I’m sitting on my couch wrapped up in a cozy blanket staring out the window at my very wet outdoor arena. It's another day of heavy gray skies and the winter rains Oregon is known for. My horses are inside, well mostly. They are in either their stalls/runs or their paddocks, my morning walk about in the dark finding my fields just too soaked for turnout. I hate leaving horses inside, I am a huge advocate of as much turnout and movement as possible, but this morning I had to admit defeat. The fields were just too wet, and who knows when they won’t be as the forecast for the next week is rain, rain, and more rain.
Oh I know. We NEED the rain. It's just rain, not snow, wind or a blizzard. It’s not -32 with windchill and feet of snow like I lived through every winter for many years in Canada. I get it. Trust me. But although I am only a small-time trainer, I am still a trainer who makes her living riding and teaching lessons, one who unfortunately does not have a covered arena. This wet weather has an impact not only on my riding schedule but on my income. So today I am feeling the winter blues, something I have been able to avoid up until now using some positive thinking and a little faith. Over Christmas it is easier to ignore the inability to ride, as we are busy preparing for the holiday and running around. My stepdaughter finally made it home despite multiple delays and canceled flights (and lost luggage) so I am taking this break as an opportunity to spend time with her and my husband.
I also see it as a much needed rest for my horses and myself. A time to heal and strengthen myself both physically and mentally, spending time reading some motivating horse books and watching tons of training videos. (this does sometimes backfire and leave me pacing the living room wishing I could go ride, but generally it helps keep me focused). My horses enjoy the break as well, although they seem a little confused. I still spend time with them although it entails more feeding treats, cuddling and grooming. That seems to satisfy most of them, although Greye, Ziggy and Kat (my most consistently worked) seem a little restless, wanting to do more. On days it's not pouring I play with them a little, but today was a complete rain out.
Knowing that they enjoy the contact with me and even miss working makes me feel good! Those three come running when called most days, and now seem to be waiting at the gates everytime I come out. Must be doing something right I guess!
This time off has also allowed me to think through my plans and goals for next year. I am still on the fence as to showing. This shift in my perception on showing has so freed me I hesitate to even consider it. I’ve come to a place where I so enjoy just training and playing with my horses, with no care in the world what level they are at. It’s not like previously I was showing every weekend or really driven to get ribbons. I have always been a reluctant show attender. But I felt the pressure as a coach and trainer that I was supposed to. How else would people know you were serious? Don’t you need ribbons/scores/awards to be considered a ‘real’ trainer? But after years of not loving what I was seeing in the show ring, years of getting ‘well trained/high level show horses’ that needed to be fixed (both mentally and physically) or re-trained because they lacked basics, I felt the desire to show at all basically die. I felt the need to turn away and find my own path. I wanted happy, light, soft, fluid moving horses. I didn’t care if they weren’t flashy or expressive enough. I wanted balance, cooperation and friendship. Can you do that and show? Possibly. Although I will say if you want to win I think you will have to compromise somewhere at least right now. Dressage seems much more focused on big flashy movements and less about the overall happiness of the horses participating in it. But that's just it. I don’t want to compromise. I have come to a place where I realized I didn’t want to play the game, I didn’t think the compromise was worth it. Push my horse into tension for what? A ribbon? A number on a paper? Hurt our friendship so I can feel like a winner? I wouldn’t do that to a person I loved, and I won’t do it with my horses who I also love deeply.
Maybe I am wrong, maybe it can be done. Maybe there are trainers out there far smarter than I am who can do it. Great! Maybe I will find my way there too eventually. For now this is my path and I have to say I am really enjoying it! Now, if it would just stop raining……