Shifting the Balance

Ever since I’ve gotten back in the saddle as an adult, I’ve been super focused. Always looking for ways to go improve my skills, train harder, compete more successfully, raise the jumps. I’ve spent every spare moment at the barn trying to fit in more saddle time and I’ve spent every spare dollar (and more) fitting more shows into my schedule.

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It took me approx. 3 months back in the saddle to get back in the show ring, and I’ve never looked back.

So taking a step back as we get close to the wedding is Weird for me with a capital W. I’ve cut back to riding 2-3x a week, and have a mix of pro rides and junior riders hopping on for the other 3-4x. I gave up my private lesson spot for one in a group lesson. The jumps haven’t gone over 3′ in a little while, and our rollbacks are decidedly hunterific these days. For the first time, I didn’t respond to our quarterly show schedule update email with an enthusiastic “sign me up for those 4!” For the first time, riding is my hobby and not my entire focus.

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Also a big part of that hobby is endless nose smooshes. PC- Liz

I don’t like it. No I do not. I miss my schedule and I miss my horse and I miss the sweat and the aches and the struggles and I’m itching to get back to it like you wouldn’t believe.

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I like doing this. I already miss doing this. 

But at the same time, something had to give as we round the final stretch to the big day. I’m traveling north to Rhode Island for planning sessions increasingly often and even when I am in town, I have fittings and events and phone calls and all that fun stuff eating up my time and energy. Setting up a program for Frankie that requires less time from me was painful, but is also a relief to know that he’s getting loved on and groomed and worked just as often as his attention-hog heart desires. It takes away a lot of the guilt I was feeling about not being there as often as I’d like.

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Francis don’t care WHO is paying attention to him, as long as SOMEONE is paying attention to him. 

Frankie is feeling just fine about all of this. He’s been carting me around my lessons with his ears up and happy snorts (even if he does try to break wayyyy more often because #chunkaroo). He makes silly faces when I curry the itchy spot on his neck, he puts his face down for towel time behind his ears after every bath, and he’s always happy to see me when I’m there. He’s sound and healthy and with the help of my amazing barn family, he’ll be fit and ready for me to take the reins back after the wedding. I already have some ideas for fun new adventures next show season.

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At least one of these ideas may or may not tie into him apparently being a really adorable eq horse.

While I’m already eager to get back to a full training program with World’s Best Horse (TM), I’m going to enjoy this hobby season as a mental break from the pressures that I’ve put on myself and my steed for a while now. I’m going to view it as a reset for us to go back and work on some basics without an urgent timeline, a chance to share Frankie with some talented riders looking for saddle time, and a chance for me to explore a different type of balance in my life.

96 days until I can get that dang balance shifted back to the barn.

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PC-Liz

What? Just because I’m trying to enjoy the break doesn’t mean I’m not psyched to get back into it 😉

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Balancing Time vs. Money

We were talking at the barn the other day about time vs. money when it comes to horses. Obviously, in an ideal world you’d have both: plenty of time to go ride whenever you wanted, and plenty of money to pay for horses/lessons/shows. No doubt that’s the ideal scenario if you want to rise through the levels.

I also think either extreme of trade-offs can work for this.

Have no time, but lots of money? Import that fancy warmblood, pay for full training, and grab mane. As long as you can make it out for semi-regular lessons and you have an forgiving horse, I think you can rise pretty high pretty quickly. I’m not going to comment on whether that’s fair or not because that’s a moot point.

Have no money, but lots of time? Working student positions, farm help, etc. Building those connections, learning the skills, showing that dedication opens doors. I’ve seen it happen more than once. It’s a lot more hard work and takes a lot longer, but can have amazing results.

For me, I think I’d choose the latter. Mostly because I just really really like spending time at the barn. Of course I wouldn’t complain about a fancy import, but I would rather be at the barn than the office- even if I couldn’t ride.

But I also think these are fairly unrealistic extremes. It’s not some linear spectrum. In my mind, it looks more like this:

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Professional image making skillz

So you’ve got the ones with no time or money, the ones with everything, the ones with the trade-offs, but then you have that middle area. Which is where most people I know are currently sitting (at least the ammies that I know). I know I’m square in that middle section myself.

The middle section is full of people with jobs that pay decently but not exorbitantly. Who have commitments to their careers and people they care about, but can take some flex hours or vacation time on occasion. The ones with a bit of time and a bit of money, but not a ton of either.

So how can you make that work when you don’t have either more time OR more money to contribute?

Short answer: I don’t really know. I don’t have any magic answers. I only know what has helped me thus far and what I plan to keep doing: making sure two phrases get used often.

“Thank you!” and “how can I help?”

My trainer, my assistant trainer, my farrier, my vet, my barn help, my barn friends, my barn friend’s moms, my manfriend, my barn dogs, my barn cats, my horse, my family, my roommate, my roommate’s boyfriend. They all help me out every single day. The least I can do is make sure they know how much I appreciate that help by overusing the phrase “thank you.”

And I may only get to the barn after work for a few hours each day, but I still want to learn and be involved. I like helping kids get tacked up, doing night check, being an extra hand at shows when I can, anything I can do to pitch in. If there’s a chance to do something with a pony, I want in and I’m going to repeat “how can I help?” until someone tells me to shut up and go home.

These aren’t going to *poof* make me rich or convince someone to adopt me as the sole heir to their secret fortune (though I’m open to that if anyone is interested, just saying), but I do think people notice that dedication. Certainly I’ve had some helping hands come out of the woodwork along the way.

So I’m going to keep on that route and keep showing up as often and as long as I can.

How do you balance the whole time vs. money conundrum?

 

Rounding Out May

This past weekend, I took some time away from the barn to go to my college roommate’s wedding! All of us roommates are spread out across the country and almost never get to see each other and it was AMAZING to be together.

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Corey and his girls, just like the old days
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It may take a team of 3-4 professionals several hours, but I do clean up OK sometimes

It was crazy fun to dress up considering I spend 97% of my time in jeans/breeches, hair in a ponytail, sans makeup. And the #BrideTribe was omg so much fun. Love these ladies.

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I sent this pic to my mom to prove that 1) I have not gone completely feral and 2) I still interact with human beings

So Frankie got some time away from his mother to hang out with the kid that rides him for me sometimes. He does love her.

But he must’ve heard me refer to him as “low maintenance” and decided to give me the finger: he pulled one of his front shoes off 3 times in quick succession, tore up his foot, and now needs glue-ons plus pads up front for a while so his hoof doesn’t fall off or something like that.

Thanks for the extra $$$ I need to spend, horse. First it’s injections and now it’s this. I THOUGHT HORSES WERE SUPPOSED TO BE EASY TO CARE FOR AND PREDICTABLE.

Nah though he’s fine. Totally sound and not ouchy, just an idiot in the paddock. We ran through some grids in our lesson the other day and he didn’t put a foot wrong. I’m grateful that my farrier is being proactive about making sure he’s got healthy tootsies.

In other exciting news, the ring expansion is proceeding and the end is in sight!

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It’s even further along than this picture- there’s a border around the whole thing and the sand footing should be trucked in soon. There’s going to be enough space for a solid 6-stride line down the long side and we are SUPER excited! Bigger ring means bigger jumps, amiright??

Things are a little hectic right now and will be through June (roommate and I are moving apartments, Manfriend graduates, Upperville, heading home for a few days, etc.) but Francis continues to be my cheerful constant. Yet again, I’m grateful for his whole team that keeps him healthy and happy when his ammy mom can’t be there as consistently.

After-Work Barn Routine

Loving this idea from Karen at Patently Bay! All us ammies have our own schedules and it’s so fun to peer over the fence to see what we’re all up to.

Here’s how things usually go for me:

5pm: change into riding boots. I usually just wear my breeches to work because they’re so much more comfortable than jeans to me at this point and I SWEAR EQUESTRIAN CHIC IS TOTALLY TRENDY RIGHT NOW. So my changing is pretty much just my shoes.

5:05pm: Get in the car and call my mom. She is wise. Sit in a little bit of traffic, but make it there in ~20 minutes.

5:30pm: Make the rounds. Check the lesson board to see who’s riding that day, pet some ponies, say hi to the cats, help as jump crew for lessons if needed, just chill and decompress.

6:35ish: Fetch Frankie from his field. I like him to be outside as much as possible, so I’ll wait until the last possible moment to bring him in. Usually he just stands there and waits for me to go get him, but last week he trotted up to me and I almost cried.

6:40pm: Groom and tack up. I don’t groom TOO intensely before riding, just picking feet, curry, soft brush. Everything else waits until after we get sweaty and gross. Tack is basic: open front boots go on first (for the simple reason that if I wait to put them on, I will forget and he will go sans boot. Not the end of the world, but homeboy kicks his own legs sometimes and I feel better having some protection on him), then saddle, then I get my helmet/gloves/crop, then bridle. Nothing fancy and it’s the same day-to-day.

7:00pm: Hop on! If we’re lessoning we’ll do about 20-30 min of flatwork before jumping, but otherwise we focus on flatwork. Sometimes I’ll drag out poles to work through to mix things up. Usually sharing the ring with at least one other person.

8:00-8:10pm: Hop off. Run up stirrups, loosen the girth, undo his noseband, pick his feet, and clean up any poops before leaving the ring. Usually end up standing in the ring chatting with people for a while before ACTUALLY leaving the ring.

8:15pm: Eventually make it back to the barn. Depending on how sweaty he got, we’ll (a) curry the crap out of him, (b) sponge off the saddle area and any sweaty areas, or (c) hose off his whole sweaty body. He gets some Heal Quick/Healthy Hair from the Herbal Horse put on his various scrapes, and then some Shine Bright coat conditioner. Can you tell I’m a fan? Francis smells so purdy after this.

8:45pm: Fly spray and turnout. Big Man is on night turnout so he gets to go right back out when I’m done. More often than not, he sticks around for smooches at the gate, takes a good long drink of water, and then heads off for a good roll. And more often than not, I stand there watching him roll around like a dork and take snapchat videos of it. It’s never not funny.

8:50pm: Clean tack, put away all gear, sweep the aisles, clip up crossties. Basically taking care of everything that ISN’T Frankie. Also chat with Trainer, other ammies, the cats, etc.

9-9:15pm: Hit the road. Hope that manfriend is coming over and bringing food. Call Dad to gush over how great my pony is and give him the low-down on what we worked on.

9:45pm: Make it home, shower, eat whatever is easiest to grab, and fall asleep before doing any of the laundry I’ve been needing to do for weeks now.

This happens pretty much every day during the week except Tuesdays! Those are super busy lesson days at the barn so I skip the craziness and let that be Frankie’s day off. So far it works great! I’m lucky enough to have some great ammies to hang out with at the barn and be social, so some nights I’ll stay later. It’s not hard convincing me to stay at the barn 😉