I came to Florida with one Grand Prix horse not quite meeting expectations, one Intermediaire I-and-a-half horse because we couldn't put more than a handful of one-tempis together to save our collective lives, and a 6-year-old with more doofus than skill. I came down burnt out, overweight and in dire need of a plot twist.
We're returning home very different, all four of us.
But of course, none of my three horses are the same now, a few days shy of leaving, as they were a week ago. Ella has put a hole in her leg that is so giant and disgusting and oozy it even made my vet go, "Gross." I have no idea how she did it, either. Awesome.
Fender didn't care for his spring flu/rhino vaccine and blew all four legs up to the size of tree trunks.
And Midge, to top it all off, raked the heck out of one of his hind legs and has a silver-dollar sized patch of angry skin, angry enough to keep us out of the show we were supposed to attend this weekend. Outstanding.
So perhaps the season didn't end quite on the bang I'd hoped for. Everyone is sound and working; Fender's back to normal, and Ella and Midge are both being exceptionally good patients and staying in work while they heal. (I have spent a fortune this winter in vetwrap and nonstick bandages, let me tell you!) I'm getting my last few lessons in. And everyone will be fine. So as frustrating as it is, it really could be much, much worse.
But it is a little frustrating, especially Midge. We were going to kick this show's butt and return home triumphant. So I need to keep reminding myself of the sum total of this winter's trip.
I've lost: my fears about whether Midge would make it as a Big Time Horse. Some of the fear and anxiety that'd been holding me back. Ten pounds.
I've gained: a new appreciation of how amazing Ella is. Three blue ribbons, two red in stiff competition. Five scores above 66 percent. Fans in the form of every judge Midge has ridden for.
I've made: two gifted young Grand Prix horses who I know to be top class because other people, not even people paid for their opinions, say so. A wonderful young horse who just keeps getting better and better, and who makes jaws drop wherever he goes. New friends, particularly in the form of Jess, who I'll be living with next season. A detailed plan to carry me through the year, and more than a few Plan Bs in case of trouble.
I've found: my motivation, my inspiration, to keep my spirits up when the days are long and hot and the work is daunting. The fire in my belly again.
Like The Black Knight of Monty Python fame said, "It's just a flesh wound!" No little skin scruff can keep my guys down… or at least, not for very long. Maybe my Florida season went out on a whimper, but it came in with a roar, and that's the magic I'm bringing back with me.