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