When we first moved to the new farm in February, I was overwhelmed with how much time I would get to just spend with my horses, being able to provide their day to day care, and no longer having to commute 45 minutes to the barn every day. Don’t get me wrong, I am still SO thankful and feel SO blessed that this is my home, and I have my horses here, but I can now tell you, all those people who said I would be spending so much time just caring for my horses that I’d hardly have the time much less the energy to ride, they were SO right.
I thought they were so full of crap. I was all, ‘whatever, I do self care, so I have to do all this work everyday anyways plus commute plus work, this is going to be so much easier to find time to ride with my horses right outside’. Even with no longer working for a salary, a property is hard to take care of. Not to mention a property you just moved into and are slowly making changes to, from painting to fence moving to arena building and the like. Also not to mention a property you are slowly making changes to, OUTSIDE, in South Georgia, when the humidity is literally 100% and it’s 90 degrees to begin with.
All my whining aside, I love the tired, I-worked-my-butt-off-today feeling I have when I slump into bed every night, but I have given zero time to actually handling, riding, and training the horses I transformed my daily life and living situation for. I decided last week that this needed to change, so finally last Tuesday I put aside my indoor cleaning for a little quality barn time – grooming Emma and her new pony companion, Winnie, doing a little lead and lunge work with Winnie and try to convince her I would not eat her when I come up to give her scratches (she is a 3-4 year old rescue pony), and… deciding it would be a fabulous idea to try and play with long lines with Sully.
I don’t know if I have talked much about Sully yet, but he just turned 4 in April, and is your typical ulcer-prone OTTB with unpredictable spazouts coupled with moments of pure brick-footed laziness (there is no question why this horse did not make it on the track, he won’t gallop with a rider unless there is fire and/or a large horse fly up his ass). He has also had about 3+ weeks off with no work, due to all of my little projects as well as the torrential downpours that go on for days at a time, turning my farm into a lazy river. I also just haven’t felt like riding, and my tendency towards depression allows me to create all kinds of excuses to not do the one thing in this world that ironically combats my depression the most: time spent on the back of a horse. I can’t count the amount of times I have told W, horsey friends, the farrier, my dressage trainer, and the vet, ‘well, I’ve mostly just been doing groundwork with him,’ (lies) ‘because I haven’t quite felt like riding and well if I don’t feel like riding, he sure as hell doesn’t feel like riding…’
Worst. Excuse. Ever.
So that particular day I’m feeling motivated and want to do something fun, and get out the long lines. Stupid. What was I thinking. Trying something fun is not for the first day back in work after three weeks off for your baby thoroughbred. Duh. But I’m like nah man, I’ll just hook him up and walk around with driving reins till he gets the hang of it, then I’ll just do a little normal lunge session. Smdh.
It started out all fine, he was a little confused at first but he’s a smart guy, but about two minutes in he wants to go left out of driving in a straight line, and naturally as long lines do, the outside line closes in behind his back legs as he starts turning. Suddenly, I have a bucking bronco who rips the effing long lines out of my hands and takes off down the pasture. I don’t press the matter. Plus I think I broke the last little bone on my ring finger, and don’t really feel like snapping more appendages. It was a stupid idea. I remove the long lines and hook up the lunge line and decide to try something “fun” at a better time.
Well if you know anything about horses, you might know what is about to happen next. I have him walking on a lunge line like we’ve done 152,000 times before, and he gets that mischievous glint in his eye and takes off again bucking bronc style and I can’t hold on. He gets away time #2 and takes some of my hand skin with him this time. Great, now I’m in for it. Try again – I hold on for dear life, and end up eating dirt before he gets away time #3. I am not about to let this be what settles in his mind for the day, so finally we did manage to end the session with a little walk trot on the lunge in both directions without bronc stallion expletives or getting away.
After a session like that, I can never help but feel completely hurt in the ego. Horses have such a knack for making you feel like a confident, competent horse woman one day, and a total idiot a-hole the next day. After 20 years of riding, I just can’t help but feel like if I am eating dirt while lunging a horse, I must be doing something very very wrong. And I did do something wrong, it was not Sully’s fault. I forgot the age of my horse, and had the last wonderful ride in my head pre-hiatus, and made a bad decision as to how to go about the day’s training session by starting with something new (can I say this again, wow, what was I thinking!?). BUT, and this is a massive but, if I let myself get ashamed about the situation, I should not be around horses. A day like that can happen even if the same horse has been worked 5-6 days a week for the past six months, especially when they are 4 years old and hot blooded.
I text my best horse buddy about my inadequate feelings of the day, and as always, she immediately makes me feel better. She resonded ‘well if it makes you feel better, I did a swan dive off the back of robins truck last night leading in a horse bc he came to a dead stop and I, like and amateur idiot, somehow had the lead looped over my arm.’
It did make me feel better. None of us are immune. Sometimes at the end of the day you just gotta say Que Sera, go inside and lick your wounds (a metaphor that is actually quite literal for me yesterday), and try again tomorrow. With a backup to your backup plan.
So the following day I wake up feeling armed and dangerous, and make the right decisions. I free lunge the antsy baby before trying anything, as the trainer who owned him before me did before every ride. He knows the routine, and takes off, getting out all his bucking and bolting and when he’s done, stops, walks up to me, and looks at me like “ok mom, thanks for that, let the inevitable torture commence”. We have a lovely session of walk, trot, and canter on the lunge, him listening to my every command and being the best boy in the world.
Que sera. Yesteray I was stupid, today I will be smarter. I will always have my stupid days, but I will learn from them – and that is what keeps me growing as a competent horse woman. Doing the same thing every day in a rigid fashion, refusing to adapt from one horse to the next, being unable to realize that it doesn’t matter if you’ve had 2 years in the saddle or 20, lessons must always continue there is still something to be learned – those things are the real mistakes. Continuing to analyze my rights and wrong, continuing to seek out training methods and ideas, continuing to try new things and different riding styles to challenge myself – those things will help me have less of the stupid days.