Friday, May. 24, 2024

Crunchier But Wiser

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Every year in early January, I sit down with a pen and paper, and I write down my goals for the year. They run the gamut—things that are relatively easy to achieve, things that aren’t, things that are really more like dreams than goals, things I don’t actually have much control over but dream of anyway—but it’s nice to see it all on paper, and not to be woo-woo, but it’s also nice to sort of manifest it out to the universe.

Yeah. No one was listening out there in the universe this past January. Because pretty much every plan I made for this season went to hell.

The horse I thought I’d be doing big, hairy things with got sold. The horse I brought to sell suffered the worst bandage bow I think I’ve ever seen, requiring three weeks off entirely and a few more weeks to rebuild back to fitness. One young horse needed some down time. My goal of having two lessons a week lasted about eight weeks, and then I got almost no lessons at all.

In a winter season full of mayhem, one bit of good news is that Gretzky—barn name “Puck”—who blogger Lauren Sprieser co-owns with Mary Ewing, is now a proper Grand Prix horse, and is ready for his next person. Joanna Jodko Photo.

My goal of having all the staff I needed? A working student left early in the season, and a barn manager I hired left after four hours on the job. My goal of getting back to fitness and working out more often? I tweaked my back in February, got the worst flu of my life two weeks later and was just getting back to feeling OK when I got COVID again. That killed my goal of getting on a regular bodywork schedule as well.

So … that was weird.

I wasn’t the only one having a strange season. Four clients got devastating health diagnoses on their horses this year—all but one of the horses we didn’t help them find, but still. Then there were several failed pre-purchase exams on horses we tried to help clients buy. Weird and terrible human health things. Weird and terrible hiring things. It was just… weird. 

I watch the gray starting to creep in at my temples; I feel the effects of skipping my morning stretches two days in a row, and I’ve started the annual appointments at the dermatologist for stand-naked-while-she-looks-for-cancer checks. These are among the things that I do not love about the aging process. 

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But there are things I appreciate about getting older, too: the ability to roll with the punches better. Having a better capacity to flow with the seasons, to embrace the inevitable ups and downs. The lows have certainly been low, but they didn’t knock me down as much as moments like this would have a decade ago. And I think I’m a better partner, friend, coach and boss for it.

It’s been a sprint since we came home from Florida. (Exhibit A: I started writing this blog when we returned a month ago, and here I am finally turning it in.) We’re nursing the unexpected horse injuries back to health. The humans’ health issues are doing what they’re doing, but many are on an upswing too. I hired a new barn manager; the new working student starts next week. My tremendous clients trusted me with their horses so my current team could get some show mileage; we’re just back from a local show where working student Claire and assistant trainer Ali had great rides on Patricia Vos’ Corino VDL and Jodie Harney’s Sullivan, respectively, and I showed Puck, who I own with Mary Ewing, through a solid Grand Prix, proving he’s a proper show horse and ready for his next human. The young horses are working well, and my new partner, Cadeau, has settled in wonderfully. 

Things are trending up, and we’ll enjoy this wave until it crests, and then something else will happen, and we’ll deal with it until we’re back on the rise. While my back may feel crunchy when I wake up, and while I may have just had to add a retinol product to my night cream, at least I appear to be getting wiser as well as older!


Lauren Sprieser is a USDF gold, silver and bronze medalist with distinction making horses and riders to FEI from her farm in Marshall, Virginia. She’s currently developing her and Mary Ewing’s Gretzky RV, as well as her own string of young horses with hopes of one day representing the United States in team competition. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

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