“When it’s not fun, we go home.”
Those were the precise words my parents repeatedly told me growing up when it came to horse showing. My 11-year old Children’s hunter self couldn’t handle it when I received a ribbon I felt wasn’t good enough; and even still, I am disappointed in myself when I don’t rise to the occasion as well as I feel I should have. To hold yourself to a higher standard is always an admirable quality; however, sometimes it’s more than necessary to take a step back and remember why you love what you’re doing in the first place.
Fast forward 10 years and by a chance of fate I found myself working as a groom running the A-Circuit in the North East in the spring and Wellington, FL in the winters. The profession suited me; I loved the horses, I was detail oriented, I was a hard worker, I was (at times too) eager to please. The quality of being a perfectionist and working hand-in-hand with others of the same nature gives way to a lot of success. But everything that goes up must go down and I found myself tired, burned out and looking for something more. I didn’t love the horses like I once had, riding 5 horses a day was a chore, waking up at 5 in the morning to get the horses ready to show didn’t quite have the same glimmer it once did. All things that I had for so long done with such excitement and vigor. I had spent 7 years on the road, quite literally “living the dream,” and I was tired of being in the sunshine.
It’s been a few months of a ride here and there since I’ve been around the horses every day, I’ve begun to miss them. Recently, I made a trip down to Wellington; it was the first time I had been back since we left last spring. (Of course, I had a marvelous time).
During my trip, I had the opportunity to go and see my favorite horse from my old job. This was a horse we had received in my first week of working there. He was big, he was extremely quirky and he could jump a big jump. I took care of him for 4 years as he moved up from the 1.30m classes to the National Grand Prix’s then to the Junior Jumpers. It was his grouchy personality with a tendency to only show any affection when no one else was around to see it that made me love him most. Not many enjoyed their time grooming him; always on guard of something that might jump out of the bushes to try and eat him, putting on his bridle when he wanted to channel his inner giraffe, or watching out for a stray hoof behind all proved to be challenging, but I loved him and his off-putting personality. Around the time I decided to end my journey on the road, he was injured and found a new job as a Dressage horse.
After an exchange over the phone with his owner, off I went to a beautiful property, nestled in the palm trees and canals of Wellington (a place normally not seen by the Hunter/Jumper A circuit). I don’t think I’d ever been so excited to see a horse in my lifetime, I was even privileged enough to ride him. To see him happy, healthy and settling in with a new person was more than I could have asked for. It was in thinking upon that day, that I really wanted to express the importance of taking time. Take time to miss the horses, take time to go on a trail ride, take time to learn a new discipline, take time to groom them and bring them for a nice hand graze, take time to enjoy the growth and training process. The horse world can get crazy, competitive and overwhelming at times. When you find yourself struggling with the same issues, take some time to focus elsewhere. Whether you’re a rider, trainer, groom, amateur or a junior there is so much to learn from the creatures.
Many of us get stuck in the same monotonous cycle and we stop progressing, we get frustrated, so do the horses. You’ll have plenty of time to get that lead change perfect, but not if you and your horse become sour. There isn’t anything more I needed than to be able to walk into a barn with the same enthusiasm as I had for the first time almost 20 years ago. There are plenty of opportunities to win a blue ribbon, there are few opportunities to take a moment to appreciate the horse and the work you’ve both put in to be able to win that blue ribbon.