediocre at best. Sure, we might have a few good moments here and there (I can only hope), but the reality is that I am likely looking at a mid-50 score.
Over the years, Speedy has racked up a pretty fair number of fans, and they want to see him do well. New friends have asked whether they can attend the show. My vet is coming. Local friends who only see my carefully selected screen shots will be there.
I am pretty sure they're all going to be wondering just what in the hell I think I am doing up there. Hopefully, most of them will feel sorry for Speedy, secure in the knowledge that he is far more talented than his dumbass rider who can't even get her proverbial crap together.
In three weeks, we make our debut at Second. You're going to see me smiling and laughing and having a good time. But when our simple changes aren't clean and our 10-meter canter circles look more like ovals, don't blame Speedy (or my trainer). Simply roll your eyes and elbow the guy next to you as you quip, "that's our local hack."
I can only hope that I won't be a hack forever ...
I am really worrying away at our first show of the season, our debut at Second Level. After some rides, I feel that we might eke out a 60%. Most days though, I know we'll be lucky to get a 58%. Back when we were slogging through Training Level, I never felt ashamed or embarrassed by a sub 60%. I was on a journey, and I knew it was a long one. I felt as though the effort and dedication we were demonstrating counted for just as much as the score.
While most of our First Level scores were above 60%, we also had some scores in the 50s. I wasn't happy about them, but I certainly didn't feel embarrassed. They simply reflected where we were at that moment.
Over the weekend, I finally shrugged my shoulders and accepted the fact that we're starting at the bottom once again. We're very likely going to earn a 56% and oh well. I can always choose to simply school at home for the next year until we're more confirmed at the level, but I know that won't work for us. Showing helps me get better. It confirms what we can do and reveals what we can't.
While I really hope we can earn enough 6s to at least get close to a 60%, I feel a bit of relief that I don't have to knock it out of the park. No one cares more than me, and I am okay with just doing the best we can.
But really, you know I want that 60%!
I didn't know that a person could be this sick for this long. So far, I've missed an entire week of work, seen the doctor three times, and grown very attached to "my" spot on the couch.
While it feels as though I am dying, the doctor has assured that I will someday get better. To aid in that endeavor, I am confined to bedrest for most of this week, too.
To test my strength though, I did persuade my husband to drive me to the barn yesterday to feed my boys some carrots. I'll admit, I bohooed a bit. I hadn't seen them in more than a week, and I miss them. Fortunately they live outdoors in overly large paddocks so they're not cooped up while they wait for my return.
I'll be off air for this week as well since all I can think about is my next dose of Make Me Better Now, Dammit! Soft Kitty, Warm Kitty isn't getting it done.
Like all of you, I have much for which to be thankful. While I could list hundreds of things for which I am grateful (wine, the Riding Warehouse, chocolate, sunny days, etc.), I'd like to share just five on this day of Thanksgiving.
I wake up grateful each and every day to be married to such a generous and dependable man. I am also thankful for his sense of humor and tolerance. That he likes dogs is a plus! We've been together since I was 19 and he was 21, 27 years. How did two young kids know enough to pick the right partner for life? I don't know how I got so lucky, but I am grateful every day that I did.
While I might be marking off the years until retirement, I am still thankful to have job that pays me well and still allows me to have so much time to spend doing the things I really love. Its seems as though you usually get one or the other: good pay or time off. I am grateful to have both.
I am very thankful that a greater power led us to live in Bakersfield. While my husband is native to the city, we looked elsewhere as we were pursuing our first jobs. Settling in this city has afforded us opportunities that we wouldn't have had living somewhere else.
I am particularly appreciative to have my boys. Each one of them brings me joy in his own unique way. Speedy is irreplaceable; to lose him would be losing a member of my family. And while Izzy is not my easiest "child," I find myself growing more attached each day.
We don't have human kids (I am grateful for that), but our four-legged buddies fill the role nicely. When our first two canine friends crossed the Rainbow Bridge (McGwire at 11 and Kirby at 15), we spent a dogless year waiting for our next "kid" to find us. It was a long and quiet year. We missed the click of toenails on the floor, the jingle jangle of dog tags hitting the water bowl, and soft snores filling our bedroom. Each day these guys fill our home with love.
I hope you spend this Thanksgiving Day surrounded by friends and family doing something that you love.
When I rode Izzy on Sunday, I had one of those magical rides where you think, this. This is why I ride. He was everything a dressage horse should be. He was relaxed, self-carriage was actually a thing, and his back was swinging. It was the kind of ride that earns a 75% at a show.
I can't say exactly how I got him that way, but it was pretty amazing. I know having the chiropractor work on him followed by hock injections was definitely a part of why he felt so good. That isn't the whole story though. Some of it had to be because he's learning. Whenever I complain that we are never going to get anywhere, I think back to where we were a year or two ago. He's coming along. It's just slowly.
And then we have a ride like last night. Holy moly, Dude. It doesn't need to take 45 minutes to let go of the right rein. We'd be done a whole lot quicker if you would turn right!
Aw well, today's another day. When you know magical is in there, it gives you a reason to keep coming back.
I just finished reading R. J. Palacio's Wonder, the book about a boy who was born with a severe facial disfigurement. If you haven't read it, or if you don't know anything about it, check it out. It's worth the read even if you're not in the fifth grade.
Early on in the book, Auggie's English teacher, Mr. Browne, presents the kids with monthly precepts, or what he calls "rules about really important things." The first precept he assigns the class to write about is this one by Dr. Wayne Dyer: "When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind."
That really struck a chord wth me. I like to be right. I also like to be kind. It made me stop and wonder if I sometimes choose being right over being kind. I had to admit that yes, it probably happens.
And then I got to thinking that many horse people, especially dressage people, deal with this conflict pretty often. Dressage, and horse ownership in general, is fraught with people who have THE ANSWERS. It seems as though the second you voice an idea, SOMEONE (or twenty someones) immediately knows EXACTLY what you should do.
There are a couple of relationships in my life (I am not going to name names) where I am struggling with being right or being kind. For the first one, I realized that I couldn't change this person's view, but what I could do was respond to it differently than I had been. Instead of being right, I've decided to be kind. It's funny, because that idea is also addressed by Dyer. He says, "How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours." I haven't had a lot of opportunities to practice this change in my response, but I am prepared.
In the second relationship, it's my friend who wants to be right. All the time. About everything. And it's horse stuff, so you know I have an opinion as well, but we aren't necessarily agreeing. While I haven't been unkind yet, I can feel it coming. Instead of worrying about whether my own opinion gets heard or not, I've decided to be especially kind instead. Mr. Browne's precept for the month of March should be a corollary to the first, Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much. - Blaise Pascal.
I think it's worth a try.
Izzy must have read yesterday's blog post because when I went out to ride, he decided right away to behave himself.
It's been exactly two years now that he's been in "full work." In case you're late to the party, or maybe you just need a recap, here's how his under saddle work has gone.
At three, he had 60 days put on him by a trainer. His owner then rode for another two months or so until she became pregnant. He then spent the next two years growing up in a large pasture.
I bought him in November of 2014 as a six year old and immediately shipped him to a trainer for a "tune-up." Within a few weeks, he suffered a pretty ugly laceration to his hind leg which took a year to heal. I started "riding" him in the spring of 2015, but it was mostly lunging, sacking out, and being careful of the leg. By June of 2015, we started working on go, stop, turn right, turn left.
The first summer I had him was about getting off the property without anybody dying. We loaded up twice a week for a trail ride or a lesson. We hit all of the local trails, sometimes even bushwacking when things were overgrown.
The next summer, 2016, I introduced Izzy to the show ring doing Intro at four schooling shows and one CDS show. We never broke 60%, but we didn't die either.
Here we are, starting a third summer. While I constantly feel like we're running in place, never actually getting anywhere, I know that's not true. I can't say that he's that much farther along, but he has grown up some. He gets in the trailer willingly and rides quite calmly. I know I can get on him wherever we are, and I won't die. He can walk, trot, and and canter pretty much wherever I point him. And when he's paying attention to me, he looks amazing.
I feel like we should be tearing it up in the show ring by now though, and we're not. We're still just slogging away, trying to get a rounded topline with some (heaven forbid) relaxation. When I rode on Sunday, it took an hour to get anything close to obedience, and I wasn't expecting a lot. An ear flicked in my direction would have been enough.
Yesterday? I rode him for 12 minutes. His back was supple, and he was almost too elevated and sproingy for me to ride well. It wasn't a perfect ride, but his body was accessible. We did some walk and trot work, and then he picked up the correct canter lead each direction without an F-You.
Other than to continue the not dying part, I don't have a plan for this summer. If I could just convince him that he's not going to die, we could clean up at a show. I just need to figure out how to convince him that this is worth his time. I guess I do have a plan for the summer.