Three years ago I was hungry. My name was flashing in black letters on a white background, shiny and new and hanging on the side of my office building. My office building. It held so much promise, so much excitement and so many opportunities to fail.
My appointment book was breathtakingly empty. I jumped every time the pone rang and begged for it to not be a wrong number or sales call. I needed patients. Pay roll, utility bills, the mortgage…all of it was due and none of it cared if I was busy or not.
I was hungry. I was scared.
Every spare moment of my time, which ended up being a lot in the beginning, was spent coming up with ways to fill the appointment book. I made lists of local offices that could be referral sources and then visited each and every one with bagels and a brochure in my hand. I hoped the manic look in my eyes as I glanced over their full waiting rooms wasn’t apparent to the receptionist who took my brochures and hopefully at least glanced at them before throwing them all away.
Brochures, ads, blog posts were all written and re written in a hope to attract people to my practice so I could have the opportunity to meet them and show them that I was worth their time and trust.
I was hungry.
Then an amazing thing happened. I began to see my hard work pay off. I secured a good referral source and started to get some patients. Then they referred friends and family and now, three years later, my schedule is mostly full.
I’m no longer hungry. I am comfortable.
This is an even worse place to be.
Now, my bills are being paid. Pay day is no longer a gut wrenching affair and I even had some extra cash to update my office a little. I could spend the next 25 years of my career just as I am: neither wonderfully successful nor failing. I find this place to be even scarier than when I first unlocked my door and challenged the world to come see me.
Being here means that I am locked: too afraid to branch out and reach for the stars for fear of ruining all I built, yet I’m still vulnerable. At this stage all it would take is someone still hungry to come in and steal everything from me. Someone willing to go out and take risks, pound the pavement and do what I used to do. Then I would find myself forced to do it all over again as I watch my business slowly die all around me.
Being comfortable means you aren’t failing. It also means your aren’t growing.
This past week I made a big decision to step out of my comfort zone. I invested in new technology for my practice, something I deeply believe in and truly believe it will help my patients heal faster and return to their lives sooner. It also cost more than my salary to purchase and is a service not covered by health insurance so patients will need to pay cash.
This investment could help my practice grow in so many ways.
This investment could put me out of business.
I’m no longer comfortable. I’m hungry again. Hungry to spread the word about my new offering. Hungry to garner a new demographic. Hungry to make this work.
After I had checked out the goings on in the dressage end of things, I spent a solid hour watching stadium. The last few intermediate riders were going and the course map looked like the same for every level, but different heights. I stood there and memorized the course while slowly trying not to let my head spin out of control as I stared at jump 4.
The rest of the course looked doable, or at least it would be once they lowered them all to 18″ crossrails as the flyer promised. I also noticed that the arena was very large and super spread out. There was plenty of room for approaches and only one jump, #8, had any related distance at all. At the higher levels and for those who cantered, the course had some really tight turns but I completely failed to snap a picture of the course map.
Ok… back to after dressage:
Stadium was slated for 1:45-2pm with any order of go. I was first up in dressage and didn’t even finish until after stadium was open. I was glad that they had a big window and not a dedicated time so I could change tack and warm up without rushing too much.
The jump warm up arena was down by dressage and had 4 fences set up: a cross rail on either side and two verticals in the middle. The steward informed me that I was the only one around. After popping over the cross rails a couple times, I called it enough. My head was starting to pound and both Gem and I were tired of the blazing sun beating down on us. It was time to go.
Dusty stood farther away and so the screenshots I tried to grab aren’t very good, but the video is at the end too. I advise watching it on something you can fast forward because there is a lot of open space and trotting it takes a while.
Jump 1 was a friendly cross rail with no filler or decorations. I was way past nervous and literally begged Gem to jump it as we approached. She did begin to hesitate, but once I put my legs on she was game enough. Good girl. We were on a roll!
It was a long way around the outside of #9 to get to fence 2 which was also a friendly bland cross rail. If it had been later in the course I would have let her canter it, but my death grip was still in full force and I was faking a smile which looked much more like a grimace. She went over without a second thought.
It was a quick right hand turn to fence three set up on the short side across the arena. Same old song though: minimally decorated cross rail and no issue from Gem.
But then it was to fence 4….the train. The entire day my mind kept going back to that darn train. Would she go over it? The approach wasn’t the greatest either and there were a lot of refusals here. Once you went over 3 it was a sharp left and only a quarter of an arena width to 4. Now if I was educated at all I could tell you in strides what that was, but I was trotting and didn’t pay attention to that. Anyway, it came up fast after the sharp left and caught horses off guard.
Gem wasn’t immune to it either. It didn’t help that the cross rails only class ended up with verticals too and the train was the first one. They left the solid red board up and Gem had never jumped anything solid ever. She hesitated hard, came to a walk and then just stepped over it like it barely existed.
I was elated that we made it over the train, but I also knew that we had the rest of the course to do and they got more difficult as it went. Fence four was a pretty butterfly jump that also had a solid board. What happened to cross rails only?
I was a bit surprised that Gem hesitated more at this than the train, maybe it was the bright colors, and I think she basically walked this one too.
Six was a long trot back around 9 to the left and taking it coming back towards home. It was a cute little wishing well and I don’t have a decent enough shot of it to make it worth posting, but by this point things just clicked for us. She was finally game on and looking towards the jumps and I was finally loosening my death grip. I started to smile for real too and as I made my very slow way around 9 and past the jump judge I heard them comment about me looking like I was having fun finally.
And the truth was that I was having fun!
Jump seven was a nice pink and grey vertical. Gem jumped it the best yet on course and looking at the screen shot I can see why. My position actually looks like I know how to jump and I’m no longer holding her back.
Fence 8 had an A and B element which was being ridden as a 2 stride at a canter and who knows what at a trot. It was back to being a plain cross rail and I knew Gem would be just fine.
Fence 9 was the farthest out from where Dusty stood by the in gate and again the picture isn’t worth posting but it was another vertical but this time was three poles high and I am pretty sure was over 18″ because I don’t see how you can stack three poles and only be at 18″ and it looked much bigger than the rest of the course. It jumped straight forward though and by this time we were both in sync and game on.
But then it was over and all I wanted to do was keep jumping. Now that is an amazing feeling.
Here is the video:
Truth is Gem doesn’t jump well because of me. I mean, she definitely will run out or stop if you don’t keep your leg on and let her know you actually want to jump. If she has the slightest out, she will take it no doubt about it. However, when I’m riding her it feels like we are going a million miles an hour but watching the video afterward we could have walked over each jump and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. I really need to let go and trust her more. She is a super great jumper in the sense that she won’t expend the energy to over jump, but also won’t hit a rail if she can help it.
Anyway, I walked her back out the gate and was so thrilled with the entire day. We made it through and didn’t make complete fools of ourselves and didn’t get eliminated!
We were all hot and getting headaches by this time, so I untacked Gem then quickly changed out of my show clothes. She got a sponge bath and walked over to the water trough before I shoved her full of crack cookies and smothered her in hugs as I took her braids out.
My head was really starting to pound by this point and I realized I hadn’t put anything solid in me since getting up at 6 am. Not smart. I hid in the air conditioning in the truck while the class finished and then got my scores and placing.
One of the women ahead of me after dressage had 12 faults in stadium so I moved up to 4th and was so happy to grab my white ribbon and dressage score sheet. I was so proud of both of us! And I didn’t have to be called a loser by my son as I now had my ribbon in hand.
There are so many thoughts to share about this experience and where I’d like to go from here so stay tuned for some posts coming up about that. For the first time in a long time I am really excited for my future with Gem and I can’t wait to tackle it all head on. With the changes I’ve seen in both of us in 4 short months, I can’t even imagine what we could be a year from now. All I have to say is Bring It!!
We got to the venue entirely too early: 9 am for a 1:18 pm dressage time. Trainer had recommended getting there at 10:30 but I’m way too high strung and decided to leave earlier. Yeah, not doing that again.
One of my biggest concerns was all the logistics, so as soon as we arrived I immediately signed in then headed to the dressage arena to get a look around. I had 4 hours to kill and it was heating up fast with no shade in sight.
Dressage was in a spare grass paddock with the warm up ring in the neighboring one. The judge was sitting at C in a white pick up truck using the horn as the start signal. I watched a few riders go paying attention to when they entered the ring, how they went around and when they exited after their test. After that I wandered around the rest of the grounds.
Killing 4 hours on a very hot (upper 80s with high humidity), sunny day with a toddler and no friends around isn’t really that enjoyable. By the time the clock said 12pm I was more than ready to get on and ride.
I tacked her up and she looked really gorgeous in the dressage gear. Her mane had been braided the night before and miraculously (well with the help of half a bottle of Quick Braid) stayed in. I just stood back and stared at her for a long while. Gemmie has a special place in my heart and soul.
I was worried she would be a bit high strung walking down to the arena: the path led from the trailer parking, past the stalls, by the jump arena and ended at the two warm up arenas and dressage court. It was a very busy walk. I shouldn’t have worried. She was a saint.
By the time I began my warm up at around 12:30 pm my shirt was sticking to me and sweat was pouring down my face. I worked on halting first since that has been a big issue. Gem has really come around nicely and will now halt with just the slightest request. I’m loving it!!!
After that I worked on bend a little. I’m not that great at it and really need to focus on that. She is more like a surf board than a living being with joints. Anyway…I kinda ran out of things to do. It was really hot and she was sweating after working on all that and I wanted her to be fresh but relaxed in the test. With still 20 minutes to go, I hung out at the fence talking to Dusty and my parents who made the drive to watch me ride. I really appreciated them coming specially since all things horse isn’t really their thing.
At 1:26 they finally told me it was my turn up next. I’m not sure how these things typically go, but figured 8 minutes late wasn’t so bad. It was around 1:35 when I started.
I spent a bunch of time making a fancy video with all the scores and comments on it. Then I promptly didn’t save it correctly and now I’m too frustrated to do it again. Instead I’ll just run through it here and put the video at the end.
Intro Test B:
When I entered the dressage court, I made Gem walk around the outside and past the judge truck to say hello. I kept her sedate and calm preferring to have to wake her up than wrestle her back down. The judge was super nice and asked if I was ready to which I replied that I never would be so go ahead whenever she wanted. She laughed and honked the horn when we were at E going away from her. At that point I picked up the trot and rode to A where we turned and entered. Gem was moving forward a little behind me, but was relaxed and honestly with how tense I was she was doing a great job at ignoring my negative energy. I asked her to walk about 2-3 strides out of X then she halted. I saluted too soon and she moved during it which just made my stomach tighten since this was the very start of the test.
6.5: straight at centerline, needs immobility at halt
I ignored it the best I could and asked her to trot on to C where we made a left turn and wandered down to E. Gem tried to spook a bit at the flowers, but I put my legs on her and she got the memo that I meant business.
6.5: needs inside leg for bend in the turn
I took a big deep breath here to try to relax in preparation for the 20 meter circle at E. left is our stiffer side (or so I thought) and I needed her to relax as much as possible. Gem was being so insanely good too. She kept the same rhythm throughout without me having to do much nagging or bringing her back. It was just really pleasant to ride.
I tried really hard to look around my circle although I have a habit of not looking far enough ahead. Gem felt much more rigid than she apparently looked to the judge. The circle I was trying hard at keeping large and round was not such a big hit though.
6.5: watch the shape and size of circle.
When we got back to the rail I made certain to straighten up when my body hit E. Trainer had made a big deal about me not ending my circle before then and I wanted to be as accurate as I could be. From there we traveled to the corner where I used it to help her transition to the medium walk between K and A. She listened really well and walked straight off. I was really proud of myself when she started to build as we got to A and I used a half halt to maintain the walk. Trainer is always getting on me for reacting before Gem speeds up instead of waiting until after we are trotting.
F came up quickly and it was time for the free walk. I had practiced it a little in warm up and Trainer’s advice rang in my ears: don’t let her break to trot, it is better to be boring and walk than flashy and break. Well, I didn’t go for glory here at all but I think Gem was tired of my tension and she broke to trot twice across the diagonal. It really hurt my psyche to have her do so halfway through the test but I put it out of my mind and moved on to the next one.
Once we were back at E and on the rail I “picked up the contact” and went back to medium walk. Really there wasn’t much difference.
7.0: fair march
The corner came up and I used it to make the transition to trot which she did immediately. Her transitions are really just becoming sharper and sharper without the shuffling steps leading up to and out of them.
The right 20 meter circle has always come easier mostly because my right leg isn’t as useless as my left so I tend to have at least a hint of inside leg. We made it around without losing our rhythm which was my main goal.
6.0: needs inside bend
Back at B and it was a straight trot back to center line at A followed by our last halt and salute.
7.0: overshot centerline, halt almost square
All the above photos were taken as screen shots from the below video. I was really, really happy with Gem. I mean, she did exactly as I asked without any shenanigans or issues at all. I was way too tense and lacked any bend in my own body, so I can’t expect her to be Mrs Bendy herself.
I found out later that we had scored 33.44 which put us in 5th of 9 riders. Scores ranged from 26-39 so it seemed like the judge was nailing some things hard and being rewarding with others. Having never done this before I’m not sure what to make of the actual score. Trainer was really happy with it when I texted her my sheet later in the day.
Rider’s Position: 7.0
Rider’s Effectiveness of Aids: 6.5 – use inside leg for bend and balance especially in circles and turns
Geometry and Accuracy: 6.0 – work on riding correct figure
Seeing a 7.0 on all of Gem’s stuff and on my position made my entire day. The rest I can work on and improve but seeing that she didn’t ding Gem for poor movement or anything was a big confidence booster. Plus my position has always been something I am self conscious about so getting a 7 on that made me smile big time. And then there is the little Gem on the back right corner of the test: Excellent first test ever!!!!
Once I was out of there I headed straight back to the trailer to change her tack out. It was already 1:45 pm and stadium was beginning. I didn’t even think to look at scores. It just wasn’t important to me.
They finally posted at around 10:30 pm yesterday. My phone is thanking me. I’ve never hit refresh so many times in one day before.
There are 7 of us in the amoeba division. Most of us are seniors. Yay!! I’m curious as to how many are really experienced and on a new or green horse versus me: both horse and rider green.
I ride dressage at 1:18pm. This means I can easily go Sunday morning and hang out at the show. No sleeping in my truck!!! Double yay!!
I paid for a stall already but it was only $25 and this way I’ll have one for show day. I can stash Gem in the stall and not have to worry about her being at the trailer. Oh wait… do they typically provide shavings at these things or do I have to bring my own?
The only thing I’m slightly bummed about is that I’m the first to go in my division. I was really hoping to have a couple people to watch in front of me to learn a bit from. Oh well. As the hubby said “now you can’t watch someone else mess up and start second guessing yourself”.
I am really confused though about the jumping. I’ve followed enough bloggers to see that they get specific times for dressage, stadium and xc. That’s what I was expecting. So my dressage time is 1:18pm.
My stadium time? It’s says 1:45-2:30pm. What on earth does that mean? Can I go whenever I want in that window? I’m confused.
I’m super excited though. Looks like I’ll be setting the bar for everyone behind me! Ha 🙂
Ride times were supposed to be posted Wednesday (yesterday) and I only checked it about 100 times throughout the day only to be disappointed each time when nothing was listed. Then again today I have been feverishly checking a million times. Ugh. Why aren’t they listed?!?! The information says they will be and if I don’t have internet I am to call no earlier than this evening, so maybe they will still post them yet.
Love this gorgeous face
Not only am I excited and nervous and hoping my entry went through all right, but my ride times actually matter in my planning. The venue is 2 hours away and Gem can handle the haul no problem. We have done way farther than that for endurance rides. he issue is me. I want to have enough time Sunday to prepare and walk my course without feeling rushed and adding to my already very anxious nature before a competition, even one with the goals I will get to in a minute. If my ride is in the morning, I will go there Saturday night (I already paid for a stall just in case), so that I can get acclimated to the venue and braid Gemmie at night hoping she stays clean and braided for the morning. If however the rides are in the afternoon, I can avoid sleeping in my truck and the overnight away from family and get up and go that morning.
I NEED MY RIDE TIMES!!! WHY AREN’T THEY POSTED?!?!?!
Ok….mini, stress induced melt down over.
Found a local taco place downtown. After eating real tacos in San Diego with L from Viva Carlos, I had to try them. No where near as good, but decent.
Back to the purpose of this post: Show Goals.
I’m not a big goal setter. It is probably a personality flaw or something, but it is what it is. In endurance, my only goal was to not fall off and complete. I fell off at my first 25 and my first 50, so those went out the window. Thankfully I stayed put for the 100 and all the other rides I did in between.
Going into this show, my first ever actual horse show experience, I have some things I would like to walk away with:
Figure out if this is what I want to do. It is a CT and a small schooling one a that, but I am hoping it gives me a taste of what it is all about. I want to walk away knowing if this is something I want to continue to pursue or if I need to go back to the drawing board.
Have fun. Sounds simple, but I’m actually not that good at having fun at events. I enjoyed my first LD a lot, hated my second and third. My first 50 was a mess, but I loved the second and adored the 100. So we will see.
Complete. This may sound stuck up or whatever, but I am not worried about our performance. I know our weaknesses are plenty and we have only been doing this for a very, very short period of time. I know we can do walk and trot, how pretty it is doesn’t really matter at the moment, and after my last schooling ride I am fairly confident Gem can jump 8-10 18″ cross rails without killing either of us. What I am worried about is breaking some rule I am unaware of and getting eliminated or refusing a ton and getting eliminated or falling off and getting eliminated. I just want to finish both phases, please.
Maintain Gem’s new relaxed zen. I wish I had some video or photographic proof of how tense and racing Gem used to be. It was awful. Ever since I started lessons, she has just been so chill about everything. There are a million things to say about it which don’t belong here, but it is something I have zero interest in ruining. No matter what happens, I want Gem to remain relaxed and calm and leave happy.
That’s about it. I’d love it if I showed up and there was someone else above the age of 10 in my amoeba level class, but I don’t have high hopes for that. I have zero goals about being competitive, but I wont feel bad beating a 6 year old either.
Now if only my entry status, ride times and stabling assignment would show up online I would be able to calm the heck down and focus on the lovely hay delivery I am getting tomorrow.
How I am feeling right now. A little sideways and a little giddy. This is also why I have little media. The hubby’s pictures are unusual.
It started to rain Saturday night around 10 pm and then decided not to stop until Thursday morning around 7 am. This wasn’t a nice gentle sprinkling either. It down poured. It caused flash flooding. There were tornadoes. It was bad.
Taken Saturday before the rain came in
Thankfully though the ground around here is some magical mystical stuff that allows for standing puddles of water 5″ deep to be absorbed within an hour of the rain stopping and within 24 hours the ground is firm and lovely once again.
I took advantage of the forecast to mow the pasture Saturday. It needed it as our two can’t eat enough to keep the grass down. My capris rode up and this is the tan I ended up with.
Also thankfully, the guy who cuts the hay field in front of our house came by on Saturday and baled it all. This means I can ride at home one again, well at least until it grows up again. Looks like the local hay production was really good for first cutting this year. Hopefully the rain will continue throughout the summer and they can get second and third cuttings this year. Current prices are looking at $13 a bale right now for anything not crap fescue or even worse bermuda which is still floating around $6-7.
My mowing buddy
So that is what has been going on. Rain. Water. Flooding. Cranky mare face who will not leave her shelter if there is any rain coming down at all. A bored Pete who hates being out in it alone, but doesn’t mind being a real horse and getting wet either. A bored and cranky Sara who really wants to ride to practice for the show next weekend, but can’t because the arena was closed and it wouldn’t stop raining.
After nearly a week of rain, her mane is now a gross mess of tangles. Not the best timing.
Hopefully, the 30% chance of rain all weekend translates to sunshine and I can trailer to the arena to get one last jump ride in before the show. I can practice the dressage moves at home in the hay field, but I don’t have any jumps. The wonderful thing is that the arena is actual public and owned by the city and has no entry fee. Its amazing to have free access to a dressage arena, jump arena full of jumps and another arena without jumps.
Three years ago I made the incredibly rash decision to quit my high paying, pretty easy job and start my own practice for a 40% pay cut, more stress and longer hours. That was smart. In my defense, not only do I come from a long line of people unable to work well with/for others, but my old boss was stealing from me and making my life emotionally and mentally hell. It was quit or have a stroke at age 32.
The going was really rough for a long time and even now that things have settled a bit and my schedule is staying fuller, there is always, always something to worry about. I’ve learned a ton though in the process and thought I would share some insights.
If you want to work for yourself to work less hours, you’ll be bitterly disappointed, at least in the early years. When you are your own boss there is no such thing as paid vacation or sick days. You either work and make money or you stay home and go broke. At my old job I took two weeks vacation and one week for continuing education every year. In the three years I’ve been open I managed to take 3 long weekends and 4 full days off in a row total and that was for a work conference. If I’m not there, I’m not making money. So I work.
Sick days don’t exist. To expand on the above, nobody is paying you to curl up on the couch and feel sorry for yourself. You go to work. I’ve taken one sick day in three years and that was when I was vomiting non stop.
There will always be more work to do. At the end of the day your pile of stuff to do will be ever present. This really got to me early on. I needed to be done with everything, everyday. It isn’t possible. You have into learn to be ok with putting things off until tomorrow then bumping it again when a new top priority item comes up.
You have to learn to leave work at work. As with the above, it is really easy to never stop working. With so much to always do, it can be hard to turn it off. You have to force yourself to clock out or you will burn out.
You have to learn to sell yourself. I know, you are amazing at what you do. But here’s the thing. Nobody else knows that. Not yet. Get prepared to sell yourself and your skills all day every day. Eventually your work will speak for itself, but in the beginning you are a nobody. One of the best pieces of advise I go twas to not hang the shingle and expect the phone to ring. I spent every Friday for months taking bagels around to referral sources and introducing myself. It was hard to do, but it got me business.
Stay true to yourself. Chasing easy money is very tempting when you are broke, but trust me, you will regret it later. Stick to your own morals and beliefs. People will trust you better when they know where you stand, so don’t be afraid to take that stance. It may turn some people away in the beginning, but the long term will pay off.
Always be kind. But stay firm. In business, it never pays to be mean. People talk and they are far more likely to complain or bad mouth you than praise, so be careful. You are more than allowed to fire someone from your business, but do it nicely and make sure it is worth it to not only lose that person, but also their entire social circle. Likewise, the customer is not always right, sometimes they are just trying to rip you off. Stay positive, don’t get dragged into a fight, but also stay firm and don’t get taken advantage of.
Be prepared to go broke, make some money and go broke again. Starting your own business is a risk and hopefully it plays out well for you. In the beginning though, you will go broke. It will seem like the worst idea on the planet and you will question your sanity. Stick with it, make changes as needed and hang tight. If you put your all into it, have something decent to offer and work hard it will pay off in the long run.
You have to have long term goals. In the beginning, just staying around long enough to pay your bills seems a hard enough task, however, if you don’t make long term plans you will burn out quickly. Its very stressful to always worry about paying the bills and getting more clients, so take time to envision what 3 years will look like, 5 years, 10 years.
Don’t forget to enjoy it. Its hard work. You work nearly non stop and even when you are at home you are thinking about work. I get it. But you started this business for a reason, so enjoy the ride. Celebrate little victories along the way.