To My Human Friends

Dear two-legged friends,

I’m sorry. I haven’t been a very good friend to you for a while now. I’ve either (a) been unable to make plans in the first place or (b) cancelled plans on you. I know this, and I know it’s not a nice way to be, it’s not the kind of person that I want to be.

But maybe you can take solace in the fact that it isn’t just you. It’s everyone. I swear it isn’t personal, there isn’t anything wrong with our friendship besides me. I’m just being a jerk.

I know I have no right to ask this of you, but please let me explain why. I know you have more than an inkling, but please indulge me for a few paragraphs.

It’s the horse. You already knew this. You knew this from the fact that I wear my breeches to the office and take vacation days off work to go compete and only post pictures of my horse on social media and turn every conversation to how CUTE he is. This has been obvious. And you’ve been fantastic about offering to make plans on the days I’m NOT at the barn.

But there are some days when I’m not at the barn and I STILL don’t make/cancel plans. It’s because to be frank (no pun intended), I’m entirely broke and exhausted from juggling real life and the barn. Right now, real life is riding shotgun but isn’t driving. The barn is driving.

It’s not that I don’t want to spend time with you, or that I don’t want to go to that awesome winery, or that I don’t want to check out that new restaurant, or that I don’t want to get together to grill and shoot the breeze. All of those are things I love doing, and things I’d love to do with you! That’s why we’re friends.

The reason I’m not there with you is because I want something else even more right now. I’m not a naturally gifted rider like some. I don’t have that innate sense of how to make my horse go better and I have to work extremely hard to build enough muscle mass to keep my position stable. Some people can hop on 3x a week and be good, and I simply can’t. But I want to be good so badly. So badly.

That’s why I’m pouring my heart and soul and bank account and time and effort and everything I have into this sport. I want it. I’ll eat Cup o’ Noodles for a month so I can put my horse into a training program. I’ll cut back my expenses to pure survival if it means I can fit another show on the schedule.

I know this won’t last forever. At some point real life will have to take the reins back (no pun intended…again) and riding will have to come second. That’s why it’s coming first for me right now. I want it too badly to wait for “someday.”

You’ve been wonderfully supportive of this. Some of you get it, some of you aren’t quite sure what the appeal is, some of you have horses of your own, some of you don’t, but every single one of you has been absolutely lovely as I’ve thrown myself into this hobby-turned-lifestyle.

Thank you for this. Thank you for still talking to me, even when I’m not holding up my end of the friendship deal. I don’t expect you to wait around for me to be a better friend, because I don’t know when that will be. I have no plans of slowing down or cutting back any time soon.

Please know that I still love you and appreciate our friendship, and I pinky promise to try and make it next time.

I’m sorry in advance if I don’t.

With all my love,
Olivia

Balance.

I did something very unexpected yesterday.

I told my trainer that I would not be there for my weekly lesson, and that I would make it up another time.

Now, this particular action has occurred many times over the last year due to travel or illness or other barriers to me getting to the barn and riding.

But this time I cancelled because I needed a day to just not. There was nothing that would’ve prevented me riding. I was physically capable, the weather was fine (though gross, as has become the eternal state of weather in NoVA), and my horse was ready to go. I could’ve gone to the barn and hopped on and had my lesson.

But I knew that if I did, the tension and frustration and frazzled feeling I’ve been carrying for the last week or so would carry over to my ride. And as terribly guilty as it made me, the best thing I could do for me and Frankie both was to take a step back and give myself permission to take a deep breath.

I felt so guilty about this- why should Frankie miss out on work just because I’m feeling off? The weather has been so crappy, he would probably love the chance to stretch his legs and play. I was gone over the weekend and he hasn’t gotten worked with the consistency I’d like- is he going to start losing muscle mass? What if he forgets about his mother? What if he HATES ME???

I don’t have to elaborate further because you all share a similar type of crazy and know what those thoughts are like.

Thankfully, I’ve got a support system that helps me out in every way when I work myself into a frenzy like that.

I’ve got the friend who reminds me that one day off is NOT the end of the world. That we are not showing this weekend and Frankie is dead-broke, it’s not like we have him in a strict training program that I’m messing up. That he deserves my patience and hard work instead of my stress and baggage. That ONE DAY OFF WILL NOT KILL HIM SERIOUSLY OLIVIA CALM DOWN YOU RIDICULOUS BALL OF ANXIETY.

And then I’ve got the friend who I can trust to hop on Frankie in her lesson and give him a good ride. Who sent me video of her jumping so I could see for myself how it went. Who called as soon as she left the barn to give me a FULL report on what they worked on and how Francis did. Whose first words on that phone call were, “Oh my God your horse is so fun.”

So yeah, there’s still some residual guilt. I really did miss my guy yesterday. But I definitely made the right choice for me and my pony- to take a step back and take care of myself, as hard as it was.

We all have to figure out our own balance and what works for us, and I’m still figuring out my version of what that looks like. It’s going to require saying no to more things so I don’t get as spread thin, and it’s going to require a little more organization.

Thank goodness for the people I have helping me out while I catch my balance. ❤

frankie_kisses

 

My Little Pony, Not DragonMare

Despite some seriously killer humidity, I did in fact get to have a great lesson this week! We took lots of walk breaks, left the ring a couple times to catch a breeze, and drank lots of water, but we also worked pretty hard.

Our flat warmup was fairly basic- one fun exercise we did was standing straight up in our stirrups, bridging the reins in one hand, and then reaching our free hand all over the place (up in the air, touching toes, doing the backstroke, etc.). Throwback to pony camp, anyone? I’m definitely getting better at keeping my balance when we do this! Lots of extending-collecting transitions at the trot and canter as well. Despite the heat, Beastly was raring to go and very eagerly carried me into the lengthenings. Our collection is slowly improving, but she still very much prefers to stretch out and run around.

I was really really happy with our warmup over the baby crossrail- I sat deeper, waited with my shoulders, picked my hands up, and half-halted to the base. Very civilized! We then moved on to doing some small courses at 2’6″ish:

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First up was the outside vertical to outside vertical, then down the diagonal line in a flowing 3. Everyone else had to leg up for that three (or put in 4), so you can safely assume that it was a slightly woahing 3 for us. After doing that, we went through again and added the diagonal oxer.

Next, we did 1-2 the other direction (clockwise), up the oxer, down the green outside, and up the stone wall (3). The other girls managed to pull some super impressive inside turns but I was trying to get a better balance through the corners without the Unicorn leaning on my hands as much- we took the long way around.

Then the jumps went up! Most were likely 2’9″-3’ish, but I swear that outside green vertical must’ve been closer to 3’3″. I’m a notoriously bad judge of jump height, but that definitely looked more sizable than our usual fare.

And then because I’m a weenie, I got tense. So Beastly got tense. And then I braced. Which made Beastly tense more. Which led to a whole lot of sloppiness. Trainer’s comment when faced with us snorting and prancing and galloping around the ring?

“OLIVIA GET HER BACK AND GET THAT LITTLE CANTER. WE WANT MY LITTLE PONY, FORGET THE DRAGONMARE.”

Welp. Officially been called out by my trainer.

So we went and tried it again, with one goal: breathe and soften. Lo and behold, as soon as I relaxed and let My Little Pony do her job, she gave me SUCH a softer ride! Certainly not perfect- we still got fast and unbalanced at times- but she was so much more responsive and definitely seemed happier.

The revelation that better riding leads to better rides never fails to blow my mind.

Trainer mentioned that for such an opinionated horse, it’s interesting that we can “catch more flies with honey” with Addy. I can get in a fight with her all day long, but she’s much happier and willing to please if she knows we’re on the same side.

We then proceeded to take some awesome selfies because I was feeling pretty full of myself and full of how cute my amazing pony is:

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DIS IZ CARROT?!
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You. Do. Not. Mess. With. Us.

Getting closer and closer to HITS! I can’t wait to share this experience with my girl, and then report back to all you awesome people!

PS- It’s my INCREDIBLE father’s birthday!!!!! He’s the most supportive, interesting, entertaining, intelligent, loving, and all-around fantastic person I’ve ever had the privilege of being loved by (well, tied with my mom of course). Please join me in sending happy vibes his way today!