I can’t ever remember a time when I thought something with riding was too hard. There have been times when I haven’t really gotten a concept or been able to accurately accomplish a maneuver, of course. There have been moments when my stomach dropped from the thrill of uncertainty. I’ve just never allowed myself to give up. I’m not in this for lazy or easy. I’m a rider for life, with everything that goes along with that.
While still dealing with the saddle-fitting dilemma, my coach got Star and I working on progressively harder gymnastic combinations with lots of bounces. For anyone who’s unaware, a bounce is two jumps spaced close enough together that there is no room for a stride in between them. The horse literally has to land and take off again. The idea is to encourage collection, control, and carefulness. The closest human equivalent is jogging through tires.
Star can be hit or miss through technical work. She prefers to run fast and jump without much deviation from that. Ground poles and lines she can’t charge through tend to piss her off. Whether it was the trial saddle, her new pink sport medicine boots, or just where she’s at in her training; this time Star went into each progressive challenge with gusto. I don’t think she knocked down a single pole.
It was halfway through day two of the gymnastics that I realized how similar Star and I are. We’re both older, not at peak fitness, and have to deal with “mommy tummy.” We both get bored of flatwork and excited about jumping. We want to do things well and get praised for our work. Best of all, when it comes to a challenge, neither one of us is willing to walk away.
I’m not saying it’s always perfect. We have quite the history of very ugly jump approaches and bunny hopping at the canter through poles we’re supposed to be trotting. But there’s always “try” in our partnership, and that seems to be working for us both.
I spoke recently to the woman who sold Star to me and she expressed her happiness that the shine hasn’t worn off my feelings about Star. I told her the honest truth: I don’t know if Star will ever be the perfect horse, but she’s perfect for me.
Speaking of perfection…
If you read my post from last week, I ended up having to return the Pessoa. It fit well through the back, but pinched like crazy through the shoulders. I did my best to learn from this mistake, and threw out every preconceived notion I had about brand names. New, old, whatever, I looked at it. Measured the space between the shoulders and refused to consider anything that wasn’t BIG, regardless of how nicely made or good a deal. The trial I rode in that ended up working was a brand I’d never even heard of before. It’s also apparently out of stock in every tack store in Ontario. Which is how I ended up ordering one from Alberta. Assuming all goes well, I’ll have it next week.
After two really fantastic rides and the end of the great saddle search of 2016, I got so excited my brain just kept spinning with it all. There’s a ton of things for Star and I to look forward to this year. We’ve got a two-day clinic with OHJA Jumper Trainer of the year, Peter Gisborn, at the end of this month. Star’s first show will be in April or May, and riding the trillium circuit will mark my first full season since I was a kid. It’s a lot to take in and I constantly have to remind myself to take a deep breath and let it happen without rushing.
Sometimes life is like a bounce combination. The hurdles keep coming, so all you can do is move forward with your eyes up and take them one at a time.
Christine Sharpe is a Canadian who grew up riding Hunter/Jumper in the Southern USA. Now living in Toronto, she is a thirty-something who is recently back to riding after four years off and having her first child. Christine is aiming her Thoroughbred mare, Star, toward the Trillium Jumper Circuit in 2016. She struggles daily to juggle family, work, and her equine lifestyle, with occasional success.