This time of year, blogs get flooded with year reviews and recaps. I love them all. With old familiar blogs, it is a way to remind myself of their journey and relive those happy and maybe not so great moments with them all over again. For newer blogs I just found, it is a nice way to quickly catch up.
My year was not really that great. It could have been, maybe even should have been, but it plain old wasn’t. There isn’t a whole lot to do a month by month blow by blow recap of, so instead I’m going to try to sum up how I feel the year went, lessons I have learned, and where it puts me heading into the start of 2019.
The start of the year had me really focusing on Gem and improving my own consistency when it came to riding her. I set a goal of three rides a week and it really paid off through the beginning of the month. With the recent move to the farm and having access to the arena and lights, there really was no excuse not to. It paid off too through January and February. Gem was calmer, more willing to go to work and I felt like we were really making progress.
Except life happened, I needed to buckle down and study for my surgical boards and we decided to renovate the arena, a project that still isn’t completed and may never be. My consistency flew out the window, Gem started showing signs of ulcers for the first time ever and after a 45 minute ride where all I got to do was try to reinstall the halt for the umpteenth time, I finally decided to listen to what the mare was shouting at me. After 9 years, thousands of conditioning miles, a 100 mile endurance completion, a 30 mile Ride and Tie Championship completion, one amoeba level CT, and two schooling jumper shows, it was time to retire Gemmiecakes to a life of getting fat and happy in the pasture with her BFF Pete.
That led me into the frenzy of horse shopping, not a fun or cheap experience. You would think living only 2 hours from Aiken and 1 hour from Tryon (home of TIEC and WEG), horse shopping would be a piece of cake. Nope. I ended up choosing Eeyore, now H’Appy, and brought him home with a clean PPE in early May. We had a fun two weeks together and then he ripped his hoof half off with his shoe leaving him lame for nearly six freaking months. Currently he is healthy if more than a bit feral from all the time off and vacillates between amazingly fun and easy to hell horse extraordinaire. Depending on the day, moon cycle, status of his friends, and how desperately I am in need of a good ride.
And that brings us to the here and now. Not where I thought I would be and not where I really want to be, but at least he is healthy and sound once again. The attitude can be worked on.
What Went Right
- Retiring Gem. Hands down this was the best decision of the year. Since retirement she has become a love bug. She nickers for me when I’m out doing yard work. Walks to meet me in the pasture. Begs for scratches. It’s a bit sad to see her lose her top line, butt muscling and abs but her mental health is the best it has ever been.
- Consistency. The beginning of the year saw me really buckle down and ride three days a week regardless of how tired I felt after work, how cold it was or the dark. A lot of that was due to having and arena and lights which made riding in the evening possible. Gem was more willing work each time, knew what was expected and had more fitness. Of course that went out the window when I became horseless all summer but the lesson was learned.
- Buying H’Appy. Ok, so the jury is still out on this one. I’ve spent so many hours re watching the test ride video of myself, looking at pictures and running every second spent with him during the test ride and PPE through my head looking to see if there was a red flag somewhere that warned me of his recent behavior. And there isn’t. If I were to find him and test him again (as he was then), I’d still choose him. The six months off have made him a bit feral but I believe he can come back from that. Time will tell.
- New farrier. He is hard to get in touch with at times and scheduling is a bit touchy but his work is top notch and he is extremely patient with H’Appy. he has started coming out when I’m at work as long as I leave the horses in and even puts them back out after. Seriously can’t say enough good things about him. I love him even if my bank account does not.
- Lameness Eval. I dragged my feet a long time before I made the appointment. It served to confirm my thoughts: Saddle fit and hoof issues. This let me let go of a deep fear that I purchased a lame horse unknowingly.
What Didn’t Go So Well
- H’Appy. Yeah he is on both lists. I’m not sure I could have done much different to prevent his hoof coming off. He was being stalled at the time and out in the smallest back pasture for short periods when it happened. He had the shoes on he came with and I already had a farrier appointment set for them to be redone. Sometimes crap just happens. The spiral leading to six months off before shoes could be put back on sucked and led us to where we are now.
- The arena project. My arena is awful. It sat unused and uncared for for six years before we bought the place and we new it was going to be an issue. I tried to do it myself. Fail. I hired someone to get rid of the vegetation and grade it. Fail. Now I still have vegetation but with the added bonus of really deep spots and valleys. We have called out three arena pros and each one has no showed the appointment even when we took off work to meet them. It’s a mess. Then only bright spot is that it dries really well and with winter here it should be passable until spring.
- Training. I fell off my Trainer’s schedule from April-November due to work commitments, horse shopping and then lameness. When I finally got things in order to lesson again it was clear things weren’t going to work like they used to. All parties agreed a new situation would be best at least for a while until the basics got smoothed back out.
- Throw away expectations. One of the biggest issues with H’Appy is that I expected A and got B. I clung so hard to A for too long which did neither of us any good. By taking a step back and looking at reality an actionable plan can be made.
- Trust my gut. Always in all things. I knew my original farrier wasn’t going to cut it. I knew his feet were the root of his issues. I knew my saddle wasn’t working. I’m not always right and I make more than my fair share of mistakes, but when my gut says something I need to listen.
- Exposure is key. Getting out and doing things goes a long way in the training process. H’Appy is a pretty amenable dude in general and is happy to go out and see the world. The more times he goes the better he gets. He wont magically be a great traveler or show horse without the experience to get there.
- Form a tribe. So I admit to being ornery in general and hating all these new hipster terms, but this one I like. I didn’t need one for endurance, but having a support network is proving paramount in this whole jumping thing. Trainers, fitters, farriers, vets. Surrounding myself with those I trust, who I know have my best interests in mind and who want to see me succeed is what makes this thing work. I’m really starting to gather together a solid group: I love the fitter I worked with, my farrier is amazing and the lameness vet was pretty solid. I need to hone in on my training situation next.
2018 can best be summed up as a transition year. To the farm. To a new horse partner. To a new discipline. I’m finding myself surrounded by new people and looking for new knowledge and experiences.
Going into 2019 I’d really like to get things on the training front hashed out, settle H’Appy mentally back into work and build his fitness so he can’t use that as an excuse to complain. That should set us up really nicely to make some sort of competition plans for the spring and fall which I really hope includes an amoeba level HT at Full Gallop. Its 18″ and only three mandatory xc fences plus a w/t dressage test. It shouldn’t be unreasonable to do.
And that is that. Maybe not the best year but a lot happened and a lot was learned. Everyone made it out alive too which hasn’t been the case for the last several years. That is something to celebrate.
This month is going to see H’Appy off to training boot camp for at least 2 weeks. I’m really hopeful that it goes well and sees us getting back on track and heading into 2019 in a much better place with each other. He has a lot to teach me both in and out of the saddle and I hope to get the chance.