But really, you know I want that 60%!
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.
Just recently, my trainer shared an article about getting the most from your student/trainer relationship. The article covered seven points, most of which I do without even thinking: Ask Questions, Listen Actively, Do Not Talk Back, Try Not to Make the Same Mistake Over and Over, Work Hard, and Bring Your Best Every Day.
Frankly, I could have written that article myself. These are all things that I encourage my own 5th grade students to do. The one point that gave me reason to pause though was this one: Have Some Defined Goals.
I have goals of course, but it embarrasses me to say them out loud. I don't even share most of them here on my blog, and it horrifies me to even think about sharing them my trainer. But why is that?
As I thought about it, I realized that for me, voicing my goals aloud sets myself up for public failure. I want to make it to at least Fourth Level, but that doesn't appear to be happening. I want to show at least marginally successfully at Second Level. Also not happening. Walking around making my as of yet unrealized and may never be hopes and dreams known just seems like a surefire way to look like a loser. After all, I might not be good enough to achieve any of them.
Chemaine told me something just recently that made me feel good about the path I am heading down (even if it doesn't help me achieve my goals). She said, "it's easy to look good on a naturally talented, well trained-horse, but it's a much harder thing to do on an average horse." I am paraphrasing of course, but what I think she meant was that just riding a fancy horse and being successful doesn't make you a good rider. On the other hand, a rider who makes an average horse look good has to be talented.
I need to give this idea of sharing my goals with my trainer some thought. But first, maybe I need to know more clearly what they are. Winning the lottery and buying one of Carl Hester's horses probably shouldn't be one of them.
A year or two ago, some bloggers turned me on to podcasts. I now listen to them almost exclusively during my half hour drive to work and on my drive to the barn in the afternoon. Some are just to amuse me (Tell Me Something I Don't Know), while others feed my curiosity about science or medicine or politics (Freakonomics). This week, I've been listening to S-Town produced by Serial and This American Life - both of which I also listen to.
All I can say is holy hell, if you're into podcasts, download it quick! They released all seven episodes at once, so you don't even have to wait to catch the next one.
I am not even going to give you a hint as to what it's about, but episode two literally felt like a sock to the gut and episode three had me sobbing all the way to work. I've got two episodes left, enough to get me through today and tomorrow's commutes. Listen to it. You won't be disappointed.
This is related to horses; I swear.
Another podcast that I listen to is the TED Radio Hour. That podcast is based on the TED talks. The topics range greatly, but they tend to focus on ideas that make the world a better place. In a recent episode, "Decisions, Decisions, Decisions," the TED speakers explored how we make decisions. During the episode, there was one particular speaker who was so intriguing that I replayed her segment at least three times.
She said, and I am paraphrasing, when we have a decision to make, there is often an obvious best of the two choices, so we make the decision without angst. Other times, neither decision seems better than the other. In this case, the choices are on a par. No matter how hard we try, we cannot predict which choice will lead to the best outcome.
The TED speaker explained that when this happens, it is because neither choice is better than the other. There are simply too many variables to determine which one will ultimately have been the best choice. In situations such as this, the speaker said the solution is to choose one to which you can actually commit. When we commit to a choice, our brain begins to build a case for that choice, ultimately proving it to be the "best" decision.
So what does this have to do with horses? A lot actually. Every single day, we are faced with decisions about our horses: feed, medical procedures, training practices, showing, supplements, farriers, and on and on. Rather than agonizing over which choice to make, I've been stopping and asking myself if this is one of those times when the choices are on a par. If yes, I look at the choices, and instruct myself to just pick. And once the choice is made, I stick with it and refuse to second guess myself.
You know what? It's working! I have been able to minimize a ton of stress by simply making the decision and moving forward. That speaker was right: the choices I am agonizing over don't really matter. In most of the cases, both scenarios will go how they're going to go, and neither will ultimately be better than the other. Just different.
I am okay with different.
I should, but I don't. I've had a busy school year. Selling and buying a house and then moving during the first quarter of the school year has really wreaked havoc on my life. Furnishing the house and getting things repaired and in working order prolonged the mayhem. There are days when I am just too tired to do anything.
I go to the barn every Saturday; It's what I do. This Saturday however, I realized it wasn't going to happen. I did my grocery shopping, mailed my Dad's birthday present, started some laundry, and then gave myself permission to go fishing. I caught a fish. And then I sat down.
The day was drizzly but there were moments of brilliant sunshine. Even so, I finally told myself that it was OKAY to skip a riding day. I ride at least 300 days a year. There is no crime in sitting on the bench and letting a prime riding day slip by.
I felt much more motivated by Sunday morning and had an excellent ride on each horse. Do you ever just sit one out, and do you feel guilty when you do?
My plan for Christmas break was to ride and ride and ride. I didn't. Instead, I did a lot of bass fishing (more on that in a day or two) and watched the rain. It's hard to complain about the weather when we're in the midst of a very long and entrenched drought.
I managed to ride Izzy once or twice each week. The good thing is that he's on a huge turnout 24 hours a day so when I did get to ride, I didn't have to worry too much about riding a rocket on a string.
We had a break in the rain on Friday, and while it wasn't blazing sunshine, the air was fairly dry without the gloomy dampness we've had. I tacked up slowly, part of my patience with a good attitude thing, and spent some time visiting both boys. I've discoverd that Izzy is a much happier fellow if I groom Speedy first. It seems to give him some time to look around and relax.
Even while it rained, I spent a few minutes each day bridling and unbridling. Izzy really lost confidence in the bridle over the fall, and the double sent him over the edge. While he's not back to perfect, he's getting better and better.
It took me a few minutes on Friday to persuade him to take the bit, but rather than get frustrated, I turned it into a game. He eventually lowered his head and opened his mouth. I counted that as a win.
When you're not worrying about getting to First Level, it's okay to spend the entire ride walking. That's been my attitude lately. If he's rushing, we walk. If he's willing to be soft, we trot. If he's happy to listen to my aids, we canter. On Friday, even after standing in mud for most of the week, he gave me a lovely, lovely ride.
He got sassy early on, but rather than get exasperated over his 10,000th time spooking. I Iaughed and saw the shenigans for what they were: unbridled exuberance (no pun intended). I kept to my posting rhythm and gave a firm half halt reminding him that it's all in the stretch down.
Over and over I half halted and asked for a stretch. At one point, I felt his back really let go and he offered a swinging, bouncy trot that brought a huge smile to my face. I shifted my weight slightly and brought my inside hip forward. Before he knew what was happening, he was canterig to the right without any attitude.
We did one large circle and came back to trot before he had time to think about it. We changed direction and did the same thing to the left. It was the best ride he's given me in weeks. I realized that simply riding the horse that I have today, instead of trying to improve on the horse I had yesterday, allowed us both to enjoy ourselves.
My next ride might be a disaster, but the good ones are coming more and more frequently. That's all I can ask for.