A quick life update

While browsing through the site the other day, I realized it’s been awhile since I gave an update on life with my husband and Jim. I have to say things have been going well.

Recently I discovered a new fun thing to do: virtual dressage shows. I compete through Dressage Show Online. They post open shows and you video your ride and enter it. They have USEF and WDAA carded judges who then view the video, score it and place you. Jim and I recently took High Point Adult Amateur Western Dressage in this year’s August Championship show! We won both of our classes in WDAA Intro 3 AA and WDAA Intro 4 AA.

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This year, Jim, my husband and I have been taking a step back from showing at every open show. On a tight budget (yup, adulting is terrible sometimes), we have been focusing on certain shows – particularly my dressage shows. Luckily my husband isn’t as competitive as I am and although he did a few traditional dressage tests, he isn’t really pushing to do many more. He would rather jump – I say he’s crazy.

Our show year is quickly coming to a close. With one schooling show and one dressage show left to compete in, my scores for AWSSR year-end awards are already in. I’m a bit sad to see this year end, but I am very happy with how far Jim and I have come.

Settling into western dressage as our discipline was the best decision I have made. Both my husband and I are back to working on Jim’s canter. (He gets a bit excited.) He’s very responsive and he has been working through his body and balancing much better than he did this time last year.

This year has definitely called for my husband and my teamwork to shine through as a married couple. We have made sacrifices because of budget reasons and we have come to those decisions together. One of the benefits of both being riders is that when tough decisions come up, we can make informed decisions. It’s not just “Your horse costs too much. It’s “OUR horse is costing us a lot!” I am thankful every day that I have a significant other who understands how important Jim is in my life and can work things out.

But now, it’s time to break out our fall and winter muck boots, get ready for weekend chores in the cold and start bundling Jim up in his wardrobe. Goodbye summer and hello fall!

 

Equestrian Experience: Wild West Horseback Adventures in Las Vegas

Recently my husband and I found ourselves in Las Vegas on a work trip. But during the trip we had some free time and had booked ourselves a Sunset Trail Ride with Wild West Horseback Adventures. And we are so glad we did!

If you’ve been following the blog, you know this is right up both of our alleys since our honeymoon was spent on a dude ranch in Pennsylvania. We had never been out West and definitely not on the Old Spanish Trail so this was a treat!

The chef and driver, James, picked us up from our hotel on the Las Vegas strip around 4 p.m. and we were off! It takes about an hour plus picking up others to get out to Moapa Valley where the ranch is. The drive itself is very scenic and enjoyable and James cracks all the bad jokes you need for the month. And it’s perfect.

Arriving at the ranch, we signed the typical waivers and one of our guides, Caesar, went over all of the safety rules and made sure no one was drunk or hungover! It’s great for everyone in the group from beginners to experienced because even though my husband and I ride a lot, every horse has different buttons.

The group is really focused on making sure everyone has water which you have to out in the desert. Every saddle has a little pouch for your water bottle and your phone and you could leave other valuables locked up in the van. James stays at base camp while he cooks.

Don’t worry about mounting from the ground here! Everything is by a large platform so it’s easy for everyone of all experience levels and sizes.

And then the ride began! I don’t quite want to spoil the ride, but it’s absolutely breathtaking. Once you turn to go home, you are riding right into the sunset and it’s beautiful! I’ll post the photos, but they don’t do it justice!

We were at the front of the line and spent a lot of time chatting with the trail guide Brock. He was super nice and pointed out all of the animals and views. We even found a small lizard – with the help of the dogs – that Caesar caught and showed everyone!

After the ride which is at a steady walk and perfect for viewing the landscape, you’re treated to a steak or chicken dinner cooked by James. The best way to sum up dinner was that it was great, wholesome, good food. The steaks were a wonderful cut and very juicy!

Finally before heading back to the strip, Caesar taught a few of us how to lasso which was great for some laughs!

Some pointers if you decide to go: wear jeans and closed toe shoes and bring a wide brimmed hat! It gets hot the first half of the ride in the sun and you will get dehydrated or burnt if you don’t drink water during the ride from your pack.

I would return here in a drop of a hat. It was a great experience and James, Caesar and Brock made it very fun. Five hoofs up!

When life didn’t have horses

The other day I saw a meme about what life would be like without horses and I could relate to how that feels and the pain it causes.

I wasn’t always fortunate enough to be around horses as much as I am now. When I was young, I think my parents hoped horses were “just a faze.” They hoped the dozens of model horses, the endless supply of horse movies, the horse books stacked up in my bookcase and the constant asking for a pony for Christmas would end. Quite frankly, it makes sense that they would think it was just a faze. For many children, it is. A love of horses starts young in many girls and although they still enjoy them, most get distracted and move on to other sports or boys or just something beside spending all of their time covered in dirt and hay in a smelly barn.

But stubborn, sassy me was determined. I rode in middle school and through half of high school until I had a bad fall. Confidence shaken, I succumbed to a life without horses. I took up dance for my final two years of high school. I had danced from age five to middle school so it wasn’t a stretch. I did do well in dance, but something was missing. In college, I didn’t have access to horses. I was too busy and too broke to do anything about it. So I tried to live without and what a mistake that was.

I struggled to figure out my identity. I made friends and enjoyed college life, but something was missing. I couldn’t pinpoint it at the time, but I was more on edge. My anxiety worsened. I got caught up in a relationship that wasn’t right for me.

Finally, during my second out of three years at university, I reached out to a friend with a Morgan/Arabian mare in her backyard. My friend was attending school in Ohio and her mare needed some love and work. I readily agreed.

I started to blossom again. I soon got out of the bad relationship. I caught rides to see the mare as often as I could. I begged my now husband (then a friend) to bring me to see her. I arranged for my co-ed community service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega to do work at a local horse rescue. Seeing others enjoy the 1,000 pound animals that I love so fiercely was amazing.

After college graduation, I found myself at a barrel racing barn volunteering to ride a green horse for his owner. Although that match didn’t work out, I came across my first lease horse, Bo. And the rest is history. Even though I didn’t stay long at the barrel racing barn, it was enough to open my heart back up. My then-fiance fell in love with equines too. The anxiety-induced panic attacks started to lessen. I gave up trying to be someone I wasn’t.

So when people ask me why I spend so much time at the barn and thinking and dreaming of horses, I can simply say it’s not a hobby, it’s a lifestyle. It’s a passion I cannot be without. It’s part of who I am and I’m proud of that. And I never want to know a life without horses again.

A new set of hooves

As I mentioned in my blog post about saying goodbye to Jack, when one door closes, another opens. While I bid ado to my friend, I said hello to a new one.

Down in the lower barn, at the way end of the aisle on the left sat “Jim.” He had just come to the barn in December as a lesson horse. At 15.2 hands, Jim is a solid black registered Paint. With some white stockings up his leg and a funny backward question mark looking stripe, he also has one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever known.

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Jim is almost the complete opposite of Jack. He’s 11, broke, he jumps, does barrels, trail rides. You name it, Jim does it. The best part? My husband can also ride him since he’s tall enough and quiet enough.

My barn owner offered us a lease on Jim with plenty of rides during the week. We couldn’t turn it down. There was just something about him. Although my heart is still mending over Jack, I started to get excited about Jim. Thomas and I started thinking about our show season and all of the fun things we can do. I started making plans to go trail riding with one of my good friends around the property because finally, at last, I had a horse I could do it with. My world started turning.

Jim can never be a replacement for Jack. I don’t expect any horse to completely fill his void. Jack left an awful big mark on my heart. But Jim is here to nuzzle my shoulder and remind me of why I love horses. He is the biggest teddy bear I’ve ever known.

While I’m on Jim, I’ve started to relax again. I’ve started to gain back the confidence that Jack had thrown in the dirt. I started to feel more like me.

It’s been a bittersweet couple of months in my life. It’s been hard to say goodbye, but it’s a welcomed feeling to say hello. Jim seems to know I need him. After Jack left the barn, Jim let me pamper him for over an hour, braiding his long, fluffy, unruly mane. He took it like a champ and fell asleep, lower lip drooping. Each day it gets a little bit easier. Every step I take with Jim reminds me I can do it.

Dealing with grief as a team

Most people when they heard I had sold Jack consoled me. They knew how affected I was since he was my horse. But what they didn’t consider is how it affected my husband.

Thomas was there since day one supporting me. He helped me fall in love with Jack from the very beginning. He was ringside when we completed our first dressage test. He was there as we worked over and over on Jack’s showmanship. He helped show Jack in-hand when I was too nervous to step foot in the ring with him. He was my shoulder to lean and cry on when times got tough.

It’s been a rough week for both of us. As I deal with the loss of a friend – although very much the right decision – he’s dealing with it too. He was the one who helped me take off my stall plate. He helped box up some of the mementos. He’s there to hug me at night and remind me it’s all going to be OK.

He has helped me show an amazing amount of courage.

I don’t think I could go through this without him. He knows me, he loves me and he cares about me enough to know how important my safety is. I have a lot to thank him for.

As we move forward, I know we’ll move forward as a team. I’ll sit ringside during his lessons, taking embarrassing photos and videos of him because I’m a proud wife. He’ll help me shine my boots going into the ring so I can look my best. We’ll both give each other smiles and “go get ’em tigers” as we enter the show ring.

Tough times can only break down a marriage if you let it. The true test is coming out of it stronger and more bonded than ever before.

 

Respect is earned

These past few weeks have been all about respect for me. Jack and I have returned to a bit of groundwork focusing on respect and a bit more communication. He has gotten sassier as the winter has dragged on and it’s only the beginning of what may be a long New England cold snap.

But it’s been making me think about how respect also works in my marriage and showing mutual appreciation and respect for one another.

With Jack, respect has meant that he understands my personal space and that teeth and lips aren’t allowed on humans. I have to take a bit more of an alpha mare role, but also show that he’s safe with me. He has to trust me along with respecting what I ask of him. But it’s also a two-way street. I have to respect when he’s having a bad day and define what success means for that day. I have to understand when he’s in pain or when he’s being scared or insecure.

In my marriage, respect is also a two-way street. It’s a mutual respect of each other and our individual needs. I have to respect when he’s had a long day and also respect his judgment. (If he gets us up in the middle of the night because he thinks someone may or may not be breaking in and tells me to shush, I need to listen.) He also has to respect my moodiness and when I just need some quiet time or when I need him to be there for me.

Every day, I develop more and more respect for my husband and every time I work with Jack I have to build more and more respect. It takes constantly learning, being open to respect and also acknowledging when you’re being disrespectful to build the relationship up. When you are disrespectful, you have to realize it, acknowledge and commit yourself to not being disrespectful again.

Without mutual respect, both my marriage and my partnership with Jack wouldn’t work. It would fall apart at the seams. Respect binds the people (or person and animal) together in the relationship.

Wrapping up 2017

In a mere couple of hours, 2017 will be gone and we will enter into 2018. These last few hours are a perfect time for reflection and how our year has been. It’s a time to look at the highs and the lows and consider what we have learned from each day.

For me, the beginning of 2017 seems like ages ago. I began my year not even having ridden Jack yet (he was still with his trainer being broke.) I was entering into my first year of marriage with my husband. I was settled, but at the same time, the year brought so much potential.

2017 has treated me well. I accomplished a lot of milestones with Jack from my first ride on him in February, to our first in-hand show in April to his first off-property show then riding him in his first few shows, competing in dressage, and our goal-breaking versatility show that I did for fun that I never in my life thought I’d do as well as I did. He got approved in his inspection for the American Warmblood Society and Sporthorse Registry and received 4th for 3-year-old and older Stallions/Geldings in inspection score. He also received National Bronze for Western Dressage for AWSSR.

However 2017 is ending a bit rougher for us; although it’s going to make us a better team overall. With the cold that’s settled into the Northeast, we’ve gone back to basics with ground work and respect. We’re filling in some holes in our relationship that will only make things better in the long run.

But my year hasn’t only been about Jack. Not only did I launch this blog, but I’ve began discovering all of the amazing things about being married. My husband is my best friend. When he accomplishes something, I can’t help but be proud. This past year he got a promotion at work and began riding English. And I’m so proud of him for accomplishing his dreams and not letting anything get in his way. He is so determined and sweet and I love everything about him.

And now we’re looking toward 2018 as a team. What are our lives going to look like? What changes might be make? Although we don’t know what will come at us in 2018, we know we will take it on together. As a family.

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