Oct 11, 2010 - 11:52 AM
This was before we ran. We were a lot sweatier afterwards, but still smiling! Photo by Judy Sprieser.

“A little change’ll do you good,” Sheryl Crow says. I agree. With all the usual madness around my place, I haven’t had a moment to sit back and reflect, but since I’m looking at a full calendar week where I get to spend every night in my own bed, without any real chaos—something that hasn’t happened since mid-September, I think?—I’m taking the luxury of a few minutes to be contemplative.

Cleo moved to a retirement home this past week. She may not be there terribly long—my business is bursting at the seams, and I need more stalls, so we’re plotting the construction of a little three-stall shed row barn, with run-in options, which would allow her to come home and be joined by a client horse who is still in training, but would greatly benefit from a more rugged lifestyle. (And while he’s still looking sound and just stunning at 18, Billy cannot, contrary to his own belief, live forever; at some point he’ll come back to me, and he can be Cleo’s pet too.)

But until then I desperately needed the stall, and one of my “neighbors” (in Virginia we use that term loosely—Kathy lives about 20 minutes away) has a small boarding outfit where she takes in, among other things, retired show horses. I must confess I was terribly worried—Cleo is unquestionably The Alpha Mare, and my guess is that she hasn’t been out with another horse since she was a foal, but Kathy reassured me that her fabulous retired polo mare had showed others the ropes before, and was quite the pro. There was some initial squealing and carrying on, but Cleo figured it out pretty fast, and soon enough the two of them were out taking a trot around their big, beautiful paddock together. Too cute for words.

I’ve had months and months to process her injury, and her prognosis, and it’s getting easier. But she’ll always be One Who Got Away. No fun, no fun at all.

One who hasn’t gotten away yet, in spite of her best efforts to bolt across the arena, is Ella. We’ve had a few weeks of Come To Jesus. The workload is getting heavier, and while “no” is not a word in Ella’s vocabulary, she’s intensely insecure. When she’s struggling with something, she’s quick to panic. Not so easy to inspire sometimes! I have to be her taskmaster and her cheerleader simultaneously, and since I’m a Big Bitchy Alpha Mare myself by nature, that’s not always so easy for me.

But I think she’s right on the brink of a Big Life Transition too. I rode with Conrad Schumacher last week, and even though the issue I’m dealing with—she’s sneaky about throughness, and because she’s SO pretty and SUCH a good mover, she can look pretty terrific without really feeling good at all from the saddle—was still present, she made absolutely everything from the Grand Prix, including some awfully good piaffe and passage, without being totally 100 percent prepared.

This is a big deal, because while in the perfect world I’ll have her ready for every transition, every test, ever, out in the trenches this doesn’t always happen. I need to have her able to produce work for a 6 or 7 even if the preparation for the work should earn me a 4 or 5. And she did, for the first time. And when I came home and (after a day off, of course) said, “C’mon, baby, now do it through,” she could.

I think the timing sucks—our last show of the year is next week, and we’re too far in it for me to ride her the “old way” with success, but not quite comfortable enough in the “new way” to produce the kind of work I want. So we’ll see. If she goes, she goes, but she’s not going if she’s going to get a 62 percent, because we’re three weeks away from a 70 percent.

Midge went to the clinic, too, and it should go without saying that after telling Mr. Schumacher I thought he was the four-legged love of my life, he went on to be a total doodiehead on the first day, doing his best squirrel impression. By Day 2 he removed his head from his butt (or from my nostrils, really) and made perfectly lovely, civilized work. I do not think Mr. Schumacher was convinced of his brilliance. Don’t worry, we’ll show ‘em next time.

And it’s a big transition for little Farrah too. She has spent the last few days being slowly separated from mom, and she’ll be moving today to the beautiful Canaan Ranch in Middleburg, where she will grow up with other babies and learn how to be a Big Time Horse. I’m sure the experience will be totally-stress free for all involved. Right.

I find that I’m ready for a transition, too. I ran my first 5K yesterday, with my best friend and Chronicle editor extraordinaire, Sara, as well as my favorite vet, Lynne. Clearly land-speed records were not broken, but I did run the whole time, and I finished in a not-totally-embarrassing 31:09. I also got my black tip on my white belt in karate last week (which means that, should you already be incapacitated by tazer, or anaphylaxis, or something, I could totally whoop you).

I’m starting to see myself as an athlete, and as a person, not just a horsey girl. I’m sure it seems silly to the outside world, but as a kid and up until very recently, when I dreamed of my future I saw nothing other than horses. That’s starting to change. Horses still obviously play a starring role, but life outside the barn does have its appeal. I’m even taking a vacation in November, one during which I will do my very best to not even see a horse.

…Although I’m sure there are some spectacular barns in the Napa Valley. A coincidence, I’m sure.
Sprieser Sporthorse


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