Thursday, December 28, 2017

improvise adapt overcome

High school was an angsty period in life, right? It was easy to feel overwhelmed by the world, and easy to realize just how little control we had on the environment around us.

Obviously I was not magically immune to this. But I tried to come up with a sort of "rule" or guideline for how I let that angst affect me. It basically boiled down to "don't complain unless there's nothing you can do to fix the situation."

happy pony on a cold, raw early morning
The idea there being... some things really really suck. Like when your horse breaks a useless, vestigial bone that serves no goddamn purpose but can still get infected and abscess and need to be surgically removed. That's just kinda a shitty situation that I can't really control, other than reacting to and resolving it once it's already happened.

Other things also really suck, but could be mitigated by the choices we make, actions we take.

trotting around kinda cute for him lol
Of course, sometimes there's no easy choice. Sometimes we can fully evaluate a shitty situation, all possible options or scenarios, and still conclude that we're on the best path for whatever reasons even if it's a crummy path. And.... that's when we kinda just keep our heads down and keep grinding away.

A.... LOT of horse riding and training can feel like this haha. Especially when we factor in limitations by budget, resources, facilities, or other external factors like jobs, families, weather.... whatever. You know what I mean.

still sassy about that canter tho... always sassy about that canter.
But then there's yet another category of crappiness that can sometimes be easily (or relatively easily, all things considered) improved or resolved altogether. That, by taking a step back, or a fresh look / new perspective / creative attitude / whatever, we can figure out how to make things better.

So every time I find myself feeling a bit down in the doldrums, or feeling at loose ends, or lacking motivation or energy, or feeling bitter about some external circumstance complicating things.... I try to figure out which of the above categories the problem falls into. Bc let's be real... for as satisfying as it can feel to let it all out, vent and complain about all the woes that befall us.... it doesn't really do much to fix the situation.

it's such a nice canter tho, totally worth pushing through those shenanigans!
Over the past months I've complained a LOT about feeling like Charlie and I are constantly playing catch up. That we keep getting sidelined by what ought to be small, inconsequential hiccups. But that it's turned into months and months of us just not quite getting where I want to go. For a lot of reasons that felt completely out of my control.

Now, most of the "real" issues (*knocking furiously on wood*) have been more or less resolved. And I'm free to jump back into the fast lane as I see fit, including taking matters into my own hands when possible.

Except.... it's winter. It's dark. It's cold. Chaotic holiday scheduling. Poor ground conditions. Dimly lit or crowded arenas. A sour horse that doesn't want to circle endlessly in said dimly lit arenas.

call me biased but i just will never get tired of his expressions while jumping
I am so tired of all these excuses. While simultaneously hating that they can zap my motivation. Hating that I could make the ~2hr round trip in rush hour evening traffic basically just to check my horse's blankets, refill his supps, and tell him he's pretty -- Bc I just couldn't bring myself to do a third evening in a row of blah nighttime riding in sub-optimal conditions.

Except, c'mon Emma. Winter has only just begun. All these sub-optimal conditions are gonna get a lot worse before they get better. And I'm already fatigued by them??? That won't do!

So it was time to reevaluate. Consider my options. Take some sort of action rather than being a whiny victim of my environment. As such, I've come up with a new plan.

he thinks he so freakin clever jumping through all those poles lol
My basic needs are: More daylight riding (even if the ground is still so crappy we're still stuck inside). And schooling over fences more often.

And behold, there IS an easy enough solution to this: one day a week, I'll adjust my work hours so I can ride in the mornings instead of the evenings. My supervisor is cool with this, and a midweek schedule means I'll never have to do more than 2 night rides in a row. Boom.


A final layer to my ideal wish list: I felt at my absolute best as a rider when I took two jump lessons a week: one with trainer P, and one with Dan. Logistics have not gotten any easier for scheduling Dan tho, and I've just got to accept that for now, and find an alternative.

So. There's an upper level event rider at the farm who teaches lessons during the day at OF (she taught the xc lesson my friends did while Charlie and I just hung out on the periphery for his first ever xc field trip to Loch Moy last year). Would this trainer be available for midweek early morning lessons? Turns out, YES, she would be.

Thus I'm hoping we're starting a new chapter by adding a fresh perspective to Charlie's training, while simultaneously helping me get the extra reps I need to feel more on track with my goals.


Our first lesson was this week, and Brita got to participate too since she was off from work. It was very much a "getting to know you" type lesson, where we worked on simple grids in the small indoor bc of below-freezing conditions outside.

Charlie was on point too - we really cannot get enough gymnastics lol, tho I actually don't think he'd ever seen bounces before. He liked them tho! Plus, trainer K was able to quickly get a solid read on what kind of horse Charlie is (a thinking horse, she called him "methodical" haha. yup!) and how I can adjust my riding to set him up better.

Of particular interest, she observed that Charlie doesn't really, uh, pay much attention to the ground and where his feet will be going - he's not really reading stuff farther out in front of him until a little too late. This.... is accurate haha. So we talked a little bit about raising his head through the grid so that he's seeing the jumps from the bottom of his eyes (thus allowing ground farther ahead of him to stay in sight too).

yep, this is the face of a horse who wants more jompies in his life!
Simple as it is to just work through grids inside the small dusty indoor, I still feel really energized from the lesson. I liked a lot of what trainer K had to say about Charlie and what he needs from his rider. It jives with what I know about the horse and myself, but is also given a fresh twist just by nature of being said differently from what I'm used to hearing from other trainers P and C. 

So here's hoping my new plan of adding this second jump lesson to our normal weekly routine will help us feel a little more balanced and excited about riding and working. While also allowing me to get that practice and repetition I crave. And hopefully warding off the blahs of cold dark winter just that little extra bit. 

Have you ever tweaked your schedule to accommodate seasonal blahs? Or shaken up the routine to inject more energy or motivation into things? Or, alternatively, have you faced down a season of continued crappy conditions and just decided that maybe some time off was the best option?

37 comments:

  1. I love this! So freaking pumped for you, too. It sounds like K will be a great fit for you and Charlie!

    I could easily adjust my schedule to do the same kind of morning routine 1x a week, and it really isn't too bad an idea! Though with daylight lengthening (it was still pretty damn light out at 530 last night !!), I doubt I will. Evenings are just easier for me since I'm off work at 430 and already near the barn having completed my commute in the morning. The bitter bitter cold lately though has me just flipping the bird to any riding. It's not fair to me or the horses when it's sub-zero and we don't have an indoor. Their time is much better spent being fed and keeping weight; better conditions will be here soon enough and we'll get back into the swing of things.

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    1. yea i'm excited about K. she's a bit of a different personality than i typically seek out in my trainers - but i learned from dan that, uh, personality isn't everything. ha. and, in fact, a professional who earns their money by riding often has a different perspective than a professional who earns their money by teaching. both, i think, are important perspectives for me where i am in my own riding, so i'm eager to add that element back in! (tho i should note: trainer P does in fact do a lot of horse training herself as well, i just don't think she competes client horses often).

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  2. So happy that you found a way to beat back the winter demons. K sounds like a good fit and a nice set of very experienced new eyes.

    All of December has had me taking a break and dealing with all the other life happenings. Now that it’s mostly done I’m finding it hard to get back into the swing of riding. It doesn’t help that it’s pitch black and cold (for here any way) by the time I can ride but I’m hoping a lesson scheduled this weekend gives me the kick in the pants that I need.

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    1. yea you've been BUSY lately haha - not at all surprising that it necessitated some time away from the saddle. your new facilities are great tho - esp with those new lights and giant arena!! if it helps you feel any more energized, know that i'm super jealous lol ;) good luck with getting the lesson scheduled! i wonder - would your trainer also come to your new place? maybe even just once? she might have some great insights on how to optimize your jump equipment and space to get some really versatile reusable exercises set up there. just a thought!

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  3. I so prefer morning rides! Good for you for taking control. Right now my riding days are over - it's -25 with the windchill and the ground is a rock.

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    1. i can't even think about that TeresaA omg stay warm!! :)

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    2. ugh yea, sometimes there aren't really many alternatives to that, are there? one winter (i think it was the 2014-15 winter), when the arena at isabel's barn was frozen solid for months on end, as it was every winter, brita and i adjusted our schedules to haul out one afternoon each week, in addition to our typical weekend ship out lesson. we had a couple options for indoors in the area with reasonable ring fees and jumps and stuff, and were diligent in sticking to that schedule. so twice a week we'd get really purposeful schooling rides in.... and then maybe on the other weekend day we'd hack around the property at home in the snow and ice. it kept the horses in some semblance of regular work, with three days a week. and we managed to keep our own selves sharp and keep progressing (i jumped my first ever 3' jump during that time!).... but. damn it was a HUGE hassle and the next winter we were just like..... nahhhh haha.

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  4. What a FANTASTIC Idea Emma!! I am so glad you thought of it and can make it work. I too have a very adjustable schedule. I need to think about this. I guess mostly I need to find another jump trainer while Sally is in Aiken. Anyone have any suggestions up my way? (PA/DE/MD) I could totally do this. I would need to haul probably but not a problem. IF i could do a lesson with Emily once a month and a lesson with Sally when she is up here and 2 or more lessons with another jump trainer I would feel better about myself. You have inspired me to kick myself in the ass and start thinking outside the box (Typing this as it is 10 degrees outside and no freaking way am i riding outside today LOL) Which is why i need to haul to an indoor. Also have you heard of any upcoming clinics your way? I dont mind hauling down there....I gotta get inspired. Thanks for your post!! and glad it got you out of the ugh zone :)

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    1. i'm really happy it seems like it could work too! originally i had planned to start this new routine two weeks ago, while the weather was still good enough for good outdoor footing... but blasted work got in the way. grr. it's ok tho. i can deal with the indoor, esp since it's a ghost town in the mornings compared to the evenings!

      if i can think of anybody who is teaching up by your way through the winter, i'll let you know. but... my guess is they're all down in aiken. you are WELCOME to come down here any time for a saturday afternoon lesson with trainer P ;) she's affordable and wonderful, and old school like Sally (she also knows and likes Sally's teaching style, so it probably wouldn't be too dissimilar). also this new trainer K is a longtime student of Sally's, and she may be inclined to travel - i can ask if you want?

      anyway good luck getting that fire lit. we gotta warm ourselves up somehow, right???

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  5. I hope this works for you! Come the spring, you guys will be ready for new adventures!

    I think I might need to take a page from your book..

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    1. lol it sounds like you've already grabbed the bull by the horns with the new truck and trailer!!! so exciting :D and yea i'm gonna be pretty cautious in saying what we might or might not be ready for come spring, bc .... well. it's charlie, the king of the dings. who knows. but i *can* take charge of preparing us for whatever might look like fun!

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  6. Sounds like an awesome solution! I used to ride during the day on my Mondays (which I have off) and it made a world of difference to not be gone all the time in the evening. Regardless of weather.

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    1. yea that's exactly what i'm hoping for. i've typically been an evening rider for basically my entire adult riding life, but damn if it doesn't kinda wear ya down to be constantly operating at night time. esp if there's nobody around and all the horses are bedded down for the night. it's just.... a grind. being there in the morning has an entirely different feel.

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  7. Cheers to a new plan designed to move you guys forward! Winter can’t last forever right????

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    1. nope it can't! we got so spoiled last year with such a mild season tho that it's kinda taken us all by surprise how nasty it's already gotten now. but. that's life i guess! just.... three more months of it lol. ugh.

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  8. My trainer loves when I ride with other people (that know what they're talking about) bc they tell me the same thing she does but in a different way so it stands out and I have "Ah Ha" moments about my riding. So I'm glad to hear that new trainer seems to be this for you? Glad the lesson worked out!!!

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    1. lol yea, my trainers basically don't have a choice about me riding with other ppl lol -- none of them have ever had me all to themselves. my general rule of them for riding with multiple trainers (and my sweet spot is a team of three, believe it or not) is: each of their general philosophies have to sync up - they have to all want to see a similar general picture and outcome from the horse and rider. it's ok if they go about it slightly differently, and it's ok if they prioritize things differently, but the work of one cannot undo the work of another, and it should not ever confuse the horse. so far, my standard jump trainer P and dressage trainer C have worked out great in conjunction, and trainer Dan fit in to this little trio perfectly. alas, dan is not available so i'm hoping K can fill that gap. we'll see!

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  9. This sounds amazing! I admire you for setting yourself up a schedule and sticking to it when it's dark and cold - you have a talent for making things work :) I'm kind of in the "F this it's too cold" camp currently; I feel like it's so cold it's almost unkind to trailer my horses to the indoor to work, and I can hardly get through chores without coming inside to warm up fingers or toes that are edging towards frostbite. Ugh, this winter!

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    1. yea it's really hard to stick to a routine if i don't lay it out in concrete terms. it's easy to blow off a ride until "tomorrow" if there's no actual reason it needs to happen today. but if i have some scheduled rides that will cost me money and take up professional resources, it's in my best interest to fill in the time between those rides with meaningful work, otherwise it's a waste, right?

      i'm esp trying to get away from the mindset of it's "unfair" or "unkind" to the horses to ride in the cold, too. that kinda falls into my category of stopping with the excuses. like, if *i* don't want to ride bc it's cold, that's one thing. but i can't say it's bc it's unfair to the horses. like, galloping them around jumping huge courses if they haven't worked in a month isn't fair, but asking them to do 30min of suppling flat work? yea, they'll live. and if i want to jump big courses in order to feel like the hauling out is worth it? then i better make a schedule and stick to it so that my horses are conditioned to be able to handle that work load. it all boils down to me making those choices, ya know?

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  10. I'm currently in the 'screw this, it's too cold' mindset. Sorry, but first midwestern winter and it's like, 4 degrees and dark when I get off work? Big fat NOPE. We have an indoor, but it's really driving 45 minutes to the barn that kills it for me. Once we get some more light, it'll be better, even if it's still cold. Dark just demotivates me like nothing else. My budget for a lot was shot by the new car purchase so it's not like I'm in a time rush to move up or something, so I figure if come March we're "behind" a little bit, it's really not the end of the world.

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    1. yep sometimes.... sometimes it's just all a little bit too much. i don't think there's anything wrong with just accepting that it's crappy outside and taking some time off. for me, personally, i just had something like two months off completely involuntarily. so.... i'm over that lol

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  11. Yes!!! I am firmly in the 'make it happen' camp. That *almost* made me want to do grids! Look at Charlie handling that bounce like a pro!! This made me want to go ride :)

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    1. yay!! anything that can help add motivation this time of year is a win in my book lol! in my experience grids are really hard to do by myself just bc there are so many iterations in setting them up progressively.... but it's so important for horses that it *is* progressive and not all at once. when i feel like practicing grids on my own tho, usually i find that four ground poles set at 9'-18'-9' can be a pretty excellent grid-like exercise at trot and canter (at canter it's a bounce-one stride-bounce).

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  12. I feel like changing to riding in the mornings wasn't anything short of life changing. My horse is such a dork in the dark that last winter was absolutely horrible. This winter (though it's just been cold, not wet yet) has been completely different! Hopefully the new schedule and new trainer make a big difference for you guys. I'm already so impressed with how far he's come since you got him, I always think back to some of the very first videos of him free jumping and now, looking at him navigate through those grids, he's so confident!

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    1. awesome that the morning riding has made such a huge difference! the schedule is so different from what i've been used to over the past.... five years lol, but gosh it's just so much nicer to be at the barn in daylight! and thanks also - i'm so happy with how well charlie has figured out this whole 'jumping' thing. it really helps that he enjoys it so much!!!

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  13. Today I picked some burrs out of my horse's mane, so I guess you could say we're training pretty hard. Seriously though, this was a great motivating post for me! Once temps hit at least double digits again, I look forward to laying out some fun things to do to not lose all hope in winter.

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    1. ugh this cold really really does suck, and it's not even as cold here as it is where you are, no arguing that!! i just try to remind myself tho that when it's all said and done, i'll remember the fun parts of the ride and not how cold it was. maybe. lol.

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  14. We change up our schedule every year. Since our barn doesn't have electricity we have to ride in the mornings before work in the winter and in the afternoons after work in the god months. Flexibility is something I demand of employers and I've walked away from job offers because of it before.

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    1. yea that flexibility is so key - awesome that it's worked out for you! my last job was pretty good about allowing me some seasonal changes, and the new job can be pretty reasonable too. tho it can also be more demanding when it comes to travel and whatnot.

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  15. I really admire the positive attitude you've had while tackling some tough stuff this year. Sounds like you have a great plan in place to beat the dark winter ride blues. :)

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    1. aw thanks! in fairness i've definitely spent some time wallowing in self pity too.... but at the end of the day, i just want to ride my horse. so however that can be made possible, i'll make it happen!

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  16. Riding in a packed arena at night suuuuucks! Go you for having such a good attitude! I’m glad your work is flexible enough to allow this :) I’m slowly, but surely chipping away at the old school attitude at my job. First flex schedules, hopefully work from home in the near future.

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    1. ugh yea, dealing with rigid work restrictions definitely doesn't help anything. my job in some ways is *too* flexible. they don't really care how and when the work gets done, so long as it gets done. and if that means taking a 12 hour day to fly up and back to boston to attend 2hrs of meetings.... so be it. which like, for me, that kinda sucks lol. but then it also means that they're cool with me adjusting my hours for personal time too. so. ya know. it maybe sorta balances out!

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  17. That is some fab creative thinking on your part. Knowing yourself and the conditions really played well into it!

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    1. yea seriously, like i know enough about myself to know that any change has *got* to be sustainable enough to fit into my routine, otherwise there's no chance. i'm hopeful about this adjustment tho!

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  18. WAIT. Winter has just begun?!

    D:

    NOOOOO.

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    1. haha yea, our winter here is like.... 40s for a long while (sometimes the whole season!) before dipping below freezing. really it's kinda a december-march season too, so i guess in that sense we're lucky. so far tho it has been on the more extreme end of the spectrum compared to last year and what we're used to.

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