Deep breath. Here goes "ammy horse ownership, round 347".
I was kinda coasting along with training rides and not going to the barn, but as discussed, that got prohibitively expensive and then the whole lease option did not pan out.
The current plan is that I'll just create time in my schedule to ride 3x a week.
Yes by magic.
JK. I'm working with a supportive SO and a constant level of high-functioning anxiety, coupled with a lucky break about not having to travel for work as much lately.
Straight up, I cannot (CANNOT) do the 6-7x a week rides and lessons and shows and clinics and all the shit I used to. It's just not a thing. I also cannot spend $$$ to buy custom Ottos from Germany tho my strong suit has always been bargain hunting and my weakness has always been collecting horse shit.
We're finding a new normal.
I picked three days a week to make an appearance.
I have a fantastic barn buddy who can meet me out there more often than not to help motivate both of us.
I'm mixing it up. We jumped for the first time the other day. Zoe LOVED it. LOVED. Like. Forward going. Taking me to the fences. So honest. So adorbs.
Seriously guys. This mare. If I had any other horse right now, I'd just admit the timing in life is bad right now and I can't do it all, but she's the once in a lifetime sort of horse that literally makes everything easy, so here we are.
oh hi jumping position. cool you're still around.
I've been playing in the jump saddle because I feel more successful that way and less like an abject failure. (Dressage is brutal, ok?) Today I threw the dressage saddle on to see if my sad, non-existent riding muscles wanted a workout.
Fun fact: I actually rode better than expected.
lil baby mare starting to grow up
That's not to say it was great, but more that I was pleasantly surprised by my ability to stay balanced and hold my position and ride accurately based on a decent baseline level of fitness, even though said fitness is not from riding horses.
It's all a work in progress.
I literally couldn't be getting through it with a better mare and hey, any day that ends like this:
After an embarrassing number of months in a row in which I absolutely swore I'd make the time and ride my own horse and get my shit together, I finally realized I couldn't keep making a mortgage payment a month to ride bareback for 20 minutes once every 30 days.
It doesn't make any sense.
Zoe is such a foundational part of my life that there's no way I'm letting her go.
I did the reasonable adulty thing and reached out to a trainer I trust and set up a lease situation with a fancy legal agreement and everything
Not gonna lie, the day I put her on the trailer and watched her drive away was really shitty for me. I told myself it was a two week trial and it might go ok and it might not.
The idea of not paying $$$ to not ride was nice.
The truth was that I didn't have time to ride if I had wanted to.
And yeah when I got the text that she wasn't quite the right fit for the situation, I was definitely not sad she was coming home.
I wanted to append her thoughts just a little bit because they're a topic that strikes very close to home for me.
I loathe the "horses are my therapy" sentiment.
beyond side eye
Horses are amazing. Many things to many people. I've invested years of my life into them and I will 100% tell you they (and the people I met through them) shaped me into the person I am today and I will forever be grateful for that.
I'm going to be very personal for a minute and tell you I was raised in a shitty environment where there were a lot of unhealthy expectations and that I was never allowed to think for myself or have an emotion or respond to anything and as a very young human, I learned to choke everything down. By the time I turned 18, I literally didn't have emotional responses to anything. Ever. If that sounds weird AF, it fucking is.
You know why I kept that fucking hellmare for so long?
Because I literally didn't know how to feel fear. Couldn't process it. Didn't have a space in my head for it.
It took three deeply unhealthy years of me trying everything and doing everything and being unable to process a goddamn basic concept like fear before I was able to be like "ho shit the reason my stomach feels weird every time I go to get on this animal is an emotion called FEAR and that is a normal and rational response to being wildly overhorsed and hey, it's an important red flag that your brain is trying to keep you from actually dying".
If that sounds weird AF, it fucking is.
And if you think it might have been smarter/safer/cheaper to address all that in the confines of a therapist's office, you're probably right. If you think it was unfair to drag a horse along with me through that particular puddle of shit, you're also right.
when does this story get a zb?
I'd like to say the story has a happy ending there, right? I learned that fear is a thing and that life is better without fear and that fear means you might actually die and you should pay attention when you feel fear. And then I met Cuna. And everything was great.
From him, I learned another super-elementary concept: love. For the first time in my life, there was someone I couldn't wait to see. Wanted to be with all the time. This connection that no one else got but it was just the two of us against the world and I never cared that he was this goofy old red horse and he never cared that I was this weirdly damaged oddball who desperately tried to look normal.
As you all know, the next step after that was learning to lose him.
And then Courage, with every cheesy implication you can think of. I think the most important thing I learned from him was that no matter how far down I thought I'd stuffed my emotions and how hidden every response was, I still had to acknowledge them. They still mattered.
it was a complicated relationship
I still fucking mattered.
It didn't matter one iota if no other human on the face of the planet knew I was a fucking wreck who was going through hell.
He called me on it.
It was zero fun. Do not recommend.
If that sounds weird AF, it fucking is.
and yet we still looked magical
Because see. I vividly remember showing up to ride because y'know horses are therapy or whatever bullshit. The moment I stepped out of the car, he knew what was up.
I literally couldn't catch him in his stall.
IN HIS STALL.
Standing there. Crying. Because the one thing that was supposed to be "my therapy", the "fun thing" in my life, was no fun at all.
I learned a lot. I learned that I have emotions. That those emotions matter. That sensitive creatures can call us out on those emotions even when humans can't or won't or don't care.
But you know what else I learned?
a better way
Horses have emotions too. They respond to us on a very innate level. It is completely and totally unfair to them to show up and dump our stress and our shit and our negativity into their otherwise placid lives and then blame them for their responses. We are responsible for their well-being, not the other way around.
If I can't meet my horse in a calm, understanding frame of mind and be in that moment with them, I need to not be there.
I cringe when I watch people take their shit out on their horses and their dogs and their kids. It bothers me on a very visceral level when I hear people assign intention to an action by an animal. The horse isn't being a jerk. He doesn't care one way or another about your right leg or your left rein or the jump in front of him or whatever stupid bullshit you're blaming him for.
All the horse is doing is responding to what you don't even know you brought with you.
Some are like Zoe and they're golden through and through and will tolerate a lot more. Some are like Courage and won't.
It doesn't matter though.
It's still our responsibility to be better than that.
We owe it to them.
I spend less time with Zoe on a weekly basis than any other horse I've had.
Every time I'm with her, I am able to breathe in and breathe out and be part of that moment.
Not dragging my shit behind me.
Not blaming her for what I brought with me.
Not taking out on her things she has nothing to do with.
sunshine and grass
And you know what?
We're stronger for it. Time spent together, no matter what we're doing, is positive for both of us.
I didn't really mean to blog because I don't have anything more meaningful to say than "ZB is a baller and all y'all without ZBs must be pretty sad," which isn't super great content.
Alyssa came out to play in the sunshine the other day and Roxie's mom had sent me a jump saddle to mess around with. I told Alyssa we'd set up a crossrail and go jumpies but joke's on me, apparently like 3 weeks of solid rain means there's this "mud" substance outside that's bad to jump in.
bright sides: green grass and space boots
Regardless. It's the first time I've had action pictures of ZB in like... months... and the first time I've had outdoor pictures since... ever... so despite not doing much more than a sedate walk/trot around the outdoor arena while strategically avoiding mud, I thought y'all might want to see what it looks like when you 1) have a ZB and 2) put her in training and 3) only ride very occasionally so the training really gets to take root before you start messing her up.
walkies! not gonna lie, i deeply regret my saddle pad choice on this day
I just piddled around and focused on staying quiet and forward with my hands while doing prompt transitions.
She's a different ride than the OTTBs of my past--she's hot for a draft cross, but that still means making her more sensitized to my leg vs LEG ON like riding an actually-hot horse. She tends to run a little downhill and get low in the poll (see also: baby draft horse) so I just kinda camp my hands UP and FORWARD and then go around.
uh yeah i'll take this
It was really fun for me to see these photos--to me, this was an average-to-blah day where neither of us put in any special effort. I just hopped on and we went around and it felt ok not great. Which is fine. That is the level of effort I was putting in that day.
can you even with how adorable we are you cannot
I realize my expectations are different than someone who's pushing to get out and show and throw down 70s at first level in a couple weeks or something, but to me, the little lady looks fucking fantastic and omfg guys she is so much fun to ride.
The footing wasn't good enough to canter or jump or anything so we called it and petted her smooshy nose and fed cookies and let her eat the tasty spring grass.
I've been at odds with this whole "amateur equestrian" thing lately. It sounds dumb, but I don't understand how to relax and enjoy the process and not be competitive, if that makes any sense.
I mean, it's obviously easy in the sense of "just don't sign up for shit" and I have that part dialed.
I'm a super motivated and goal-oriented person. To a fault. (Example: took up throwing frisbees last year. Now a frisbee-throwing champion with multiple trophies to prove it.) I recognize that this is a character weakness as much as a strength. I mean, again, here I have this amazing horse and sure I didn't have the energy to do anything about that for a while, but I kind of do now.
yes a color-coordinated purple bag and yes the frisbees sparkle, haha
It's just that every time I tried to ride her, I struggle-bused real hard. Riding is hard. Dressage is hard. Practice is critical. Lessons are expensive. I'm too focused on perfection and too aware of my own deep-seated flaws to really enjoy half-assing it on that level. It's not fun for me to do badly, know I'm doing badly, and then continue to do badly.
toodling is pretty ok
Deep breath. This is not an anxiety spiral.
The other day, I dug a jump saddle out of my garage, put together the one brown bridle I own that I can sort-of coax on to ZB's head, and then trooped out to the barn.
does the mare need open fronts? obv am i going to shop for them at not-rolex this month? OBV
I set up a bitty little trot pole and made myself do goofy jumper-lesson patterns around the ring. Pick up a contact. Trot at the corner. Halt at A. Trot off. Straight line over the pole. Walk at the letter. Halt. Walk off. Just whatever, keep things organized.
It was actually really funny. As we both settled into the exercise (and I committed to keeping my hands UP and FORWARD like a JUMPER and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD NOT FUSSING AT HER) (god I teach good lessons to myself in my head), ZB relaxed into the contact and gave me some really quality work.
For the first time in a long time, I got off from a ride with a saddle and felt... successful? Motivated, even. I want to do it again and do it better and I actually feel like it was productive for both of us.
awww look what a cute beebee is growing up
Naturally, I prompted celebrated this success by ordering a browband. Stay tuned, I guess.
This was hands down the easiest equine-related winter for me since I started riding horses.
It was dark. It was cold. I did the math on taking risks driving over snow and ice in my (only) car and risking my (only) body for a hobby when y'know, bills never take a day off (and neither does my job) and it freaked me out. For the first time in my life, I took a deep breath and said, "horses will still be there in the spring".
plus going in circles is TEH DUMZ
It's not that my beloved ZB was neglected--she's at a lovely full care farm with group turnout and is in training with my most favoritest young horse trainer two days a week. I dropped off board checks and grain and smooshed her smooshy nose and gave her (sugar-free) cookies and (fully-leaded) sugar cubes.
I didn't clip. I didn't blanket. I'm growing her mane out because YOLO. I've ridden less than 10 times in the last 4 months. My tack is dirty. My trunk is a mess. I haven't bought a bit or a bridle or really anything horse related in the longest time I can remember since I've been an adult.
SO MUCH HAIR
Now it's trying hard to be spring and my head is in a much better place.
Sunny afternoons and green grass poking through the mud just start speaking to me in a way icy roads and dark indoors never do.
ZB is still the best horse I've ever had in my life.
look i took one lesson
And I wasn't kidding when I said she changed all my expectations for myself.
why yes my first ride in two weeks was bareback down the ditchbank on my baby mare
And more than that, all my expectations for the people around me.
is that the boy riding the zb bareback? yes that's the boy riding zb bareback
We're still here.
Life is doing some unpredictable things right now (doesn't it always?). I have a Plan A and a Plan B and a Plan C and a couple ideas for variations on any of those at any given time. None of those plans is rated shows and pressure and "back to the grind" in terms of horse expenses. Here's to a year like none other.
There are certain moments that reverberate through the very foundations of your life and break down everything you ever thought you knew.
They are rarely the moments you expect.
Mine was on the back of a Roxiecorn, riding through breathtaking mountains, talking to the sort of friend who isn't afraid to call me on my shit.
I told her about how I consistently choose the same thing in relationships--petulant assholes who treat me badly.
She said, "your picker's broken!"
It was a silly moment in a fun weekend.
I went home.
I let go of the long term relationship I had with a horse that was a bad match for me. I watched both of us blossom as that same friend moved heaven and earth to get me this little black mare.
ermegerd tiny zb!
I learned what it was like to be with a creature that adores me. She's a fucking Disney horse--she canters up to me in the pasture. She whinnies at me every day I come to the barn. She's honest and she's smart and she's kind and she's the best horse I've ever been around, bar none.
Maybe non-horse people won't understand this, but I figure you folks will. There was something so foundational to me about having a relationship like this. Learning that not only was this kind of a connection a thing, but that it could be expected. That I didn't have to take everyone's shit and that I could raise my expectations and get what I needed out of life.
It sort of spiraled from there.
a much better place
I raised my expectations.
Drew some hard lines.
Advocated for myself for the first time in my life.
I lost friends.
People who were supposed to matter to me walked away.
baby mare <3
Through it all, there was this larger-than-life baby mare who still whinnied at me every time I came to the barn.
and yeah everyone should get divorce photos. 10/10 recommend.
My life doesn't look much like it used it--I'm on a single income making things work. I can't fathom going to a horse show or paying $$$ for clinics. About every other month, I do a lot of math and wonder why I need to have a giant eating pooping liability cost me money every day.
I ride a couple times a week, generally bareback, in the dark, by myself. I don't care about the most perfect movement or moving up the levels or having the best, newest, and coolest things.
There are things that matter so much more to me.
I've learned so much from the horses in my life--Izzy taught me to be afraid, Cuna taught me to love, Courage still has the most stupidly meaningful name on the planet, and Zoe?
This little lady gave me more than all the others together.
My life is profoundly different because of who she is.
and the people who stayed
This isn't a return to blogging or riding, really. The way horses fit in my life right now is different than it's ever been.
Zoe is my safe space.
I have other competitive outlets right now. There's a part of me that resents even the idea of putting pressure or expectations on the creature that changed my world in such an enormous way.
She's so much more to me than scores or accomplishments or adventures. I don't need some judge at a horse show to tell me where I'm inadequate or how I don't measure up to their standards.
I know, I know. Every time I say that, you think I can't top the last time I said that.
I don't even know why you doubt me anymore.
shame on your doubts
Soooooo this story starts back in January when I visited my sister and we skipped through a tack store whilst tossing dollar bills into the air willy nilly (metaphorically).
One thing I saw that many of you were like OMFG HOW DID YOU NOT BUY THAT was this:
make sexy eyes at otto!
I mean. Yeah. It's lovely. But also like a billion dollars and OH YEAH perhaps you remember how ZB fits in approximately off-the-rack NOTHING.
Plus I happen to know that the thing with Otto is that you can order custom but you have to go through a dealer and there isn't one close to me. Also one thing about me is that I have the attention span of a caffeinated gnat, so custom ordering is not in my wheelhouse. I'm an instant gratification girl.
But then you all probably know Stephanie (say with me: THAT BITCH!) who I legit hung out with at Rolex last year and one day on facebook she started this out-of-control thread about ugly custom bridles which somehow segued into her casually dropping the fact that she works for an Otto dealer.
HOLD THE PHONE.
I did what any responsible tack ho would and casually filed that information away for later.
every day is a good day for rolex pictures
lol jk this is me
I immediately messaged her every detail of what I wanted and asked what it would cost.
She for some reason didn't think I was a tire kicker and got back to me all polite and professional and told me the cost.
We'll leave it vague, but let's just agree that it was enough that as a seasoned tack ho who's used to paying for quality, I most definitely threw up in my mouth and was like NOPE HARD PASS LOL WE ARE NEVER EVER EVER GETTING THAT TOGETHER.
Once you know
And you've had some time to get used to it
And then you think about your life without it
The mare legit doesn't fit in off the rack sizes, which means 1) finding things for her is impossible and 2) impulse buying strap goods is dead. Also she's the nicest horse I've ever had, so doesn't she deserve the nicest bridle?
And you know. I'm not showing this year, so what better time to buy a ridiculous bridle than now when I'm not paying entries and memberships?
logic. we has it.
I messaged Stephanie something mature like YOLO (after several weeks, I'll have you know).
Then the wait began.
I was super patient for like the first 38 seconds.
Then it was pure torture.
I think Roxie's (and Halo's!!) mom got so tired of listening to me that she sent me a link to a purple padded FSS bridle for pennies on the dollar on eBay, which I most definitely bought to kill time.
again with the photo edits
I waited. I waited more. THERE WAS SO MUCH WAITING.
THEN ONE DAY
DROP IT LIKE ITS HOT
THE WAITING WAS OVER
I MEAN NO DEFINITELY DONT DROP IT
Except it also wasn't over.
DO YOU SEE IT
I was hoping to hold off on writing this for a while and be like "everything is awesome!" but it's been a week+ and despite repeated attempts to reach out to Otto, I don't have a firm plan or a ship date for the correct browband and it's leaving a sour taste in my mouth for sure.
I mean. I may be small potatoes to Otto himself, but I didn't pay $$$ for a custom to bridle to get *almost* what I wanted.
Bright side: I managed to finagle my topline leather browband on and it does look fabulous. And I'm obsessed with the bridle. And it's exactly what I wanted (other than the browband). And it looks fabulous on ZB.
taking a bridle picture wtf is zb doing
yeah now it's not a bridle pic
So anyways. It's in progress and after waiting as long as I did, I am not thrilled to be waiting longer. Otoh, the bridle is gorgeous and I do not regret a cent. #goshopping