In nine weeks, I’ve taken students to six horse shows, held two open houses, taught a clinic, hosted two clinics, and run a ten mile road race. I’ve got five horse/rider combinations trying for the Festival of Champions and/or the NAJYRC, and another group trying for the Young and Developing Horse Championships, in addition to our typical cadre of folks after the USDF Regional Championships, their USDF rider medals, and some who are just showing for fun.
I love this, even on the darkest days. It’s exhausting, for sure. I’m wildly grateful for breaks like the one I’m in now, with two consecutive weekends of absolutely nothing but routine teaching and riding. But the busyness, and the roller coasters of emotions that you can’t help getting caught up in with this many students and horses with big, tough goals—when all that dies down, it’s almost uncomfortably quiet. It’s a shock.
It lets me dwell.
This week, I’m dwelling on bad news. Fender came out of his stall off one day, and we discovered an injury that will take us out for the rest of the year. It’s something that could only have been caused by trauma—maybe he kicked a wall, or whacked it on a fence post. I’m inclined to think that it happened standing on the trailer at a nearly dead-stop for three hours in traffic en route to a show last weekend, but we’ll never know.
We spend all this time trying to make their lives safe, sweating the tiniest decision—when to call the vet, when to back down in the training, when to push on; what to feed, how to shoe, what tack to wear; what footing, what shows, how much turnout, if any at all. At the end of the day, I read something funny online somewhere: horses are livestock trying to become deadstock. If they can find a way to hurt themselves, they will.
I often chuckle when I look out at horses in fields with farm equipment, or in barbed wire paddocks, or horses whose conformation and care leave much to be desired. These horses never seem to have injuries!
I indulged in a few hours of self pity, some conspicuous consumption of chocolate in pajamas on my couch. And now, I throw myself back into work.
We have one more push for my NAJYRC-bound girls, and then I take three girls on four horses to the Festival of Champions. I’m also taking Fiero, Bev Thomas’s wonderful Oldenburg gelding, up with me to school at Michael’s for the week.
Then it’s getting my teams ready for the Youth Team Championships, a brilliant unrecognized team competition for kids. I coach the Commonwealth Dressage & CT Association’s teams every year, and we’ve had a pretty stellar track record this far; I’m excited to see what this year brings.
Fiero moves up to third level in July, and depending on my finances, Johnny may make a bid at qualifying for the regional championships at first level, not because I terribly give a hoot about how he scores at first level, but because he’s fun to show and ride, and it’s a goal to strive for.
Then it’s NAJYRC, a few more recognized shows for my adult amateur students, the regional finals in October. I’m booking lessons, taking new horses in training and booking clinics throughout the United States (ahem, email me to set something up).
And I’m getting to actually train for my triathlons. Fender and I actually hurt ourselves the same weekend—I sprained my ankle walking through the barn in Lexington, like a dork—but I’m biking and swimming up a storm, and hoping I’ll be back on my running legs in a week.
And while I have lapses of sadness and frustration, I’m finding perspective. Today is Memorial Day in the United States, a holiday to honor those who have served, protecting and preserving that which we hold dear. Of all days to feel a bit foolish for mourning the loss of a horse show season, this is it.
I am hoping that my persistent rotten luck (quote from a fellow trainer and friend of mine this week who’s also had her share of bad fortune: “This is ridiculous. Even I’m starting to feel sorry for you.”) is a pre-emptive karmic balancing act; that the consistent stream of annoying and unpredictable setbacks at this point in my career is preparing me for a long stretch of good.
But bring it on, no matter what. Success is going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm. If I’m going to crash into walls, I’m doing it at speed. I’m going to keep doing what I do the best way I know how, and I’ll make my own luck.
And until then, I have lots and lots to keep me busy. (That means you, two-legged and four-legged customers. Get your game faces on!)