Sunday, March 30, 2014

Finding the Holy Grail

Yesterday, I drove out to the Calais Horse Trials, a local schooling event held at Level Green Riding School in order to watch two of my Pony Club members ride in the Introductory Novice division. This is the event I did last year, on Champ. I had the opportunity to ride it again, but due to Life Circumstances, opted not to. Instead, one of the Pony Club girls rode Champ this year. She has been doing a much better job with him than I was, so I was interested to see how he'd do in the same situation.

It was raining. The trailer parking field was a squishy mess, and getting into the farm, I kicked myself for not just parking the car out on the road and hoofing it (ha!) into the event, but I knew there would be tractors available in case I was stuck.

I missed the dressage tests, having spent too much time shopping online for the Horse I Cannot Find, but arrived in time to snap some pictures of them getting ready for stadium and cross-country.

I also spent some time watching the dressage tests done by other competitors, because it's a good exercise for my eye to see the differences between people who practice dressage training principles when riding on the flat, and those who ride hunters most of the time. Because of my love for dressage (and so many day-of scratches that the event no longer ran on the time schedule), I caught the tail end of the kids' stadium rounds, finding that Champ and his rider came through with possibly some time faults and one refusal. The other horse and rider combination was eliminated in their first event in stadium due to refusals. Unfortunately, even though it was a schooling event, they did not get to continue on the cross-country.

Watching Champ and his rider get through the cross country phase was exciting, and they came home with a minimum of faults on course to finish the event without the dreaded 'Big E', unlike myself last year. So very happy for them! I don't know what their end placing was yet, because I had to leave before they tallied the scores -- I was completely soaked through, and concerned the additional two hours of rain would make it even harder to get my car off the site.

But all I could think, while I was there, was just how much I wish I had been riding. Oh, I probably could have done it, on the big Belgian/TB I've been riding, but I really do not enjoy half-assing my way through the practice only to try to pull a good performance out of thin air. Too nerve-wracking. I just did not have enough time in the preceding months to put in the focused practice I feel is necessary. Still. Still.....

The conditions were horrible, and the footing was greasy and crummy even in the (grass) dressage rings, so I can't imagine what the (grass) stadium ring was like, not to mention the footing out on the XC course. I watched people go, and I thought, "I can totally do this", and I sort of kicked myself for getting nervous last year and screwing it all up. No, I didn't beat myself up too much -- I did place in dressage last year -- but this year, I just thought that had I the horse, I could have handled it. Familiarity with the course and site? Probably that's a portion of it -- the XC course for the Intro division was pretty much exactly the same as last year. Improvement in my riding? Nah. I haven't improved much, if at all, in the last year, really. I'm going to be doing something about that this year, though. I'm not sure what it was, except a feeling that getting through the three phases seemed like less of an insurmountable obstacle this time, even from the rain-soaked ground.

I hope against hope that the Year of the Horse will reveal one for me (...still...again....I know, how many times do I have to say it?). I'm saving my pennies, and trying to do everything I know how to get myself in whatever serendipitous position I need to be in to make this happen. I'm not sure how totally on board Travis is with my idea, but he loves me, and I think he knows just how deep this particular fire burns, and for how long it's been banked. The practical side of me says I have to wait til we have our own farm so boarding a horse isn't necessary, but the little-girl part says it's not fair that Wren gets a pony and I don't. And part of me feels like I'm forever racing the clock, running out of time to do the things I want to do before I get too old, too broken, to physically incapable to handle the demands of the sport. Never mind the assumption that I have upwards of 40 years of life left, and that there are plenty of seventy year old people out there still riding and jumping and handling horses, a level of anxiety always says "But what if I don't?"

Hopefully, I do. It's raining again this morning, and while my riding is uncertain, I can take responsibility for some things, and so I will go out and get back on the running routine. It keeps my arthritis at bay, and makes me feel like I am doing something on this journey.

My particular Holy Grail is still waiting.

(photo courtesy of Kevin Maxson)

Saturday, March 8, 2014


"Right now, there is so much possibility and so much potential swirling around, it's almost painful. I love this, and hate it, too, because it could all lead to everything I want, or nothing. Walking that thin line between patience and persistence takes skill and an educated eye. The beginning of this new month, at the near start of spring, feels like a swiftly-shifting whirlwind, bringing me closer and closer to what I'm looking for. On the other hand, I know from experience (that "educated eye") that power is working in the background, and pushing my luck here, getting cocky, getting my hands in before it's time, may leave me with an unsatisfying result. I need to stand back a bit, and let the scene unfold before me. I've seen glimpses of what can be, and I like it. Now, to wait, and wait, and keep a watchful eye. Patience is key."

I wrote that around March 1st, and at the time, it was truly the way I felt. But another snowstorm, continued cold and grey weather, general crumminess, and a feeling like the road has suddenly got very, very long has contributed to feeling a little less so. Still, patience is key. I wish I had more of it.

Travis had shoulder surgery this past Wednesday, and we were prepared for a significant reconstruction and a long, difficult recovery. Thankfully, we got much less than that, and compared to his previous six knee surgeries, he's doing remarkably well. I'm amazed by how easily he has adapted, even though now I am overly worried he will over-do things and hurt himself again.

I also had typed out a long post about cost comparisons between having horses and doing other expensive hobbies, but I got so far into the data, it was becoming pedantic. Suffice it to say, there are people in this world who honestly believe that someone who owns one or more horses is obviously very wealthy. My observation is that I have spent ten years in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism), and I have never heard of anyone checking out someone's new Pennsic-size Panther tent, or their elaborate silk and linen and wool Twelfth Night (or Coronation, or Investiture...) clothing, or their new custom helmet or armor bits and saying, "Wow, they must be really loaded". A new tent costs as much as a horse, a full set of basic, decent armor is equivalent to a saddle, totally spiff clothing equals various horse things (blankets, bridles, other small bits of equipment -- one of my linen cotes = $65 = the recent cost of a new winter blanket for the pony)....and a weekend event with camping and feast can equal a local schooling show or small horse trials. The reality is, if you are spending a year being fairly active in the SCA to include at least five overnight trips, a War event, and keeping up your fighting/clothing/camp equipment kits, then you are spending about as much as a 'regular' person with a horse or two who doesn't go to rated horse shows, takes a lesson every other week, and buys secondhand tack and equipment as much as possible.

It's just about what you choose to spend money on to enjoy your life. I tend toward the "expensive" hobbies, of which the SCA is one....I'm still a glassworker with an expensive kiln and torch, and I do have a significant fabric addiction (and three sewing machines). Travis is getting into digital photography, with all the cameras, lenses, and computer programs it comes with. We don't play in the SCA that much anymore, and we have definite life goals to move out to a rural area to keep our horses and other animals at home. Nobody's won the lottery, we just save, and choose the less-expensive options as much as possible. I know plenty of other people who do the same, or similar. Just wanted to dispel that particular myth, not only for us, but for the other 'regular' horse-owning people out there.

Now, if we WERE to win the lottery,a big one, all bets are off. A big farm, a new truck and trailer, the perfect horse for me, instead of a 'project', all of it. I already have the plan all figured out! Just need the cash!