There are days that I often question my sanity. I recently discussed with Sean about getting another horse.
He’s all for it, but he did bring up a valid point…. When was he going to ever see me? He then proceeded to remind me of how I’m always on the go and never really get a break. The last few weeks, I was reminded of something I never really get—days off! Don’t worry, I’m not getting another horse anytime soon!
After the Bernie Traurig clinic, I gave Finn about a week off for the trip and my work schedule. We picked right back up and started to work on our “homework.” We enjoyed several days hacking out in the fields with hand gallops, collection, transitions and of course lead changes! The weather was great, it even reached the high 70s in Virginia! Not too shabby for February I thought. Then March wasn’t so kind.
I decided to head to the Hollins Spring Welcome, a show I enjoyed on Ollie years ago when it was the Virginia Intermont Classic. I packed our bags, including the kids and the dog, and we went down Saturday morning. I budgeted well and planned it out to do only the Outreach classes, which reduced our stall rate substantially and we got a room at the HoJo down the road. We arrived at the Virginia Horse Center about mid-day and all the kids helped unload. It was a nice change to be able to bring everyone along! We let Finn settle while we went for lunch at the local Dairy Queen. The kids were in heaven having ice cream first!
We headed back to the show, Finn was settled in and enjoying the sights. Sean took the kids and the dog to the hotel to check in. I tacked up and headed to the ring to hack. Finn was wild!
In his defense, he’d never seen horses in the upper ring lunging before, let alone at a higher elevation. He took about five or 10 minutes to settle down and was like an old pro after that. We waited for the ring to finish for the day and headed in to school some fences. He was perfect!
We finished up the night with a buffet sponsored by Hollins University. Everyone was excited about the snacks and my husband was even more excited about the free craft IPAs. Sean and the kids headed back to the hotel while I headed back to do night check and braid.
It took a good 1 ½ hours to braid Finn, but I wasn’t rushing and I may or may not have had a dance party while rocking out to some 80s music…
In addition to forgetting a sleeping bag for Logan, I didn’t have enough “chestnut” yarn. Of course, I don’t use the real name, it’s all horse colors to me, so my poor husband had a hard time locating “chestnut” at Walmart. Sean came to my rescue after finding something close to the color I needed, and brought my dog Mikey to keep me company as well. Mikey was able to run around the barn like a crazy dog, not bad for an 11-year-old mutt!
With more yarn, I struggled to figure out braiding Finn’s forelock. I’m pretty sure Finn could rival me with the amount of hair he’s got! I finished up and prayed Finn wouldn’t mess his braids up. A much-needed shower and bed finished the day while the kids pigged out on snacks and watching TV.
Bright and early, I headed to feed and clean his stall. Success! Only one braid was messed up!
I headed to the ring for a quick 10-minute hack in the ring. He was perfect and very much a ham for everyone while showing off his braids and fake tail. We had a very long day ahead of us. Our ring was the lowest priority, so I took advantage of packing up stuff that wasn’t needed in the trailer and fixing the messed up braid.
Finally it was time. We headed to the warm-up; Sean grabbed a vertical and waited until we were ready. We only took three warm-up fences and we were ready! Old me required about 15 to 20 warm-up fences, a pep talk and probably could have used a shot or two of hard liquor!
It’s amazing how times have changed—it’s a sigh of relief to not have the pressure or nerves. Age is a wonderful thing! I often feel like a fine bourbon… better with age!
We went right in for an equitation round and nailed all our changes. Our first hunter round was brilliant; in the second hunter round we missed a change, but that was rider error. My saddle had slipped back and I was too behind to get a good change. We used it as a training experience and held the counter-canter and nailed the distances down the line. We finished up with the hack and received thirds across the board. The kids were cheering from the sidelines with Sean videotaping.
Now for the fun part! There was a $250 Outreach Derby announced after I had entered. I had splurged the week before and found a shadbelly on major discount and decided to bring it along. Of course I was the only one dressed up, but I didn’t care! It’s all about having fun and getting the practice in.
It took some help from my friend Lisa, but we got the stock tie tied and Sean watched so he can tie it next time. I took a quick half circle to see if Finn cared about the tails on the shadbelly—he wasn’t fazad. I walked to the ring and started my course. We had a blast as we picked up the canter and started the course. I am almost certain that Finn was just as excited as I was!
We laid down an awesome trip to finish out the weekend. We even earned enough money to pay for his stall and my breakfast that morning….not too shabby!
Natalee, our oldest, was coming down with a cold and was napping back at the car when I showed. She was so upset she missed it, but was exhausted from being a big help earlier in the day. We loaded up and headed home, but not after a quick dinner on the way. Everyone was exhausted, but happy that we all got to get away for the weekend. I am very fortunate to have them all as a support system!
The rest of March didn’t go as planned. Finn threw a front shoe. No big deal.
I fell off a step on my deck that broke earlier on that Friday morning. Natalee and I heard a loud snap followed by my loud screams. My ankle instantly swelled up and I was unable to bear weight. I have a plate and six screws in my right leg at the ankle from a previous accident, not horse related, so I was worried.
Natalee recently became a member at Gainesboro Volunteer Fire Rescue, a place Sean and I also volunteer our time when we’re not busy working. I have a knack for being one of the members most transported. So here they came, lights and sirens to our house to pick me up! I luckily was able to escape with just a sprain.
Fast forward to our little March snow storm and Finn followed up with throwing another shoe. YAY for Houdini aka Finn! Our farrier is also a career firefighter, so trying to match our schedules is sometimes hard.
Sean went out for two days straight looking for his lost shoe. I was at work one of the days and I kept receiving Snapchats of Finn following him around, galloping and taking selfies. The next day, Sean located the shoe and I was able to capture the best picture ever! I’m pretty certain we will be getting this one framed.
Between all my riding and the horse show, work has been crazy busy between my full-time and my part-time job. I also decided in late February to not pursue working off dressage lessons anymore. Honestly due to time constraints, needing to focus on my physical fitness and the added stress to Finn, it just didn’t make sense to drive 2 ½ hours round trip. Staying fit is a huge factor in not only my well being as a career firefighter, but as a rider. It helps in all aspects!
In my job, we see lots of tragedies and losses. It’s not an easy thing, but when good things happen, you remember them. I tend to go though phases at work that we call, “the black cloud.” So between one of those phases, I was able to rescue and revive a family’s small dog from a house fire one morning. It was my first “save” from a fire as we call it.
The dog was rushed to a nearby vet and was given a promising outcome. I saw the family later that day and was given a hug and huge thanks for my efforts in saving him. Nothing beats that! Unfortunately, no one was able to catch us all in action that day, but it’s one that I will never forget.
I also have some hilarious news to share in my next blog—more or less about the “true life of an adult amateur” and how life gives you some humbling reminders! I also had an impromptu trip to a Bruno Greber clinic down at Winter Hill Farm in Farmville, Va., and a local show….both full of adventures!
Elizabeth Grubbs fits riding her off-the-track Thoroughbred hunter, Finn, around her full-time job as a firefighter/paramedic and two part-time jobs. She also juggles that with her life as a wife and stepmother to three girls. You can read more about her in the Amateurs Like Us profile “Elizabeth Grubbs’ Bumpy Road Led To The Right Place.“