Amateurs Like Us: Bring On 2017!

Jan 4, 2017 - 10:40 AM

At the beginning of 2016 I had a whole plan worked out for how to get Steve and myself through the year productively and moving toward our goals. To sum up the outcome of all of this planning I will simply say this: 2016 sucked.

It started out pretty good. My plan centered around a few goals. One was to do the high adult amateur jumpers until we got bored with it, and then move up to the low amateur- owners.


Steve and I were making real progress. Photo courtesy of Susan Glover

I wanted to get better about being straight to the fences, getting Steve more balanced, and not being a tourist in the ring. In other words, I needed to actually embrace the whole jumper thing, not lope around like we were on vacation (Steve’s preferred mode), looking pretty, and getting ribbons only because my horse is allergic to wood. At some shows I have been 10 to 15 seconds slower than the winner of the jump off. This was somewhat embarrassing, so I decided to fix it.

Another goal was to qualify for some year-end stuff—the North American League does high adult amateur championships and there are always the zone finals. Last year I qualified for a couple of things but my work schedule conflicted so I had to stay home. I was determined to get to at least one final in 2016.

I was going to do it up—get Steve all braided, not spill anything on my white breeches, have friends come cheer me on/get me drunk afterwards—I had a whole scenario worked out.

And that was really it—nail down the high adults, get bored with that level, move up to the low AOs after we (hopefully!) qualified for finals, and then go out with a fun end of the year show or two to celebrate how far Steve and I had come together. Sounds nice, eh?

As I said, it began well. I showed a little bit in the spring in Aiken when I went down there for Adult Pony Camp 2016, realized I needed to step up my game (we were SLOOOOW), and did three more shows in the next couple of months.

I got good ribbons, paid a large chunk of my show fees with our winnings, and finally, FINALLY took the inside turn in a jump-off—in the classic, no less. My friend Jaime was videoing me and you can hear her squeal when Steve and I zipped around the in-and-out and nailed the next fence. She had walked my course with me and I’d planned to do the inside turn, but we both knew I might weeny out at the last second so this was a big moment.

All was going well. Really, really well. [Cue Jaws music].

Late in June I was schooling at home for another show that coming weekend. It was hot, Steve and I were being sort of casual, and as we turned to a big plank—it was either 1.15-meter or 1.20-meter—he decided he needed to poop. So our already too slow pace got even slower and he had to kind of torque his front end as he jumped way up in the air to avoid touching the fence—because Steve doesn’t touch fences!

This popped me up onto his shoulder and off to the side of the saddle, and as we landed I thought: I should just bail. I’m not going to be able to boost myself back up—I’ll just bail off to the side here. No big deal.

Now, I’ve been riding since I was a child. I’ve fallen countless times. I know how to fall—you sort of aim away from the horse, tuck everything up, and there you go. For whatever reason this time I stuck my arm out, landed on it, and dislocated my elbow so my arm was facing out to the side and backwards at a 90-degree angle. In a word: gross.

I immediately knew what had happened (it is kind of hard to not notice one’s arm facing backwards), so in the half a second I had before the pain started I yanked the thing back toward me so it was facing the right way, hoping it would magically go back in place. No such luck. Let’s just say that I do not recommend dislocating anything to anyone, ever.

OK, great. I was out of the saddle for about six weeks, Steve got forced into dressage boot camp with Morgan, she took a couple of Packy lessons on him, and I moped around feeling sorry for myself and my 2016 dreams of year-end finals and moving up a level, which were pretty much up in flames.

But, time heals all wounds, or mostly—my stupid elbow still hurts—and I got back on and began aiming us toward at least being able to move up. I mean, why not? I wasn’t out for that long, 1.10-meter was looking pretty easy peasy to us before I fell, and nothing had really changed with that, so why not move up to 1.20-meter?

I had some trouble getting back to the show ring in terms of scheduling, and wanting my arm to not swell up when I did too much with it. But, I started schooling Stevie at home and taking lessons again, and I figured when I got back to the ring we could do some 1.10-meter, some 1.15, and then try the 1.20 and see how that suited us.


Herbie and I on the left at the Carrollton Hounds Hunter Pace with friend Amy Boccia on her horse Uno. Photo by Vispera Productions

And then my truck broke. Worse, though, when it was up on the lift my poor truck revealed that it had a heart of rust. We knew there were some rust problems but this was of an extent that my mechanic called me up and said we were going to have to have “The Talk.” *whimper*

If you have read any of my other blogs you know I’m a DIY-er, and I board with a bunch of eventers. My trainer is an eventer. The hunter/jumper people I sometimes train with at shows live nearly two hours from my barn. A dead truck means I am not going to horse shows without some serious arranging and extra expense.

So, what does a DIY jumper rider do when faced with a year where she only got to show four times and then her truck decides to become kaput?

She bids good riddance to that year, keeps working with her fabulous little red horse, and figures out how to beg, borrow, or steal rides to shows.

I know how incredibly lucky I am—I know it every single day I get to go out to the barn where I board my horses and see their beautiful faces. I know it every time I hop on my best friend Herbie and take him for a bareback hack around the neighborhood. I know it each moment I spend with my funny Steven, laughing at his antics or being amazed at his talent after a particularly large jump that he took like it was a pole on the ground.


Going for a bareback ramble on Herbie. Photo courtesy of Susan Glover

I am really, really lucky I get to ride. I am so fortunate in both of my boys, and how much joy they bring to my life.

Yeah, my year stunk in a few ways, both large and small. We lost a friend: my former trainer Mehdi Kazemi, who was one of the best, sweetest, most amazing people I have ever known. I feel his loss every day and I ache for his family (love you so much, Tommy). My husband and I had to say goodbye to three of our beloved pets. It was a hard, heartbreaking year for so many people, for so many reasons.

So, I hurt myself. So, I couldn’t compete very much. So, my truck has gone off to the Great Beyond. But on the first day of this new year, I got to jump Steve, snuggle with Herbie, and laugh over margaritas with my barn friends. 2017 can bring it on. I will do my best to do my best, help my friends, keep training myself and my horse, and we will see how it all comes together, for better or for worse.

Happy New Year everyone, from Susan, Steve, and Herbie!

Susan Glover is an assistant professor in the Department of Government at American University (D.C.), specializing in comparative politics. She shows her Argentinian Warmblood The Red Spy in the adult amateur jumper division in the Mid-Atlantic area. Read all her COTH blogs

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