Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Top Ten Things I've Learned from Horses This Year

2015 has been a good year after the past two years recovering from three surgeries.  I've been able to ride and compete for a full nine months (a huge deal from someone coming off two years of constant physical therapy and doctor visits) but I've learned more this year than most of the past 30 or so that I've been riding.  Wisdom must come with age?  Right?

Top Ten Things I've Learned From Horses This Year

1) American Pharoah is the real deal
Thank goodness we were able to witness a truly great racehorse.  It only took 37 years but wasn't the wait worth it?  Yes, it was!

2) Savour the moment
As you get older and the memories start coming in from your earlier life, you sometimes forget how great those times were.  Now when I am having a spectacular day, I stop a bit, take a deep breath and just enjoy that moment.  In ten years I will remember those moments just like I can still remember the course I jumped at the WCHR Finals the last time I competed there almost ten years ago.

3) Your horse should be your best friend but friends are different
Being spoiled by having a horse like Sega for 12 years in the show ring made it hard for me to deal with the ups and downs of having a horse like Alfie, super talented but not always there for me.  Now when he's not having a good day I just stop and I call it a day because that works for him.  It took me a while to learn this about him but that's how he's wired.  Horses are like people.  Learn to understand how yours is put together.

4) As you get older, it all gets harder
This is true for the horse and the rider.  I don't ride as well as I once did and most of the time I have to compete with college kids who ride seven days a week and who don't have stressful full-time jobs.  So I quit trying to compare what I do to what they do.  In my own little world I judge myself only against myself when I compete now.  Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose. 

5)  Enjoy the downtime more
Truthfully, I cannot wait until this time next week when my horse show year will be over.  I want to just spend a few quiet evenings in the barn, grooming Sega, Lola, letting Alfie do nothing (he's so tired of being messed with) and feel like I have nowhere to be. 

6) Having a goal is important but not in a vacuum
Too many people I know chase that year-end award not thinking about what is right for the horse.  Yes, it's great to have a title, a cooler, a new trophy, but is it worth paying the price? I lost a very prestigious year end award to a competitor a few years back because I showed my horse 15 times that year and she showed hers 36 so she could win the title.  I came in a happy second and know in my heart that we won that year.  No regrets at all.  None!

7) The George Morris talking doll is really stupid.  Really really stupid. (Read about it here.)

8) Support your local horse show circuit, pony club, hunt or riding club
Our sport is becoming much like our world in the US - there is widening divide between the haves and the have nots and the haves are clearly winning. Welly World (the winter circuit near Palm Beach) is just so over the top and Tryon (in NC) is going to come in a close second.  Most of us can't spend our winter in Florida or spend our summers in Tryon because we have jobs, kids, tuition payments, mortgages, horses to take care of at home.  The local circuits are struggling, our numbers are dwindling. We must support our local groups in a big way. Donate your money, your time, attend the shows, the events. It's so sad to see this going away! 

9) Know your horse!
Horses are athletes and like people, have their weak points.  Think about it.  Do you have a bad knee?  Back pain?  Feet problems?   Every horse has a weak spot.  My sound Sega has bad stifles.  I have feet and back issues. Alfie has a bad back.  April has a foot issue.  Lola is only four, her issues have not yet surfaced but they will.  No horse out there won't have weak spots.   Learn what your horse is telling you, where he or she hurts.  And learn how to manage it.   If you are looking for a horse without issues, then you'll be looking for a very long time.  Most of time this can be managed IF you know your horse.

10) "If the world was truly a rational place then men would ride sidesaddle."  (Rita Mae Brown)

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