June 29, 2016

A Bit of a Conundrum

Ok...before anyone thinks it...yes this is completely a first world problem (of note I absolutely HATE that saying), but it is a real one in my life at the moment and I think Dusty's ears are bleeding from listening to me talk about it. That means you all get to hear about it now.

Although I rarely ever mention it, we do have two horses. Pete was bought for Dusty a few months after I got Gem and in the pre-Wyatt era of our life, Pete was ridden about twice a week and went out on most of my conditioning rides with Gem. He even completed a 25 mile LD although he was not fond of the second half. Now a days he is 25 and mostly retired because Dusty runs and we really only have time for one hobby each. He is sound, happy and fat.

So what is the problem?

You all know that while I am not ditching endurance I am pursuing a new avenue for growth. My time is extremely limited. If I can get out to the barn two days a week I am thrilled. While endurance requires a base line of fitness, you can easily maintain that on two rides a week with some careful planning on how to best utilize your time. My understanding is that with eventing, two days a week is pretty wimpy and anything less is fairly useless. With that in mind here is my dilemma:

Gem: The obvious choice because, well, she is my Gemmiecakes and I have already taught her basically everything she knows so adding even more knowledge and growth would be fantastic.

The pros include: these lessons will not only help maintain her basic fitness level, but should in theory make her even more rideable during e-rides. Any time spent with her is good for our relationship. I love feeling her learn new things.

The cons include: all her tack is illegal for eventing except possibly her bit. I have $0 to change that and would then be relying on borrowing BOs tack which may or may not fit and could end up making her sore which would kill our chances for endurance. Gem isn't particularly fond of jumping or running in big open fields. She will do it and she can learn to do it better and safer, but she won't enjoy it.

Pete: I have watched Dusty ride Pete a lot and have sat on him myself  all of three times in 6 years.

The pros include: he already has all eventing legal tack. While I am not of the "my horse loves his job" persuasion, Pete actually really doesn't mind jumping and galloping around big fields and is bold, brave and honest. When we were in WI, Pete and Gem were pastured in a field that was half grass and half jumping arena. In the summer the arena portion was filled with jumps and we routinely got messages from the BO that she would look out her window and watch Pete cruise around the course all on his own having the time of his life. We always said he would make a fantastic eventer. It would give him more attention, make him more fit and he would be happier for it.

The cons include: he isn't Gem and I really don't know him much at all. At least with Gem I know what to expect. Riding Pete would then mean almost no time to ride Gem. Again, I have 2 days a week I can ride. If I do a lesson on Pete and then spend the other day practicing, well then Gem doesn't get any time. That means that I would by default be ditching endurance altogether because I would have no time to condition Gem.

In a perfect world, I would have the time to do eventing on Pete who would be a rock star at it and still get a ride or two on Gem out on the trails or even in the arena applying the things I learn on Pete. I just don't have the time to do that right now and with Wyatt getting older and into more things (like signing him up for baseball this fall) my time will only get more limited, not freer for a number of years.

So what do I do? Do I try to fit my square pegged Gemmie into the round hole of eventing and make do all the while looking out at Pete in the field knowing he is the better choice? Or do I go ahead and do it with Pete and basically retire Gem for a while when we have finally found our stride with endurance?

Dusty's answer was to not bother with this whole new eventing idea at all and just stick with endurance until Wyatt is old enough to either join me on horses or he doesn't want me around so much and I have more time to myself. The issue with that is that by then Pete will be either officially retired or gone (he is currently a young 25, but I have no delusions of him starting a new career at 30) and Gem wont be far behind him (she is currently 18). It isn't a now or never thing, but now is as good a time as ever.

So what would you do?


  1. That really is a conundrum. Sometimes I get down on myself because all I want to do with my horse is go down trails safely and maybe have an obstacle course to work with in the winter months. The only thing I can think for you to do is ride Pete one day a week and Genm the other or alternate weeks and horses but that would not give you a lot of practice with the new stuff you are learning. Hmm, do you have a twin, clone?

    1. I wish! I'd send my clone to work for me and go ride every day :)

  2. Could you just use Pete's tack on Gem for the eventing? Or just use Gem's tack on Gem. Starter level eventing isn't a rated event anyway, so there probably aren't tack rules. You might get some funny looks, but I'm fairly sure you won't get disqualified. Unless the show has it's own rules or says that started must follow USEA rules or something like that. And then just throw Pete's tack on her for the show. Everything doesn't have to fit perfectly for one show. Extra pads/shims will get you through.

    1. BO is being really nice about letting me use her saddle which basically fits Gem. I just worry that I'm trying to make Gem do something she won't really be good at when I have another horse who would be.

  3. I think you should work with Pete two days a week and squeeze in one conditioning ride on Gem every other week. Best of both worlds. Otherwise, give Gem a break for four months and see if you even like doing eventing on Pete. You may hate it, or get scared, or decide that you like endurance better and are going to haul to Moab for the 200 mile race there. Or do Tevis. Then, in the fall or early winter, take up endurance again. I know from Gem's injury last year, getting her ready for another race will not take forever. Do both.

    1. That's a very good point. I didn't think of that. She could have a few months off and not miss a beat. Good point! I'd love to do Tevis and I know she can do it but the logistics of getting her out there and back are ridiculous. I'll probably give it a try once Wyatt is in college and has his own life to attend to.

    2. I'm with Karen. :) Try eventing on Pete and alternate one riding day every other week with Gem, or give her a break. A very fit pasture-boarded horse not being exercised will retain her fitness for up to 6 months, and Gem has already proven herself a master at retaining fitness.

      I have another reason for voting for Pete as your horse to learn eventing on: learning to jump on a horse that is timid/spooky/doesn't enjoy jumping is one of the WORST nightmares. I did showjumping for 17 years; I represented my barn at the national level and was among the top 10 riders in my division on the island. My trainer wanted me to come represent in the US. I learned to jump on "pull" rides: horses that loved jumping with such a passion, they would gallop to whatever fence you put in front of them. This type of ride intimidated a LOT of people because there *is* such a thing as a horse that loves jumping so much, it stops listening. I never doubted these horses would clear the fences; my concern was whether I'd be able to gather them enough to get us through the triple combination ending in an oxer with a 5' spread without crashing through a jump. I LOVED it. LOVED it with a passion. I loved jumping and all of my brave OTTBs that would jump a house for me if I asked them to. And then I was put on a "push" ride: a horse that had to be micromanaged to the jump, that had to be set up for the fence upon arrival, that would stop DIRTY if you didn't do everything just so. He was followed by a greenie that also needed to be micromanaged...that started stopping at ground poles...and it wasn't long before 13 years of confidence over fences were completely demolished. In a matter of *months.* It was another 2 years of managing "pull" rides before I got my confidence back, and 2 years after that I quit jumping for good. It was never the same again for me.

      Lily has gorgeous form over fences but she has never been fond of jumping: she used to balk at ground poles! She'll clear logs on trail about 75% of the time, but fences in the arena were a different matter. It took me 4.5 years of building up her confidence before she would take me over a fence without question (I posted the pics this past winter of the day we decided to really play around with jumps for the first time ever). Arena jumps can have crazy fill and wild colors and I decided I would never pursue this avenue with her; both our confidence would be shattered at our first show. Dressage caters to our perfectionism (because my silly girl really *is* a perfectionist; I've never met a horse before whom I could say that about!) and endurance allows us to live in the moment and enjoy life, so this combination has worked well for both of our personality types. I LOVE dressage. LOOOOOVE!!!! It's what I use for cross-training and our main focus in the winter when the trails are sloppy. Lily can do some really fancy stuff (shoulder-in, haunches-in, leg yields, and we're still working on introducing counter-canter and half-pass) but a lot of times just working on transitions from one gait to another or within the same gait is so...fulfilling. There is something truly awesome about working so hard to get your horse moving and using themselves correctly.

      All of this to say: you will have SO much more fun giving a go at eventing on a horse that enjoys jumping! A horse like Pete. And THEN, if you really like it and want to stick with it and end up loving going over cross country jumps, THEN you can try Gem at the sport. You being confident about what needs to be done and how to do it will give her a lot more confidence and might make your eventing story with your girl completely different! ;) She might just fall in love with it herself! But I think it will be so much easier for both of you if you learn first on a horse that loves jumping. <3

    3. Saiph - that's a very good point. When I used to do more arena work with gem the jumping was always mildly terrifying. She doesn't enjoy it and if I am not perfect in my approach and position she either runs out or does a dirty stop. Since I am so new to jumping I am rarely ever perfect. It really turned me off of it. Pete is very eager to jump and will pull you toward anything so he is a much more forgiving ride. He in general doesn't hold a grudge and it easier going. I just wish I had more hours in my life!