Monday, December 9, 2019

Nothing to Prove

As the end of a decade draws to a close, I've been finding myself doing a lot of reflecting and introspection in my (rarely found) downtime.

When I started my riding journey about 6 years ago as an adult beginner with little to no experience, little did I know that I would own a horse for 5 of those 6 years and be blessed with so many opportunities of a life time to catch-ride for others in competition and be invited to vacation on horseback in so many states and countries. What an amazing journey it has been so far, though not one without its fair share of disappointments and low points.

Riding has taught me so much. It has given me hope when I was in one of the darkest moments in my life. It has given me the confidence to trust my gut instincts (e.g.; when taking a leap a faith on a horse bought sight unseen at an NJ feedlot auction). It has given me the tenacity and drive to pursue a hobby that had been forever out of reach and beyond consideration.

Over the past few years though, I guess I started to forget why I started riding in the first place.

That original, simple joy was replaced with preoccupation and plans for competition as I actively tried to insert myself into conversations and social circles with those more knowledgeable, more experience than me. Maybe it was bad luck, or bad timing, or fate, or everything listed there... but the competition season I had dreamed and hoped for about never came to be and since then its been nothing but an uphill battle. My efforts to find local endurance mentors repeatedly turned up empty or worse (disgruntled, irritated responses filled with empty promises of training rides that never- and still haven't- came to be.)

All these setbacks inevitably have left a bitter taste in my mouth about the sport, the people, and the community.

My priority has always been first and foremost the well-being and longevity of my horse. As Quest moves into her "senior" years, I came to the slow conclusion that I've been thinking about it all wrong: We had nothing to prove to anyone, ever.

Maybe one day everything will fall into place and that competition season that I've always wanted will happen. My husband is 110% supportive of my riding hobby and wants to learn, even maybe compete together with me. He's even mentioned finding me another endurance horse after Quest is retired.

Though for now, it's just me, my mareface, our happiness, our soundness, and the open trail as we meander, wander, and explore life together. It's hard to put aside my goals for competition because its been my frame of mind for so many years but I hope to quiet the voices in my mind and in my heart completely someday until it is time for us to prepare again.

We might not be the fanciest pair but we have golden hearts. And sometimes that's all that matters.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Honeymooning with Horses

I've been SO busy for the past few weeks that keeping up with blogging has been a challenge in it of itself. A lot of riding and horsetime has been happening though!

About a month ago, I spent 10 days in Europe for my honeymoon and it was absolutely fantastic. W and I put together the whole trip ourselves so everything about our experience was 110% what we wanted which made it a lot more fun. As you all know, I've made it my personal goal to ride in every new place I visit and this trip was no exception. Fortunately W is completely supportive of this endeavor and we managed to fit in two rides during the 10-days.

Our first ride was in Mallocra, Spain. When I had contacted the barn months ago to make a reservation, the replies I received were in very stilted English. True enough when we got picked up at our hotel on the morning of the ride, the driver Tony (who also happened to be the barn/business owner) spoke only Spanish. Despite the language hurdle, we all managed to get along just fine.

W had taken some Spanish in high school so he was able to somewhat communicate with Tony better than I could. Fortunately for me, horseback riding is pretty universal so I just did what I normally did and we pantomimed and used context clues for the details. After outfitting us with coats for the impending rain, Tony handed us halters and led us to the pasture to meet our mounts for the morning.

I was paired up with Piropo, a cute dark bay 15 year old Andalusian x Hanoverian gelding. He had an amiable personality and I knew we were going to get along well. After saying our hellos, we led the horses to the stalls to groom and tack up. I was left to my own devices while Tony helped out W.

After a quick tack check, we headed out to the yard to mount up. I  immediately knew I definitely liked Pipiro- he was quick, eager, though never felt dangerous. As we headed out to the trails, Tony continued to coach W as I helped by translating through context. W was a good learner and we were able to get in quick trots and even a couple galloping sets during the 2-hour ride. The fact that it was just the two of us made it a million times better since everything was customized to how game we were for speed and pacing. Tony was wonderful enough to trust me to take point along the ride and Pipro was a professional the entire time.

Leading a few parts along the trail-
it was rugged yet beautiful landscape

Riding along an agricultural field.
There were rocks everywhere all the time.

Our second horseback riding stop was several days later the outskirts of Barcelona, Spain. W and I booked a excursion-style tour for this one for the ease of traveling out to the countryside without dealing with public transportation. The group included several beginners and the tour was advertised as a walk-only ride, which was perfectly fine by me since the views were absolutely breathtaking and I needed every moment to soak up the majesty of the mountain vistas.

As we pulled up to the barn, I couldn't help but eye the horses and immediately mentally picked out a chestnut mare that I was nearly 100% sure was an Arabian of some sort. To my immense delight, I was paired up with the mare- cute 6yo chestnut Arab named Mariposa, which means "butterfly" in Spanish.

Cute mare and some views of the "serrated" mountains in the background.

Once the group got matched up with their mounts, we set off in an orderly, sedate line and enjoyed a wonderful 1-hour long meandering ride in the Spanish countryside with gorgeous views from the base of Montserrat. Later in the day we would take the cable car down after visiting the abbey that was built into the mountainside. It was a beautiful day for riding.

The rest of the honeymoon before, after, and in between were unforgettable as well. Though the fact that we managed to fit in two trail rides in different countries made me incredibly happy and as always, so very grateful that W had a smile the entire time. Traveling to a new place is fun, but adventures are definitely a million times better when enjoying views from between two ears!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Little Things

Another year, another birthday trail ride. Had an incredible day yesterday doing the things I love with the people (and horse) I love. 

I’m so blessed <3 

Monday, October 7, 2019

First Time For Everything

It took five years but it finally happened...I had my first real "oops, rider overboard" fall off of Quest. We're both fine and but it was like ugh whyyyy, especially given how it happened but I guess it was about time. I was probably way overdue for a first riding fall lol

Fellow trail rider J had texted me earlier in the week about doing a long group trail ride out to the deli and I immediately signed on. Quest and I ride alone so much that more exposure to riding in a group is always welcome- any opportunity to train the marebrain is a resounding yes in my book. W and I organized a large group of our friends (it ended up being about 20 people!) to go apple picking later in the afternoon though so I gave J a heads up that I'd be keeping a strict eye on the time and Quest and I would turn around for home solo when we needed to.

W came out to the barn with me and was kind enough to help continue working on the trailer while I got to enjoy riding my horse in daylight. I gave him instructions on what to do for the day, a thank you kiss in appreciation, and trundled off across the farm to fetch my horse from her pasture and tack up.

The farrier had come out the day before so thankfully I was working with a very fresh trim when putting on the boots. The front shoes were nice for their ease of use and Quest does okay in them but I could tell she was never 100% happy in them as she was in boots. So off the shoes came and we're back to barefoot all around.

During my trip to CA, I learned from the endurance rider I rode with to use duct tape to reinforce the velcro straps that die out way faster than the boot treads themselves. Using the tape, the Gloves stayed on perfectly for our entire w/t/c ride over all the diverse terrain we have here.

After tacking up, we met up with our trail ride group. We have ridden out with J and her little POA mare Lucy a few times and our girls get along very well. Unfortunately Quest had issue with K and her gelding, a sturdy chestnut mustang named Tonka. K was kind enough to give us room when I mentioned that Quest had angry marefaces at her horse whenever Tonka drifted too close. We  made sure to keep them apart and everyone did fine after that.

We set off at a good walking pace with Lucy and Quest trading the lead. In previous group outings, I noticed that Quest has a tendency to tune me out and go with whatever the other horses are doing which is not always a good thing. So this ride I made a point to not fall asleep at the wheel and to keep mareface actively engaged and checked in with me by having her move her feet exactly where I wanted her to go.

Things were going really well and we were making excellent time on the trail trotting areas where we could and walking where the footing got too gnarly to move out. Lucy took the lead on the single track areas and Quest was definitely game to move out but still listened to me politely. As much as I would have loved to continue on with the ride, the time was drawing closer for Quest and me to turn back for home.

Being familiar with the area, I knew that the route would open up to the roadway after the last section of trail we were on and the plan was for us to use the trail split as the turn around point. Just one more section and we would part ways for home.

It had been awhile since Quest and I had done a long ride so there were a ton of new obstacles along the trail such as downed trees and brush all which we navigated successfully earlier in the ride and have done so before. So when we came across yet another fallen tree, it should have been no big deal. The trunk was quite wide but it was traverse-able. J and Lucy, who both love to jump, cleared it with no problems. Quest and I do not regularly jump nor did I have any desire to attempt any heroics on the trail so I had Quest to settle into a calm walk to quietly step over it.

Instead she paused and with a massive lurch, heaved herself bodily over the trunk.

We made it over, but I was completely taken by surprise and ate dirt, landing on my side and back. I somehow manged to hold onto the reins though. To her credit, Quest immediately stopped and stood still, waiting for me to get back to my feet. Quick check: Quest was fine, I was fine- thankfully I had landed in the dirt and leaves next to the trail, somehow avoiding the rocks, and nothing was out of place.

After reassuring J and K that I was okay, I mounted back up and we headed down the trail together for a moment until I realized that we had to double back for my FitBit which had fallen off. After recovering it exactly where we thought it had landed, it was definitely time for Quest and me to head home to the barn. K offered to ride with me to make sure I got back okay but I thanked her and sent them off, not wanting to ruin their ride plans that day.

To my immense surprise, Quest didn't scream or worry a single moment on our solo ride back home, if anything she relaxed more and was completely compliant to every request I made. We walked, we trotted, we cantered in beautiful autumn weather- enjoying our time together.

Stopped by the trailer to say hi to W and told him what happened.
Poor husband got so concerned...I felt bad for worrying him ):

The trailer is coming along nicely though.
Quest seems to approve too, happy with her snack break.

Despite the tumble, I was thankful that I wasn't badly hurt and Quest was no worse for the wear. I was pretty sore later that evening and the day afterwards but that's pretty much the extent of it. One of my friends is a PA and she regularly asks me how Quest is doing, I saw her the day afterwards while grabbing a group lunch together and she reassured my husband (who was still fretting) that I was fine/she would have had no idea what had happened if I had not finally told her.

Things happen, sometimes all we can do is get right back into the saddle and ride on.

Monday, September 30, 2019

A (Surprise) Weekend at LCGT

What started off as a simple family day trip ended up being a completely unplanned visit to the Longines Global World Tour to watch world-class show jumpers up close and personal.

Front row seats for all the excitement! 

W and I had been planning to treat my parents to a fun day trip in NYC as part of our thank you to them for helping us out with the wedding. Despite living so close to the city, my parents dislike the crowd hustle and bustle so they haven't ventured across the river for quite a number of years.

After thinking over several options that would be suitable and enjoyable for my parents, we decided to do a day-trip and picnic lunch at the scenic Governor's Island. This was a date location when W and I first got together and I loved the "mini getaway" feel it had since the island is only accessible by ferry.

We left the house early and swung by to pick up my parents to drive to the train station. All was well for the most part though we had to take an unexpected extra ferry ride from NJ to NY due to a train station being closed for construction work (thanks Hurricane Sandy) but everyone took it in stride without complaints. While on the ferry ride over to Governor's Island, I noticed a girl and her dad all outfitted equestrian paraphernalia and pointed them out to W. Of course that should have been clue #1 that something horse-related was going on haha

The day was absolutely gorgeous and the crowds were light since we got there early. After enjoying a big picnic lunch, we got a 4-person surrey rental and tandem biked our way around the entire island enjoying nearly 360 degree views of city skyline.

Smiles for everyone! We all had a great time trying something new. 

Seeing all the wide spacious paved pathways, my dad joked that they should offer horse carriage rides and trail riding. I laughed, "It'd be quite something to transport all those horses by ferry."

Imagine my utter surprise when we turned a corner and suddenly arrived in a sea of tents, event fencing and horses everywhere. Before I could even open my mouth, W turned to look at me and said, "You want to see the horses." He knows me too well haha

We dropped off our surrey when our rental time was up and walked back to see a full blown top-level international show jumping competition complete with vendors and tent tailgating. It was really quite amazing to see how baseball fields had been so thoroughly converted into a temporary stadium.

All the jumps were NYC-themed, it was FANTASTIC.

A decent number of vendors too.

Ponies for the kids to pet!

Apparently this year was the first time NYC was incorporated into the Longines Global Champions Tour show circuit and it was pure luck that our trip to the island coincided perfectly with the event being held that weekend. W was totally floored since he had specifically looked at the calendar to check for special events and didn't see any mention of the event on the agenda. 

It was the first time all of us got to see a show jumping event in person as well and my parents were happy to partake in the sights and sounds. 

My mom watching a rider taking her horse to the warm-up ring behind the stadium. 

No horse outing is complete without some free swag!
I'm curious to try that rub rag on Quest but the effort may be wasted since pasture lol  

Despite the transportation hiccups, it was really quite a great day and I had a wonderful time with my family. Seeing how my parents were excited about being at a horse show was good to see as well. They weren't fans of me learning how to ride at first and eventually reluctantly realized that my horse thing was not an random whim. They have slowly come to care about Quest as much as I do (my dad supplies the mareface with 75% of her apples lol) and just seeing them curious and interested was an encouragement!