This hasn't been the year I'd planned.
Midge got hurt just as we were really figuring things out in the Grand Prix ring, and he's making his way back to recovery, but it's been tedious. Ella is going the best she's ever gone in her life, but the reality is that I can't justify keeping her with not a penny left for the next horses in my pipeline, so she's with Michael in New Jersey to be sold. Fender feels fantastic and is making great strides, and Johnny, my newest addition, is growing, physically and mentally, by leaps and bounds, but neither was really my priority for the year - they're on the development track.
Development. It's a word that comes from the Old French word desveloper, meaning to unwrap. The process of bringing the horse up from green to Grand Prix does feel like unwrapping some great gift, peeling off the wrappings layer by layer until you see the prize beneath. But it also feels like unravelling, undoing, unmaking.
I try not to get caught up in these feelings, the day-to-day wonder if it's ever going to work out. I instead decided to throw out the plans for this year, scrap them entirely, and start anew, focusing instead on the things I could control - my clients (as much as they are ever really controllable, the wild hoodlums), my life, my business.
I'm guessing I have about 30 students, some more regular than others. There's a diehard group of 11 or 12 that go to dressage shows with us, and they range from beginners in their first year of showing to experienced hands. They've always been the thing to get me through, and with several of them really blasting off in their relationships with their horses, it's been a thrilling ride. As of this count we have 7 riders qualified for the Regional Championships on 8 horses, from First Level to Prix St. Georges, with a handful that need one more score (from lack of showing this year, not from a lack of quality - they'll get qualified). They include everything from schoolmasters to homebreds, six-figure professors to four-figure projects. I'm hugely, hugely proud of all of them, and a lot of them stand a real chance at qualifying for our first USDF National Finals. Exciting stuff!
And because they're doing good, they're making me look good, and business has just boomed. A year ago we started talking about expanding in some way, building a second barn, adding stalls to the current barn. We hemmed and hawed and, finally, decided to take the plunge this fall. Of course, after all the dallying around you'd think we'd be patient to start, right?
We made the decision to expand our current operations on the 22nd, and then decided that, rather than stick around and basically be in the way of construction operations, we'd close up shop and move the horses under my care - all 13 of them, by the way - somewhere else for the duration.
Where can you move 13 horses in a functional way? I met every real estate agent in Fauquier County by now, toured a bunch of properties, was starting to despair, and then was given a great gift by my best friend, Sara: "Hey, what about Morningside?"
Morningside Training Farm is a STUNNING operation right around the mountain in The Plains, VA, maybe a 20 minute trip in a car from us. It's the home to the eventing business of my friend Skyeler Voss, and they boast several gorgeous outdoor dressage arenas and an indoor arena and turnouts and… how many open stalls? 13 on the nose. A little angel rested on my shoulder for that realization!
So we're frantically packing, all the while Allison and Molly head off to a one-day show in Lexington, VA this afternoon, I have a client vetting a horse from another client this morning, it's 90* and raining. Bring it on, baby.
But I'm at my best under fire. Coggins are photocopied and ready for delivery; phone number lists have been compiled. Insurance has been informed. Clients have been informed. The social media machine has been working, and I hear our "little" construction project is the talk of the town.
It may feel like unravelling, but that's how development goes. In order to make an omelet, I tell my students all the time, you've gotta crack some eggs. In the end, we're unwrapping my lovely little barn to bring it into a serious international-caliber dressage facility. This omelet looks tasty. Let's get cracking!