Rock and a Hard Place

Rock and a Hard Place

If I was looking at my situation (aka desire to do the hunters) from an entirely objective stand point, it would be time to sell my horse.

Your mind may have just screeched to a halt reading that sentence, but you can relax. This is the horse that has helped me accomplish so many of my dreams. He’s the horse I can hop on and jump bridleless if I’ve had a tough day at work and need a fun release. I have a framed picture of Tim hugging his face on my night stand. The horse is beloved. The horse is not going anywhere.

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But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world…

– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

To most of the world, he’s a free bay Thoroughbred with a wonky hind end and no lead changes. There are hundreds like him, but to me he’s special. He’s the horse that I have tamed, and to continue borrowing words from a new literary favorite – you are forever responsible for what you have tamed.

And honestly, it’s not like he’s a useless animal. The horse is safe, safe, SAFE and honest as the day is long. No, he’s not going to win Devon but I can throw timid riders on him and watch the grin spread on their faces when they figure out how game he is. He’s never met a jump he didn’t like. He’s catty and can turn on a dime when piloted correctly, and he’s plenty scopey for my weenie adult amateur needs. Lord, anyone who saw me show at 2014 CTHJA year end knows this horse saves my ass like he was born to do it. The showing solution for Simon is pretty damn simple – keep him in the jumper ring.

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I always said I just wanted Simon to have a job that he was happy doing, and that I would adapt to his needs. After vetting, training rides, miles of shows and different training plans the lead changes aren’t getting better. Simon happy doing questionable change hunters, and he’s also happy doing jumpers. Since only one of these events actually exist, he shall be a jumper from now on.

The only problem is that I still want to show in the hunters.

At the show this past weekend, somebody from my barn asked me why I didn’t like the jumper ring. It’s not that I don’t like it. With completely objective judging and all the tack accessories a girl could want, there’s plenty to like. Lately my challenge with riding is that my life outside of the barn can be extremely stressful. I’m juggling working a full time, demanding job with keeping my house in one piece, caring for my dogs, having a social life, living with grief and trying to write a book. Even for a person who operates best with multiple plates spinning, that’s a lot.

When I showed jumpers at Summer Circuit 2015, my brain did not have the mental capacity for that ring. I forgot courses. I almost fell off (probably multiple times). Although I had a lot of fun showing and being with my barn family, jumpers left me feeling more drained than energized. Right now the familiarity of the hunter ring is extremely comforting to me. The courses are almost always the same, and the goals are simple. Find ten jumps, make it down the lines, look pretty and get your changes. Repeat. That’s it. They’re not easy to accomplish, but they are simple.

Maybe my brain won’t always be like this, but right now I’m craving simplicity with riding.

A Young Nerd Horse
A Young Nerd Horse

I’m not sure where all this leaves me right now. I had hoped that I could do a little “put a square peg and a round hole” and have Simon be my show hunter, but that’s not going to work out. Sure, I could only attend little shows with less competition or just accept that I will rarely (if ever) pin with him in the hunters, but my brain is apparently simple and competitive.

I’ve thought about a lot of different options before I wrote this post in my quest to keep me and my best buddy pet Thoroughbred happy. The long term goal is for me to get comfortable doing the jumpers with Simon. Jump bigger stuff at home. I know I have a lot of homework to do before I’m ready to really tackle the jumpers. I still get turned off my horse occasionally, which is a problem. I need to be a braver and tighter rider. All our issues in the jumper ring come from me, not Simon – so I’ve got work to do. Get stronger and fitter outside of the ring. Above all, be braver and more confident in my riding – that will be necessary on our jumper quest.

To address the other side of this, my immediate need for horse showing happiness, is a little bit more difficult. I’ve been through a lot in the past year, and I want to continue horse showing because it’s an activity that usually brings me great joy. When I show, I spend time outside in the fresh air (or stuffed in a sandy indoor ring… same difference) with some of my favorite people. The physical activity and love of horses help ward off depression and dark thoughts that have been following me around since I first learned Tim was an addict. Horse showing has always been more than a silly hobby to me, but right now it’s more important than ever.

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I’m not selling my safe low level jumper, but I’m not giving up my hunter dream just yet either.

29 thoughts on “Rock and a Hard Place

  1. *hugs*

    I feel you. And was in a similar place. That’s why we’re doing dressage right now.

    I’m planning to lease a more experienced horse that lets me focus on me a bit in the next year or two.

  2. Your ability to put your emotions in a box and speak objectively about this amazes me. Simon has made HUGE strides and so have you. I’ll be cheering for you guys no matter what. 🙂

  3. I’m sorry you have to make such tough decisions 🙁 would you feel comfortable leasing Simon to someone in the barn so you could lease a hunter for yourself?

  4. I also thought of leasing. And I’m sure so have you! Though I can’t imagine leasing my own horse to someone else… You could partial lease another one and that might satisfy the showing issue and then you’d still have Simon to destress with at home?

  5. It’s not easy to realize that what you want isn’t realistic. You should proud of yourself for being able to say that out loud, but also for giving that dream every opportunity to succeed. And remember, just because the dream changes doesn’t mean you can’t still dream <3

  6. I’m betting there are a lot of adult ammies out there with some similar predicament regarding having a horse that’s not the best suited for their goals – I’m one of them. Here I am with a desire to event and I would love to go farther than Beginner Novice one day, but on my 14hh pony? It’s probably not going to happen with her. As game as she may be she’s going to max out. But even so she has a place with me forever ala The Little Prince (favorite quote probably ever). Eventually I’ll be at a similar crossroads. Ideally, I’d eventually buy or lease a larger more capable horse while keeping my pony, but will I ever have the finances for that? Probably not. I’m curious to see how it works out for you. Maybe some commenters who have ‘been there’ will have some good thoughts. No matter what, I’ll be cheering for you too!

  7. Right there with you, with so many feels. It’s an expensive sport, so I hope you are able to find a solution that keeps Simon a part of your family and yet allows you to do the things that make your heart most happy. Sending you lots of positive thoughts!

  8. I know exactly how you feel. I’ve been there too and I’ve always had a hard time selling a horse. I’m at the point now I won’t no matter what. Which lead me to thinking about something…being as your at a barn with lots of others, have you thought about “trading” per say. I don’t mean actually trading but horse show trading. Someone who wants to do jumpers ride him in jumper classes and you want to do hunters so you ride their horse in hunters. Then it’s a win win. You still get to keep him and ride him and maybe even eventually do jumpers on your already perfect mount but in the meantime you get to satisfy your love for the hunter ring. BTW, I’m with you hunters is so much better then jumpers lol. I’m bias tho, the one time I did jumpers my horse and I slid into the fence and crashed hard. I walked away with a nasty concussion and my horse had a bloody lip. So needless to say that scared me enough, I never did it again. But I do like jumping higher, just not at a fast pace.

    Anywho..keep thinking about it. You’ll figure out the right solution that works for both of you!

  9. I wish these feels weren’t so familiar. Isn’t it something to love a horse to the point where you’d rather stuff yourself in the round hole as a square peg than sell them? I have no interest in developing Copper to the western pleasure standards beyond the local fun show scene…and I don’t know what that means for the two of us since that seems to be where he is leaning currently. Likely dressage if I can rattle his cage enough to get him moving forward…alas rattling his cage scares me still. Luckily I’m in the situation where he can chill and be a horse until I decide to do something with him and have another (or several other…) horse at the same time.

  10. So, I have a bit of training “advice” that you can take or leave without offending me. Also having a TB that suuuuuuucked at changes (auto changes were okay ish, but he was often late behind by several steps, misfired, or just didn’t fire at all…), have you tried talking to a dressage trainer about them? Maybe training them that way would help the whole process click for him? With Pig it took several different approaches to changes, and a lot of time (2 years. Yes. Really.) for him to start “reliably” doing them cleanly and understanding the process. It still isn’t really great, but it’s loads better. In fact, I think learning “dressage changes” helped him learn “hunter changes” in a way he really didn’t before. They really can be different movements. Anyway. I don’t know what you tried, and you’re the pilot of your own journey. What worked for us may not work for you. 🙂

    ** P.S. Washington DC has a bar called Cafe Saint Ex, named for Antoine de Saint-Exupery. The whole place is decorated in an aviation theme. If you are out this way, I’ll take you. 🙂

  11. Dressage? Eventing? Simon might love cross-country. Lessons in another disciplines for giggles? Western? Riding saddle seat has kept me sane while my two potential jumper/eventing TBs imitate doorstops.

  12. I hear you about your brain being too busy for difficult jumper courses. Some days, I just can’t put together 8 jumps when they aren’t outside line, diagonal line, outside line, diagonal line!

    Have you tried, or do you have the opportunity to do hunter paces? It is a great time with friends, no pressure about landing the correct lead, and one of my favorite horseback riding activities!

    I know you and Simon will figure out what is best for both of you! We’re cheering for you!

  13. It’s tough when your goals don’t match your horse’s ability… I’ve been there many times, with many horses. Fortunately there are lots of options, and I’m sure you’ll find something that works for both you and Simon. 🙂

  14. Such a tough situation to be in, but I’m glad you are looking at all the angles. Perhaps a half lease or something similar would open up the options for hunterland again?

    Whatever you choose, I’m sure you will be great!

  15. You can maybe try a lease both ways; lease out Simon to a younger child (keep him near you) and then lease out a hunter? Could work. Though I don’t think you asked for opinions and its yours to decide! Either way, I always admire your ability to captivate me with your words!

  16. First, I’d just like to say that you should do whatever helps you get through what you’re going through right now, and only you can make that call. If it makes you feel worse to go in the hunters and put in a decent trip but miss a change and therefore not pin, that’s something to consider. But stressing yourself out memorizing courses and doing inside turns sounds like it could be bad for you at the moment. Then again, maybe the challenge will be good for you? More of a distraction? At any rate, just make sure you do what’s right for you. And if you go to a jumper show and it feels like too much then scoot yourself right back over to the land of fitted pads and be on your merry way.

    May I suggest a third option? I really liked doing the 2’6″ Pre-Adult Medal classes. Do you have those in TX? It’s equitation, so you won’t get nailed for not being on Mr. Fresh off the Boat HMF VanDerHoozieWhatsit Warmblood Deluxe, and there are a few roll backs and singles and bending lines so it’s a little more challenging, and therefore you actually have to ride, which sometimes works out in one’s favor when riding against the Nicest Horses Money Can Buy (if you catch my drift). Sounds like you are focusing on getting Simon to land his leads, and roll back turns and bending lines will only help you tell him which lead to land on. Just a thought… worked for me when I was showing in the hunters on a horse who didn’t have a reliable lead change. (That horse, by the way, eventually got a solid lead change when I switched to dressage, but that is a whole other can of worms!)

  17. I think you’ll find that the more you do the jumpers, the easier it gets to remember the courses. If they’re done well, they really do have a similar flow to a hunter course, just with more jumps. Although, at some of the smaller shows the courses can be terrible and make no sense at all. Those are the worst!
    Other option: Get SUPER good at landing those leads. I’ve shown a few hunters that didn’t have changes, and found that to be the only way to be competitive on them.
    I have terrible confidence problems. Total deer in headlights over here. I’ve found when I transition back to the jumpers after doing hunters only for awhile, I just start slow. Literally. Pick a class with lower jumps than you’re used to. Ride it like an eq course. No you aren’t going to be first. But you’ll probably be clean. Once it feels easy, start making tighter turns. Then go a little faster. Than pick a class with bigger jumps, but start slow again. Baby steps to get you comfortable so it’s not exhausting AND it’s a positive experience. You and the nerd horse are meant to be together. I know you’ll figure this bump in the road out together too.

    (Why do I always write a book in your comments?!)

  18. What Allie and Andrea said. That was my first thought too. You would be the ideal person for a horse lover to have love/show/lease her horse. You obviously know what you’re doing, you’re a solid rider, you are kind to horses, and would be probably helping someone else out a little with extra $ or just getting their horse out.

    With my previous TB I had a friend whose horse had health issues and she couldn’t show. We shared my horse at a show or two (different divisions). I liked being able to show at a “cheaper rate.” You might already have a sweet hunter on your block so to speak that is just waiting for you to show him off at the next horse show. (She didn’t even lease him–but I felt it was worth it to me to have such a good rider on my horse and help me w/ the show fees).

  19. I read your other post first, so I am excited to hear that you are looking at doing a lease so you can pursue the hunters. I had to adapt to what Sydney likes best, which is western dressage, and while I really do enjoy it, I still want to do regular dressage. In a couple of years I hope to be doing much of the same as what you are.

  20. You have a shit ton of stuff on your plate, and I am in awe of your ability to just put your head down and move through it. I tend to find a rock to hide under and disappear for a while. Either ring can be hard, for different reasons. I found there were times that the jumper ring was too much, and def with my head-injury memory-impaired brain I’m sure it will be out of my league. As a total control freak, I find hunters excruciatingly hard. Making everything look effortless when all you want to do is micromanage and add strides and overthink everything is a challenge. I love the fact that you are thinking of what’s best for Simon while thinking of a solution that works for both of you, instead of pushing ahead in a direction that leaves you both frustrated. You are one hell of a strong woman!

  21. I haven’t kept up, i apologize.

    But I love TLP. I just wanted to let you know I read somewhere that the french word used for “tame” has more a feeling of ‘connection’. It isn’t like tame as in domesticate, but more what your heart gets attached to. That always stuck with me after reading that, and I think about it quite frequently. You are forever responsible for what you have loved and accepted love in turn.

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