Friday, December 25, 2015

The 12 Days Of Christmas, Farm Style

I usually do a ridiculous picture of my horses in Christmas costumes this time of year, but it's 70 degrees and storming here in NJ and I'm terrified of lightning. So, you get a terrible rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas instead!

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

12 Poops to pick
11 Bags of feed
10 Bales of hay
9 Different boo-boos
8 Muddy boots
7 Ducks a swimmin'
6 Hens not layin'
5 Stalls to clean!
4 Wheel drive
3 Broken pitchforks
2 Stalled tractors
And a dead rodent on the door step!!

Merry Christmas!!!!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Ride Journal Week 2: Accepting My New Normal

This week's ride summary is super easy: I didn't.

I had a bit of a cold, and I was tired. Every day I said to myself, "I'll just let myself rest today... Tomorrow I'll feel better." Then tomorrow would come around and I didn't feel better, because being tired and getting colds is part of the side effects of my new immune suppressant drugs. 

It's time to accept that tired and sniffly are my "normal". "Better" isn't going to come with rest and time off, this is probably as good as it gets. "Better" is something I will have to make for myself, by getting up off the couch and continuing on with my life no matter how tired and sniffly I am. 

So, I'll go do that now. I mean, it's 70 degrees in NJ in December, you can't really get a more clear signal from the universe to get your ass outside.

Plus, this tiny potato has got my back.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Imposter Syndrome

In my couch-bound web surfing last week, I found out that Imposter Syndrome is a thing. It's defined as, "Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved".  

That pretty much sums up my life, and I was dumbstruck that there is a word for this and it's a thing that other people feel. 

If you were to ask me how I have achieved all the things I have, I would, honestly, tell you that I was very lucky. If you were to ask me how I keep going in the face of my disease and its limitations, I'd tell you, honestly, that I'm just too stupid to quit. If you were to ask me why my horses are so well-behaved and good at what I ask them to do, I'd tell you, honestly, that I just have good horses. 

I've done a lot in my 35 years, but I'm always afraid that people will see what a fraud I really am. It was luck, being in the right place at the right time, and just being too damned stupid to see that I was in over my head that got me this far. And someday, someone is going to figure that out, right?

But people still call me up to see if I'll come take care of their horses, and people still ask me for advice about their horses, and they still want me to organize their shows and clinics. I guess they didn't get the memo that I'm a big fraud.

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine, a Grand Prix rider, who was just given the go-ahead to show a GP horse that they trained, but haven't shown yet. My friend laughed, and said that they'd go into the ring just like I do. My friend meant that they were heading into the ring without having a damn clue what was going to happen, but they were going to roll with it and have fun.  And that's when I realized that people who have trained Grand Prix horses feel the same way I do, like they don't know what the hell they're doing and they're just going to roll with it.

So, maybe I'm not an imposter. I've put on plenty of shows and clinics that people really enjoyed. I've been everything from a groom, to a barn manager, to an assistant trainer. I've been riding and caring for horses my whole life in many different disciplines and styles. I turned a Thoroughbred, that Arthur Kottas himself called "very difficult", from a soured jumper into a horse that my kids can ride, a horse that can go on Hunter Paces and Trail Rides as a "babysitter" for young horses, and can occasionally put in a semi-decent 3rd Level Test. 

Oh, wait... Nope. Probably still an imposter based on this picture.

I don't think I'll ever silence the little voice in my head that tells me that I'm a big fraud and someday everyone will figure that out. What I do instead is to tell that little voice to shut the fuck up, because I'm going to do whatever the fuck I want, anyway. 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Accountability, Or Something: Ride Journal Week 1

"Saturday: Hunter Pace: Did the "fun division". Forgot to turn on map app, but it was about 3 miles at walk, then an hour or so of putzing around the winery. 

The winery had a ride up wine bar, hence the hour or so spent putzing around the grounds. There was a food truck, too, but the food truck owner got a little nervous when I rode up to them and Spider started trying to eat things. 

Sunday: recovering from cold from hell, hunter pace and general slug-like state. No riding, but I did exercise!"

So, Austen over at Guinea For A Guinness had a great idea to start posting a weekly ride journal. I decided to shamelessly steal that idea, and the above is as far as I got. On Monday my IBD decided to rear it's ugly head again, and I spent Monday through Wednesday on my couch. I got nothing done, other than writing a hilarious post about drama. (I tend to spend a lot of time on social media when I'm couch-bound.)

On Thursday I started to perk up, and I got a text from my trainer asking if I wanted a lesson Friday (that would be yesterday).

Now, the thing about my trainer is that he isn't local and he's kind of a BNT, so I dont just tell him when I want a lesson, he tells me when he's down here and either I jump on the wagon or I wait for him to come around again. Unless I'm actively dying, I jump on the wagon. 

I did warn him that the only things I'd done since my last lesson (several weeks ago) were hunter paces, trail rides and a jumping clinic, and that I'd been pretty sick, so he shouldn't expect much. 

I also texted him this picture of us from the Hunter Pace, to illustrate exactly what I meant by "don't expect much".

So, I had my dressage lesson yesterday. Even after weeks of screwing around and half-assing it, Spider remembered his dressage training and we did a good job. My trainer said my riding looked great, despite me feeling like a ridiculously out of shape blob of suck, and he said Spider looked very nice and relaxed after his little "vacation" from dressage. 

We're not as put together as before, it will take a little bit of discipline to get back to consistently producing 3rd Level work again, but we didn't slide as far back as I thought we had.  I also need to start exercising regularly, because I'm really out of shape. Dressage takes a lot more core strength than trail rides. 

Moral: Even if you feel like a big bag of suck, get out there and do it. Even if all you can do is something completely out of your discipline and you can only muster the energy to do it once a week, it's better than nothing. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Beginning Again

I've ridden for as long as I can remember. I don't recall learning to ride, it's just something that I've always done. I've started babies, finished greenies, retrained horses from just about every discipline and sent them into just about every other discipline.

Now I'm faced with a new dilemma: How to start myself over. I've been sick as hell for the last few years, and my riding skills have slipped. I'm not as fit as I once was, my reflexes and reaction times are terrible, the ingrained muscle memory from years spent in the saddle is slipping away, and I don't know where to begin in getting it back.

So, I guess I'll begin at the beginning. Just get on. Just ride like I'm a kid again, like I'm just learning how to do this. No expectations, no "But I used to be able to do that". Just friggen' ride. 

I have three horses at three different levels of training to ride, which is a hell of a lot better than what most "re-riders" are working with. I've also got a good trainer who understands my weaknesses and helps me remember my strengths. He's always reminding me that my biggest strengths are my willingness to work and learn and my ability to adapt, so I'll be putting those skills to work in order to get myself back where I want to be. It's really not about having the perfect body or the best horse, it's about educating yourself and working your ass off. (Don't believe me? Look up videos of Hilda Gurney on Keen.)

For next year, my goals are simple: ride more, get better. I could set more extravagant goals: take Spider to PSG, Jack to 1st and Spots to 3rd, but I don't need to. If I ride more, I'll get better and the levels will come organically from that. 

But that's next year. We're still in this year, and my only goal for this year is to continue chillin' on this beach. 

"Drama Free"

I'll admit that I spend way too much time on the internet, particularly on equine related sites, but it's totally because I'm marketing clinics and shows for my local USDF GMO and not because I'm addicted to the daily soap opera that is social media.

*cough, cough*

I've noticed an interesting trend: If someone specifically states they "don't want drama", they're always the first ones to start with the drama.

"zOMG! Sooooo, I'm not like, a dramatic person, but I was at this barn and they don't feed the feed I like, should I call ASPCA?"

"Looking for a new barn for the third time this month because all these barn owners suck! This one wouldn't let me throw all the other boarders out of the arena and barn aisle when I needed to use them and refused to feed my horse 16 times a day! Ugh!! So much drama! Need suggestions for a DRAMA FREE barn!

"I have a 2 yr old  mare with navicular, kissing spine, cow hocks and a club foot. She's not rideable, so I'm going to breed her. Looking for a good stallion, no drama, only nice posts please!"

"What do you guys think about putting draw reins on a gag bit? Not looking for drama, no negative comments, plz!!!!!!"

Having been working with horses since before the internet was a thing, I can tell you that this is not just an internet manifestation. It's always been there, and there's always been a lot of it, it's just that now we can see all of the drama, in all its bat shit crazy glory, because we're all more connected than we used to be. Back in the stone age, I only had to deal with 1 or 2 drama llamas on a daily basis, but now I get to see it magnified 100 fold because everybody's Daily Drama Llama is posting on the internet.

Now, I'm not exactly complaining about that. My circle of people that I can interact with on a daily basis has also increased 100 fold thanks to social media, and therefore I can reach more people and ideas than I ever could before. That's really awesome! But, I still could do with less Drama Llama. So, here's a handy guide to help all the "drama free" people actually be drama free on the internet and in life:

1) If you have to apply the statement, "No drama, please!" in any form (this includes the phrases: "I don't want to start trouble/a thing/make anybody mad", "I'm not a dramatic/confrontational/judgmental person"and "I'm just saying"),  you already know damn well that whatever you're saying is going to start shit and you're just stirring the pot. Either own the fact that you're going to start shit, or don't post/say it.

2) Don't Vaguebook. For those of you who are normal, well-adjusted and don't know what this is, it's when you post something intentionally vague like, "I guess I know who my real friends are now", or "Some people are SO stupid". (Bonus points for sad face emoticons and stating multiple times in the comments that you don't want to talk about it, even though you posted it to your 2000 Facebook friends.) Social media is not your diary, if you don't want to name names or talk about it because "it's private", don't friggen' post it! It doesn't matter who or what it's about, a whole bunch of the people who see it are going to think it's about them and be mad at you. Everyone else who sees it is going to think you're a Drama Llama.

3) Not everyone has to have the same opinion as you, and they are not personally insulting you when they do something differently. So, you changed your horse's blankets 13 times today? Great! Your friend who posted that Instagram pic of her horse frolicking naked in the snow is not abusing her horse, nor is she insinuating that you abuse your horse by blanketing it. Don't go to her page and post 30 links about blankets.

4) Learn to ignore stuff. Say you come home from a busy indoor schooling session and you see some girl from the barn has just posted: "Ugh! Wish SOME people would learn to ride." Was she talking about you? Maybe. Does it matter? Nope, see item #2.  Your friend shared a coupon for Big Name feed. Doesn't she know that your other friend's roommate's cousin's brother in law had a friend whose horse died while it was eating Big Name feed? Nope, and she probably doesn't care, see # 3.

And finally.....

5) If you think everyone else is an asshole, crazy or an idiot, you are probably an asshole, crazy or an idiot. There are a lot of great people in the world, and if you can't find any of them then you are the problem. Act accordingly.

Did I miss anything?


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