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All too often in the year since I’ve moved to Kentucky, I find myself saying that I need to get back into a riding routine. I still have to remind myself: it’s ok to respect other priorities, too.
I am a working adult amateur equestrian. I have goals for my riding, but they come after my family and work. And this year? It’s kicked my butt.
When my husband came home in late summer 2016 to tell me that the Army was sending us to Kentucky, he kept repeating “but….horse country!” in an attempt to make up for leaving my much-loved Texas. Unfortunately, it turned out that not all of Kentucky is well-situated for horses. When I first arrived, the closest vet was an hour+ away. There were exactly 2 boarding options, one of which didn’t offer stall board (and so wasn’t an option at all for my high maintenance Elf). While there is easy access to (if you don’t mind driving an hour and a half) to very high quality vets, tack, show facilities, it’s also expensive perhaps buoyed by the well-funded TB industry.
Add in that we’re spent the majority of the year wrestling with allergies & injury and I’m tired. I showed up at the barn and noticed Elf’s nose bleeding on April 19th. From April 19th to September 29th, I went to the barn every single day except for the four that I was traveling for work. Washing his face, changing wraps, hand walking became part of the evening routine, frequently tagged on after my son’s sports in the evenings.
Too much of a good thing
Over the summer, I found myself struggling to admit that I needed a break. Going to the barn is my happy place, a chance to take a couple hours for myself. Why was I having to drag myself there to change wraps & hand walk?
The reality is that it’s only a break when it’s not one more thing on my to do list. Riding literally functions as therapy for me – an hour or so of not thinking about everything I need to get to done because I’m focusing on a more steady connection, a clean canter depart, consistent bend through a leg yield. Without riding, the barn didn’t give me that distance from obligation. Instead, I was paying a lot of money for full care board & wonderful facilities and still needed to carve two hours out of my day, 7 days a week.
As much as I loved summer evenings spent brushing my pony, I was tired by the end of his stall rest.
Back into a groove (or not)
Elf’s return to normal turnout (and no more hand walking!) luckily coincided with my vacation. I was doing some serious finger crossing the last few weeks that we wouldn’t have any random swelling or soreness to delay things. He ended up having to go out by himself during the day instead of with his buddies overnight due to pecking order friction. But that worked just fine while I was gone.
And then….I just couldn’t find my groove. It’s been just over 6 weeks since I came home from vacation to a sound, ready to get back to work horse.
I’ve ridden exactly once a week – usually on Sunday when it’s quiet and almost no one is there. I’m learning to be ok with it.
A couple times a week, I find myself getting anxious about how much money I’m spending in board and vet bills to ride once a week. I feel pressure to make the most of my horse time – to be training, working towards getting back to shows, making a plan for 2nd level in 2018. But, for now, that is not motivating. Show calendars don’t make me eager for the next, perfect 15 meter circle. It makes me tired, one more thing to check off on my to do list.
So, for now, I’m just going to show up. I told my husband yesterday that I needed to go ride and knew I’d feel better once I did. I didn’t really want to and spent the morning puttering around the house. But once I got there and got on, everything was just fine. We’re both out of shape so stretchy trot & 15m canter circles resulted in one seriously sweaty Elf. And that’s okay.
Maybe in December, I’ll try to ride twice a week. Or maybe I’ll just enjoy my quiet Sunday rides with no other goal but to take a deep breath.