Making grown-up decisions

I have sad news, folks. Ultimately, Dodge and I aren’t going to be long-term partners. Part of me is completely heart broken, but by the same token I know that I’m making the best possible decision.

Here’s why:
1. His owner decided she didn’t want to sell him, only full lease.
2. His owner is difficult to get along with.
I get along with literally everyone, I’ve almost never experienced conflict with anyone, and yet we butt heads near constantly. She’s the type of person that invites drama, and that’s not the best person to be connected to in such a close way long-term.
3. I switched bits.
Dodge was in a kimberwick when I started riding him, and things were perfect. I switched him out to a snaffle recently and he turned into a freight train: super heavy and difficult to slow down. This wasn’t necessarily a deal breaker on it’s own though, instead it just leads to…
4. I didn’t want to put in all the work that was required, just to have him taken away from me.
His owner is moving back to Calgary, and since she was still his owner, she would’ve called the shots. She would have been able to arrange for Dodge to be shipped out whenever it suited her, no matter the blood, sweat, and tears that I had invested in the horse. She started mentioning that shipping out west was cheaper than she thought, which was a red flag right away.
5. Dodge is a little older than my ideal horse.
Not that 12 is old – it’s not! But 12 is a bit old when he needs so much work (as point three revealed) and when he isn’t even my own horse. Plus, and most importantly, –
6. The timing was off. (Aka I don’t have enough time at this point in time).
I knew this from the beginning but I thought that if it was for a long-term partnership it would be worth the sacrifice and hair-pulling for six months. However, for a (presumably) shorter-term free lease, I won’t have the time to commit to proper, dedicated schooling until Dodge is 13. I also wouldn’t have as much time to visit and offer up TLC, which just isn’t fair to Dodge.
7. I need to focus on my career for the next year.
I’m entering into my first real grown-up role, and it’s a doozy. I’m going to be working in a marketing job that’s definitely not your average entry-level position. I’m thrilled and super excited, but I know from working in a co-op position there for eight months, that a lot of dedication and over-time will be required. Plus, my colleague (in a partner position) just announced he’s retiring in early January, so I’ll need to cover some of his workload too, and likely manage more co-op students than expected.
8. Not to mention finishing my Master’s degree.
On top of that, to finish off my Master’s I’ll need to take one course each term over the next year. Again, not conducive to spending time with a new equine partner.
9. My relationship is a little on-edge.
My boyfriend and I have had some issues lately (namely, his lack of life direction) and I just don’t want to acquire another responsibility during a slightly tempestuous time. If we break up, I’ll have to commit a lot more time and energy to my new puppy that I got a few months back. As is, he’s home a lot and is able to provide a lot of the care in terms of walks and training. I would need to cut back on barn time and prioritize puppy time for awhile if we had to go our separate ways.
10. I have a tendency to get stressed very easily.
So all of the above is naturally a recipe for complete and utter disaster.

So, as you can see, the situation with Dodge did not end up being the fit I was hoping for. I love that horse and I think we had the potential to be an amazing pair, but there were just too many factors that weren’t close to ideal. All of it combined to give me that nervous, anxious, bad stomach feeling for a number of days. My gut is usually (and literally) pretty good at telling me when a decision is not right.

My next plan of attack is to scale back on riding a little over the next few (chilly) months in order to not give myself a nervy b. I’m still going to ride, don’t get me wrong (couldn’t live without it), but I’m going to just take one or two lessons per week with my fantastic new coach on one of her mounts until life calms down with work/school.

At the same time I’m going to save up for my own horse since I’ll be earning a real salary and not leasing/co-boarding for the first time in a dog’s age. Next year at this time I’m hoping to find the fit that is right for me, while I continue to learn and improve my knowledge in and out of the saddle with Erica (the new coach).

As sad as it will be to see Dodge go (back to Calgary) on Wednesday, I know that I’m making the right choice for all parties. I still have to say that making grown-up decisions does suck sometimes. Having my own lovely horse (finally!) would have been so nice. One day!

A horse of my own?

Alright, so it appears I’m long overdue for an update yet again. I’ve had a lot on my mind lately…

One giant decision that has been looming over my head concerns the new boy I’ve been riding – who might soon be under my guardianship. This is a huuuuge deal for me. Since I was a little girl I’ve always dreamed of the day when I could have a horse to call my own. And that day might be drawing quite close. In fact, I’m planning on getting him vet checked in the next week or two!

However, I think I ought to take a step back and fill the gap between my last post and how I ended up at this point.

So I stopped co-boarding Gordon because of the terrible facilities that were impacting my ability to learn and grow. I decided to spend some time riding my friend Rachel’s horse Dodge. I had visited her recently and had a short ride on him and fell in love!

Dodge is a TB with decidedly warmblood movements. He’s 12 years old and spent most of his career as an eventer. And in the month I’ve been co-boarding him, I’ve fallen head over heels.

So far, I’ve fallen most in love with him in saddle. On the ground, Dodge can be a bit headstrong and cranky. But because we have such phenomenal rides together, we’ve really been bonding quickly and forming more of an on the ground connection too.

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So why do I feel like Dodge could be THE ONE?

One of the top reasons why this horse feels right for me is because I trust him 100%. As anyone following my adventures will know, I suffer from Nervous Nancy syndrome (not just in the saddle, either!). It takes a looonnggg time for me to trust a horse. Often my fear and anxiety prevents me from really enjoying my rides. So having a horse that I trust almost right away is very rare and is a huge deal! I even jumped a small course on him the other day and really enjoyed myself. A partnership like this could mean A LOT of progress and enjoyment for both of us!

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I’m also going to be getting a great deal on him because he’s being sold to me by a good friend. Although, my friend and I have been butting heads a bit lately for a few reasons. So I’m hoping that our friendship can at least remain stable through the sale process! (Perhaps a post on this issue will be forthcoming).

The only problem with this new development is the timing. I’m beginning my first, real grown-up job in January. This job is a high-pressure role – I’m in charge of the visual identity of a large organization. I’m also finishing the last leg of my Master’s, so I’ll have to take one course per semester over the next year, while finishing my degree All that combined with raising a puppy, dealing with some boyfriend issues, and keeping my house semi-sanitary, means that I will be a verrrrryyy stressed girl for four months. (The summer won’t be so bad because I’m doing a laid-back directed reading and dealing with course material that I’ve already tackled in a class I audited last summer)

Ultimately though I think it’s worth having a few months of burn out and hair pulling in order to end up with a horse that’s a great fit for me in the long term. Dodge is currently boarded at a co-op barn, but I figure it might be a good idea for my sanity to keep him at a full service barn for at least these four stressful months. Then if I can’t make it out some days, he’ll at least be properly looked after. That, or I’ll need to find a co-boarder willing to help out in exchange for their rides (rather than a monetary thing).

What are your thoughts, dear readers? I think it’s worth taking the leap of faith and going for this horse that’s near perfect for me, even if the timing is less than 100% ideal. Let me know your thoughts though! This is my first stab at horse ownership, so any input from a more experienced horse person would be invaluable 🙂
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The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair – and big horsey life decisions

My first experience at the Royal re-affirmed a huge horse-related life decision that I’ve recently made.

Which brings me to major horse update #1/3: I’m no longer co-boarding Gordon.
If you’ve been following my blog at all, you’ll know that this is a really big decision – because I love that horse!

Now I originally wrote a really long post tonight, relaying each everything about this decision in detail. I decided to delete it though because I don’t want to write bad things about good people on the internet.

My coach, and Gordon’s owner, is a lovely, lovely person. Her only flaw, and the thing that was really highlighted at the Royal today/yesterday, is that she’s too optimistic. She makes promises that can’t be kept because she sees the world through glasses that are too rosy – she’s overly idealistic to the point that she convinces herself that unattainable goals can be achieved.

This wouldn’t necessarily be a big issue if we were in a situation that supported this type of idealistic thinking. But we moved to a barn that doesn’t have the facilities to support these types of aspirations. She keeps making promises that can’t be upheld by a place with no arena (not even an outdoor), and not enough co-riders for support/motivation.

Again, I won’t dwell too much on any messy details on the internet, but a few weeks ago it became clear to me that I needed to find a new horsey situation. I was no longer learning, and I didn’t even feel comfortable enough to want to ride most days at this new place – not a combination that leads to progress or fun.

Which leads to horse update #2:
A new coach with a great sense of humour, and a keen focus on how the rider’s position and influences the horse. She only takes on really serious riders, and is a lovely person. Can’t wait to share more about her lessons soon.

Last update of the night is horse update #3: My new friend
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However, I’m going to keep you in suspense about this boy for another 24 hours (mainly due to post-event tiredness).

Hope everyone’s having a great, equine-filled weekend!

Provincial Championships

I have so much to fill you all in on! It’s been a really hectic fall at work and I’ve barely had time to stay on top of my life, let alone record it. However, I miss blogging and writing and am committed to start relaying things better.

So here we go! To start, it’s essential that I fell you in on the highlight of my competitive riding career to date: attending the 2014 Ontario provincial championships in September.

The day of championships dawned ominous and stormy. On the way to the show grounds we heard and saw lightning. We were nervous the entire day was going to get called off for safety reasons. Luckily, the lightning stopped just in time for the day not to get scrapped.

Our warm-up started in the pouring rain, although we were lucky that it stopped in time for our first class – which was our best of the season! It was training level test 3, and it was the only time that we’d done that test at a show. We scored a 66.2% and tied for third among judges, coaches, etc. (I was accidentally registered in the open division – oops!)

Our second class was a lot less hot. We came in seventh and only scored a 59%. The ring was right next to where Gordon’s friends Merv and Maggie were stabled and he spent the entire test calling. On top of his lack of focus, I clearly wasn’t focussed either, as I started doing the wrong test! The judges didn’t even notice I was off-course, oddly enough. I had to stop to tell them!

Anyway, this second test meant that we were definitely knocked off the radar and didn’t stand a chance of winning any division titles for the year. However, my top score combined with my teammates’ top scores (my coach and her ten-year old daughter) meant that our team placed second in the province!

All in all, it was a pretty great first experience at champs, although I look forward to performing better in upcoming years. I really can’t complain though given how much we improved over the span of the season – all while schooling in just a grass ring! In our first test we performed even better than we had done in our schooling sessions. Quite an accomplishment in my books!

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Apocalypse ride

Just got back from a pretty crazy weather situation at the barn. Take a look:

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Other quick updates include that in the past few weeks we’ve qualified for provincial championships with some pretty respectable scores – a 62 and 65% respectively. Can’t complain about that!

This weekend I’m going to support my coach and her daughter at the last regular season dressage show. Next weekend I’m doing a fun fall fair. Gordon and I are going to try some hunter flat classes out. The weekend after is championships!

Going to try to get back to recording my rides and progress more often. I should also share that we’ve made a lot of progress since I’ve begun riding with shorter rains and more impulsion. It’s making a big difference to the quality of our work.

Talk soon and, until then, happy trails!

Kaitlyn.

One step forward, and two back…

Yesterday was such a frustrating ride for me. First of all, Gordon wouldn’t come in at all (which isn’t unusual). He’s sees me and runs the other way – and his paddock is huge. I had to bring in the four other horses he shares a paddock with before I could grab him. Horrible. In a moment of anger, I texted his owner and told her that we really need to work on his paddock manners, or else I’d need to find a different horse to ride. I’m just so sick of spending so much time running around after him.

The lesson was also horrible. Gordon is incredibly herd-bound, as you might have been able to surmise based on my rant above. He has a super difficult time focussing when his friends aren’t working too. Usually I avoid this by scheduling ride dates with friends, but today he was alone and he was acting like a total A-hole.

To be fair, I should mention that I haven’t ridden him much in the past week because I was home in Ottawa (where I got to ride my first cross-country course on Q – check out the photo below!). But in any case he was being a big jerk. He was leaning against my leg pressure, popping out his shoulders, not travelling in a straight line, bucking and even a mini rear during one conversation. He also tried to run me back to the barn. Just a nightmare.

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To combat this, his owner got on about an hour after my lesson and gave him a talking-to. I felt like a failure for not being able to sort his issues out on my own.

I hopped on after for some very light work, but he still wasn’t being super precise. The day did turn around a bit though when I was able to ride my friend’s horse Dodge (see photo below).

Dodge is an OTTB, and has converted me to actually liking thoroughbreds. His movement feels so warmblood-esque and he is just such fun horse to ride. Really loved spending time with him and hope to ride him again soon.

In the meantime, I have another lesson tomorrow and a show next week – more updates to come soon! Wish me luck…

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Proof(s) that things are improving!

These photos make me so happy. Especially the one where I’m making the biggest spaz face and Gordon is in the midst of a wonderful, engaged canter stride. Too bad my hands are so low and wide, but I was doing training level, so I guess training hands are okay ish. Will still try to fix this for the next time (along with our lacklustre impulsion in some instances!).Image

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