I was a little vague about how Simon was doing before I left for winter break, but the short answer is – not good. Our rides got progressively worse. I would get on, start fighting with him immediately and end up having to get off after about fifteen minutes of trying to walk/trot/canter. It’s not that he was unsafe or dangerous, but I was getting angry at him… and when I get angry, I make terrible decisions with my riding. I jerk and kick and pull and am extremely unfair to my horse, so instead of going down that path — I just get off.

Even as it was happening, I knew I was being irrational. Logically, my horse wasn’t behaving well under saddle because his lifestyle did a total 180, we were trying to find the right food portions for him, and his feet hurt. I knew this, but I felt something entirely different.

I felt like I depleted my savings to ship, house and feed my horse with me in California. I felt like I didn’t have enough free time to devote 6 days a week to his care and health, but since that’s what he needed I had to make time. For all of this, I expected my horse to be good when I rode him.

Which is like, really, really dumb.

So before I left for NC and TX, I handed the reins to my trainer. I told her that I was an anxious mess, and I needed a non-emotional party to step in and fix things. She assured me everything was going to be just fine and said she was excited to get her hands on him, but the entire trip away from CA I wondered if taking him with me was a huge mistake. I told myself that in six months, if he was still unhappy I’d ship him back to Texas. I’d rather pay board on him or lease him out than keep up the way we were doing.

My new trainer, who is not a super huge texter/communicator (unless something bad happens), only sent one update while I was gone. That he wasn’t a huge fan of his new routine, but he was smart and he tried hard. That he was using muscles he didn’t even know he had, and that he was totally sound.

Power trot is powerful

Thirty days later, I was actually really nervous for my first ride back. I missed our easy going partnership, and I didn’t want to turn into an emotional basketcase again and mess up my horse. I didn’t know what to expect, but hoped there’d be a huge turn around because even on bad days, Simon is such a huge part of my life. I can’t imagine grad school, or anything, without him.

And our ride was… lovely. He felt stronger, but also softer in the reins. My trainer gave a few quick instructions that I need to be thinking about more power, less speed. When I rode well, I felt that power. When I didn’t, I felt him got heavy and quick… but it was because of my skills, not some imaginary vindictive thing that was previously between us. I got off after that ride, and felt like everything was going to be okay.

Since then, we’ve been a little hit or miss getting back into a full program. The day that my first lesson of the year was scheduled, I pulled him out to find him walking toe to heel. Abscess. The farrier helped dig it out, and he was sound enough for me to ride on Wednesday where he was lovely yet again.

Thursday he saw the chiropractor, who said he was out in multiple places. I’ll handwalk him today, lunge him tomorrow and hope to have a light flat lesson on Friday. My wallet feels a little bit like I’m bleeding money right now, but it’s worth it to get (and keep) him happy and healthy with this new life.

It’s a struggle for me to make things work financially, but I’m putting him in partial training this quarter. So three days a week, I’ll have help either in the form of training rides or lessons. This is both a huge relief on my schedule, since I have to be on campus five days a week this quarter, and a way to keep us from spiraling down again.

Obviously super stoked about the flat ride we’re about to do

It felt like a defeat at the time, but putting him with a good pro for thirty days was the best choice I could have made. I love how the trainers work horses at my barn. They’re firm and absolute in their requests, but never aggressive or mean. They’re super used to Thoroughbreds, and they like my horse.

I like my horse too, especially after we’ve had some good ol’ fashioned marital counseling. It actually makes me excited for the year ahead, and new adventures with him in California.

18 COMMENTS

  1. I used to feel kind of defeated if I needed a trainer to get on and help me. But I’ve come to realize that sometimes you just need a mediator. Even top pros sometimes have other top pros hop on for an opinion. Sounds like you guys are on a good path to being a happy horse-human again 🙂

  2. I really need the help of a trainer. I can ride Cosmo on my own and get him going nice enough, but we get into fights. He knows how to push my buttons and I’m not always good at shutting that down and moving on. I need professional eyes on me at least once a week, or we will spiral into some serious bad habits.
    I’m glad your new trainers are working out so well, and glad you got a the break you needed to get excited again. I’m excited for you.

  3. Years ago I had a trainer who always said that if you got angry at your horse you had two choices: either take a walk on a long rein or get off. Because once you lost your temper, it was all down hill. It can be enormously frustrating to have your riding time be not fun when you sacrifice so much to make it happen. Glad your trainer has been able to give you a break and help you turn it around.

    • I wish I learned that lesson earlier in life honestly. I’m mature enough to know when to quit now, but I can’t say the same when I was in my teens/young 20’s and I feel terrible about the way I rode my horses at times back then.

  4. I’m so glad you guys are feeling better! I know that going forward I don’t think I’ll function without pro intervention. I just bring too much baggage to the rides anymore. Makes me appreciate my trainers that much more 🙂

  5. that’s great news about having such great resources in your new trainers – esp considering what a gamble that can feel like sometimes. my horsey expectations (realistic or otherwise) are basically my biggest kryptonite sometimes, so i totally get ya on dealing with those rough patches…

  6. When you find the right trainer…..life is good. And it also gives you some piece of mind that your horse is getting the work needed both physically and mentally when your life is on the hectic side.
    My plate isn’t as full as yours but I honestly don’t know what I would do without my trainer.
    He has helped me understand and build a better partnership with my horse especially during the times when I was so frustrated and ready to throw in the towel.
    Yes, i can be a little salty that my trainer gets my horse to do such beautiful movements……that I seem to fall short on….but hey,….work in progress, right?? Makes those little victories all the more sweeter!!
    Love hearing about you and your Simon!! You’re doing the best you can….for all your four legged beauties (and yourself). Don’t ever forget that!!

  7. You are very smart to do this!! I probably should do the same for my horse, lots of transitions in the last couple of months and I’m pretty sure she forgot she can carry me around!

  8. Glad it’s getting better as you figure out the new normal for both of you. Grad school is a funny season…you’re picking the one thing you’re passionate about and spending gobs of time, money and emotions to get your butt kicked in getting better at it. About half way through my grad degree I was thissssss close to quitting and a good friend in my program talked me off the ledge. The horses + school was just SO much! Fortunately I made it through. My point is, grad school is hella hard so go easy on yourself. Plus, keeping horses happy in expensive, dry, no turnout, no grass CA isn’t easy either! You got this! It’ll be tough but worth it.

  9. Good news. I’ve had some mental rough patches with my horse this winter too. But I’ve added some lessons to communicate better (on my end!) which makes all the difference to my horse – who is smart and a quick study if I do it right. Cheers to a great year ahead!

  10. I felt the same way at first with Hero (I *SO* wanted to do it on my own), but then I realized I’m not a trainer, overly experienced, and green OTTB super knowledgeable, so there’s nothing wrong with asking for help from an expert. Not to mention I think it’s much more fair to my horse to have someone teach him things who knows what they are doing so he can learn it and move on, rather than have me muddle around for a while confusing him.

    Hope your rides with Simon continue to get better and better.

  11. My first horse I made a lot of mistakes on. He used to make me mad as hell, until I realized one day to laugh at him because I was as stubborn as he was and not about to let him ‘win’. Walk it off or get off is a good mantra to follow when things start escalating in the wrong direction.

    Since moving, I don’t exactly have the same resources and at my barn- everyone *Thinks* they are a trainer and I’m the only one that has any background or interest in showing, sooOOoo lessons or trainer ride/drives aren’t an option. Thankfully I have learned to do my own homework and can always go back and fix things. My *trainer* lives anout 1300 miles away and we connect thru text message and email so no real on the spot, immediate fixes or results.

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