I’ve never been a huge follower of New Year’s Resolutions. Not because I don’t believe in them or feel that they hold no value, but because I fundamentally never really understood the difference between resolutions, goals, or plans. Most years, I never really had any overarching resolutions that differed from definitive goals that I would become aware of as the year began. A lot of my achievements and goals have been a patchwork quilt of ideas or goals I would pull together as the year progressed. This year, I decided to make a change. My resolutions are more laid out. My soul is calm enough to look forward with confidence and clarity. No matter that these are best-laid plans of mice and men. What better way to begin a whole new year than with a few real resolutions?
1. Get Back In The Arena.
It has been approximately 15 months since Joy and I cantered down centerline for our final ride before her maternity leave began. It was a bone-shaking, heart-bursting, utterly humbling experience. I have craved that deep, shuddering breath I take out my headphones before heading into the arena, the cold wash of panic as the whistle blows and I give Joy one last pat, the unsettling silence only interrupted by hooves through the test, and the pride that comes with a final salute. Financially, I’m not in a place where we will be able to show extensively, but with some budgeting, I’m hoping to do a couple in the spring and a couple in the fall.
2. Ride consistently clean tests
Before maternity leave, Joy and I only did two shows at Pre St. George, a total of four tests, with scores ranging from 58.9% (not a single clean change and no tempis) to a 62% (I went the wrong direction, what even are pirouettes, why do 5 3s when you can do 7?). The looming question at a show with Joy is “what horse will I have today?” Usually, it’s not an easy horse, and some compromises must be made within the arena to contain the larger mistakes I can sense. Every rider knows that feeling. But in my heart of hearts, I know just how capable she. I know we can have a smooth, error-free test, and I want to build the little pieces together so tightly that I can have genuine confidence in our ability to perform.
A goal that piggybacks off this resolution requires smooth, error-free tests are a necessity. Some of you might remember one of my proudest moments: Joy earning her *Pb* (performance bronze) designation in late 2016. The American Trakehner Association designates three tiers of recognition for performance horses, in all disciplines. Once the designated requirements are met, a suffix is added to the horse’s registered name as a sign of achievements met. Performance Bronze requirements for dressage are met when a horse achieves five scores of 63% or better, under five judges, at third level or above, meaning Joy’s REAL registered name is Fair Joy *Pb*, I decided not to change it with the USEF/USDF. For Performance Silver, a horse must score 63% five times, under five judges, and Pre St. George. We were so close our first season to knocking two of those scores out, but our greenness showed. At the end of 2019, I would like to happily pay the extra money to the USEF/USDF to officially change Joy’s show name to Fair Joy *Ps*.
3. Continue My Growth As A Rider, Physically and Mentally
Through last semester, I think I’ve finally learned to balance my academic life with my personal life, work life, and even more importantly, my riding career. It’s not a fun tightrope to walk, and it was as exhausting as it was fulfilling AND frustrating. Of course, I’m not a superhuman and some things fell by the wayside, particularly my eating habits and physical health. This year, I want to focus on continuing to build my education by seeing my trainer 4-5 times a month, my mentor every other month, visit my good Bereiter friend for a week of intensive training, clinic as often as possible, as well as scribe and audit as many things as humanly possible.
Then, to build upon all the cerebral knowledge gained, I want to work on building my physical strength. Erin told me after her most recent clinic with Kim Severson that Kim said while, ideally, most upper-level riders get their fitness should come from full-time riding, only having 3-4 horses in training is not enough. Translate that to me… Which is one horse, my own, in full training, and just a couple of stalls to clean a day. It’s not like I’m gaining fitness from my little farm. Maintaining? Maybe. But it’s not enough for me to feel confident that I’m doing everything within my power to show Joy off to the best of her abilities without getting in her way. On top of that, I want to feel like I’m doing my body justice. My immediate family does not have any health issues, but high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and early menopause run in the heavier sides of my family. Partnered with anti-depressives that almost always have weight gain as a side effect, my near future could look very unhealthy if I don’t begin to take control. I’m not looking for a number on the scale or a breech size, I’m looking for a feeling of strength, health, and confidence that I’m providing myself and Joy every possible opportunity to be successful. I worked out my school and class schedule to accommodate gym time. I’m taking a different route to school to avoid my favorite taco shack that I cannot say no to. I’m meal planning for long days and taking the time to set myself up for those days I want to fall off the wagon and just grab a burger. I’m ready to step up my game to be the rider my mare deserves.
4. Debut Fanfare MN to the world!
Right now, sweet Posey looks like some type of yak, loch ness monster hybrid. There’s a reason that young horses are advertised as brand-new foals, 3-month-olds, or 6-month-olds. Those are the most “aesthetically pleasing” times in their lives until they really begin to mature as 3-3 ½-year-olds. That when you can really get a glimpse of what they will look like in the years to come. Yearlings are, not to be crass, fugly. That’s okay! There is talent and conformation hidden within the gangly limbs and large joints. Sometimes they still move pretty well if you can get past the shock of an actual moose in front of your eyes. While it’s not an ideal time to debut your first homebred to the world, waiting until Posey is three when we are lucky enough to live within a four-hour drive of the USDF Breeders Championship Series Final for the Southern region would just be silly. One of my biggest regrets with Joy was neglecting to expose her to horse shows before she began to attend under saddle, and I would like to avoid repeating that mistake. I hope to get Posey to at least one USDFBCS show in-hand come the fall. We live in an area with a ton of fabulous warmblood breeders, so I’m sure the competition will be stiff, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about the experience! The trailering, the stalling, the braiding, the handling, the triangle, the atmosphere. Who knows, she might score well and maybe qualify for Finals. Perhaps we go to Finals. Maybe we don’t do any of those things next year, and we just travel. There are in hand trail classes, plenty of schooling shows to see the sights at, and SO many bustling western events (roping, barrels, general cowboy stuff) within a close distance. For now, I would like to get her out in the world at least three times, hopefully including one recognized in hand show before the end of 2019.
5. Learn About Saddle Fitting
The queen of my heart has pretty much always had hand-me-downs. Her bridle(s) have been made from various pieces I’ve collected as a tack hoarder through my 21 years of riding, or she’s used Apple’s. Her saddles began with a starter decrepit Wintec, moved Apple’s ancient Stubben, upgraded to a slightly newer Wintec 500, then to a Collegiate that was at least as old as me and that I didn’t own, and then finally, through a stroke of good fortune, a Custom Saddlery Star a woman gave me because I had been kind to her daughter at a clinic one time. I mean, if that isn’t good karma coming around, then I have no idea what I did to get lucky enough for this saddle to join me. The issue is… None of these saddles have ever really FIT Joy. Or me, for that matter, but I don’t know what fits her or me. Joy’s a fun shape: short backed, high withered, broad shoulders, narrower in the back. Which makes finding a saddle that truly fits difficult. None of the saddles I’ve consistently ridden her in have ever caused her any pain or poor fit. They simply could just fit BETTER, and I want to know why. The Star I ride in right now is definitely too wide, but I’m not in a financial position to drop it and get a new one, mainly because it hasn’t caused us any trouble and, unfortunately, has a ripped seat.
To begin to fix this saddle nonsense, there’s a couple steps. First things first, replace the seat. An expensive, time-consuming endeavor and one I’ve been putting off for a year. Next, sell the saddle with the new seat and find a saddle I can borrow for a little while the Star is off getting re-seated. Then, work with various saddle fitters to truly learn about proper fit for multiple horses and myself, hopefully culminating in finding a saddle that is more appropriate for her. I’m woefully undereducated in this area of riding and want to expand my knowledge for the future. I know what is a poor fit and what kind of saddles I do/don’t like… So at least I have a starting point, but it’s not enough. At least, I don’t think so personally. I’m just hoping to find something in decent condition that doesn’t give me a backache like the Star does and fits Joy the way it should, with the help of an experienced professional for valuable lifelong guidance.
6. Practice Patience, In the Saddle and In My Heart
I’m not what I consider a stoic personality. I’m easily frustrated, and that envelops my being. Unfortunately, when I’m frustrated over one thing, whether that’s a mistake in class or being a little late to work, I cannot shake it off, and it will hang over my head. Other days, when my anxiety is hanging over my head, I’m beyond irritated over things I’m not even aware of. Even the smallest sounds are amplified and can throw me into a spiral. It’ll just be my mood. Sometimes that translates to my riding and my relationships. That’s the epitome of unhealthy. What I’ve decided to do is keep a little journal (and if I lose that journal, use designated space in my planner) to talk to myself about my feelings, my days, and my struggles. I’ll use one part for non-barn life and the other part for horsey related things. This will encourage me to stay present and emotionally educated in all aspects of my life. I’ve also decided to go back to therapy, armed with my journal, to talk through some of my issues. As a young professional in the legal field, how can I work on other people or companies’ complex problems when I’m not in touch with my own mental health to understand my feelings? As a rider, how can I expect my sensitive mare not to feed off my frustrations and work her hardest when I can be quick to anger? How can I work with a young horse with only a kind hand if I don’t always offer that to her? I can’t, so it’s time to make a change.
2019 has every opportunity to be the best year so far for all of us. It’s on our shoulders to build new habits, set standards for ourselves, and to land on specific things we want to achieve, for ourselves or our horses. You could become a completely different person if you so choose. Isn’t that invigorating and inspiring? There are so many things we haven’t experienced, moments of pride and fulfillment we don’t even know about yet, and all this love we haven’t shared with those around us. There’s nothing quite like 365 days of new opportunities, just waiting for the right time to ripen and change your life.
It’s safe to say Erin and I have lots of 2019 plants for 2RM too! This creative outlet has become a staple in my life, and I love anything that means spending more time with my best friend. Some of our ideas are ready to go, with dates on a calendar, and others are in the works to surprise y’all with. You’ll just have to stay tuned for them!
With that, begin your new year off right! Tell everyone you know how much you care for them, kiss your ponies’ muzzles, and be kind to yourself. Maybe make some resolutions or goals, if resolutions are not your thing. Feel free to share them with us here or on Instagram. If there is anything I love, it’s watching people map out accomplishments and the steps to achieve them.
Happy New Years! We can’t wait to share with you and follow each of you on this year of adventure. Thank you for being a part of our online family.
Until next time,