July 31, 2013

New Barn, New Attitude

"In the long run men hit only what they aim at. Therefor, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high"

- Thoreau

The new barn was great. An indoor arena, outdoor jump arena with a full set of jumps, outdoor dressage arena with the gazebo and plastic geese of doom, and trails with cross country jumps. Gem and Pete had a pasture all to themselves and I could take riding clothes to work and stop on my way home.

New spaces meant new reasons to act like she had never been ridden before and we began the process of learning how to be calm all over again. She settled in pretty well to the indoor and outdoor jump arenas but I never did get her 100% relaxed in the dressage arena. The gazebo and plastic geese that were behind it were just too scary. It didn't help that the one time I finally convinced her that there were no monsters in the field behind the arena, a baby deer jumped out and caused her to have a meltdown. Oh and there were chickens around there too and she hates chickens. You just can't trust a chicken.

The property was set up with a lane that ran from the barn and indoor arena to the owners house with the pastures on either side. It was perhaps 0.15 of a mile long, maybe 0.25. One day I decided that we were going to ride down the lane to cool down. All by ourselves. I rode her out of the jump arena, turned left down the lane and 40 minutes of my life that I will never get back later we arrived at the dressage arena of doom at the far end of the lane. She would walk 2 steps, turn 180 degrees and try to charge back to the barn. I'd turn her back around and repeat. Ok, that sucked, but we got there in one piece with me still in the saddle, so I let her graze as a reward and then turned around. 30 seconds later and we were back at the barn. I was still in on piece and in the saddle, but that wasn't acceptable behavior either so, to torture myself even more, I turned her around and back down the lane we went. When we moved out 2 years later I had her trotting down the lane without a fuss. It may take us forever, but we get there eventually.

Things kept progressing fairly nicely at the farm. I had at some point decided to become an adult and put my big girl panties on and really began to ride Gem. Oh, she still threw her tantrums and had days where she just wouldn't listen to a darn thing I said, but I learned that if I just sat up there calmly and ignored her she would get bored and settle into work. I read something online that stuck with me and helped a ton:

A horse and rider should always equal 10. If the horse is a 2 that day and being lazy, the rider needs to be an 8. If the horse is Gem and is a spaz at a 9, then I need to be a 1.

We even began doing gymnastic jumping lines. We rode in every arena and down the lane like big girls and had fun doing it.

Then one day at work something remarkable happened. Ok, I'm exaggerating again, but it was pretty awesome. One of the docs I worked with mentioned that she had a friend who did endurance riding. Would I be interested in having dinner with them? Um...you bet! I had researched endurance numerous times and been to the AERC (American endurance ride conference) website and read through all the education materials, but it seemed daunting to me. The conditioning plans seemed impossible to follow, the rides confusing and the rules numerous. I gave up before I ever began. Now I could talk it out with someone and learn from an experienced rider.
We met for dinner and I learned a ton. She had been at it for 10 years doing shorter distances on her mare and longer on her gelding. No, I didn't need a special saddle. No, I didn't need a special bridle. No, I didn't need a specific 6 day a week training program. No, I didn't need a house on wheels rig and could just use a tent. All I needed was passion and a sound horse. Well, I had that for sure. She suggested I start with a shorter distance and work my way up. She also pointed me to the local endurance club website for rides.
I was pumped! I looked at the ride calendar and luckily for the hubby (isn't he such a lucky guy?) there was a ride 3 hours away on our anniversary weekend. What better way to spend it than camping and watching me ride for hours on end? For some odd reason he actually agreed to it and I signed up for the 25 mile distance on Sunday. Actually, he agreed to it I because I had spent a Saturday morning in May freezing my butt off at 5 am for 4 hours watching him run his first half marathon (no, he wasn't that slow, but they had to be dropped off at the start super early and I didn't want to miss anything) only to cross the finish line swearing, bleeding and in a generally crappy mood and he owed me. Freezing in May? It was Wisconsin and it snowed. In May. My God am I happy to be out of there.
You want me to go how far?!


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