Sunday, Mar. 3, 2024

Deferred Maintenance

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In Lauren’s Magical Universe of Joy and Rainbows, when I sell a horse, I get to take all that money and go get a new horse or two. While I don’t do sales for a living, and I don’t buy horses with the goal of resale, sometimes the young horses I bring up the levels don’t get far enough up the levels, or don’t get me to my goal of big, hairy, international things, and that means they get to be schoolmasters for other people. And then I have a chunk of change in my hand.

And yes, I get to put some of that into whatever critter comes next. But unfortunately, adulting is a thing too. So at least some of those funds need to go to other things. Let me introduce you all to my annoying friend, Deferred Maintenance.

The day-to-day operation of my business is pretty straightforward. The income on board and training pays for hay, bedding and my employees’ salaries. The income on the lessons I teach allows me to take lessons of my own. And the income from clinics allows for the occasional new bridle or new show coat, as well as, you know, food and turning the lights on in my house. I work hard for what I have, and I’m happy to do it.

But lessons and board don’t get me a new piece of equipment, or a significant repair. Those expenses are put on a list—I mean it, it’s a note on my iPhone called the “Lotto List”—and I get to them when I get to them. The “when” is usually when there’s a commission or a sale. So the commission on one horse last spring was the down payment on the new tractor. A sale last year let me do a major footing redo. And when Puck found his new home last month, it let me pay off the loan on the stall mat redo that I really needed. 

Winter is the time to take stock of her deferred maintenance “Lotto List,” blogger Lauren Sprieser writes, and address the fences, barns and body parts that have been waiting patiently for attention. Photo Courtesy Of Lauren Sprieser

Puck was the last of the Three Amigos, three 2011 babies I developed at the same time, Grand Prix horses all in the end. The first was my mom’s darling palomino Lusitano, Helio, who found a new home in 2021. Elvis was the second—Guernsey Elvis, owned by the amazing Elvis Syndicate, who now is off to make a bid for the Canadian team with his new jockey, and whose sale opened the door to my pal Cadeau, age 7. 

Cadeau is among my string of young horses. After him it’s Maddie, age 6, and two brilliant babies my phenomenal assistant trainer Ali is riding because she is young and supple to my old and crunchy. Maddie is taking a hiatus because of a little hiccup in the field, so other than my clients’ horses, suddenly my dance card is quite open.

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I’m eager to add another to the string. But I need a minute; I’m wall-to-wall right now with the usual autumnal hustle of clinics that fill my time in the (much-appreciated) gap between the last of the horse shows and our departure to Florida. Plus, I need to take inventory of The Lotto List: there’s a dryer that needs fixing and some fencing that got kicked and some buildings that wouldn’t complain about a new coat of paint.

It’s not just the property that’s behind on its maintenance. In the rat race, the daily grind of lessons and clinics and mayhem, it’s easy to fall behind on my own care. The health of my back has been in decline for the past few years. I was able to nurse it along with NSAIDs and bodywork, but I’m just not 22 anymore. When I got married last year and finally got some decent health insurance, it became a lot easier to afford the care, but not so easy to find the time with multiple Grand Prix horses to campaign. Now that my most experienced horse is dabbling in third level, I could take a break to get some testing done, and strive to make myself become serviceably sound, if not as sound as my own horses.

And so I did. I got a diagnosis, a prescription for eight weeks of physical therapy that didn’t fix my problem but certainly didn’t hurt, and now a treatment plan. As much as I hate breaks, this is the moment to get it under control, rather than when I’ve got urgent goals or a show I can’t miss, on a trajectory that can’t be waylaid.

With no CDIs on my event horizon, I can teach more this winter and put some savings away. With no imminent goals I can take time to meet with my favorite life coach, Jen Verharen, and make sure my brain is screwed on straight. With no national championships that are must-attends, I can take the occasional actual vacation with my spouse, and make some memories so he remembers why he likes me when I’m wrapped up in qualifiers and training camps and he hasn’t seen me in weeks.

This isn’t the crazy time. It’s hard to slow down; it’s hard to silence that voice that’s so used to the breakneck pace that she doesn’t know what to do with herself. That voice doesn’t always believe the vacation and the knee injection and the yoga are actually important, but they are. Doing the maintenance when there’s time to do the maintenance, taking the break when there’s time to take the break; it means that, when it’s my Rockstar Time, I can worry less about the tractor, and put my focus where it needs to be.


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 The Elvis Syndicate’s C. Cadeau, 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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