I’m not a timid person by nature. I like to make a plan and execute it. I hate the limbo of waiting, or uncertainty. As my husband often says, sometimes I have a habit of just crashing through rather than cautiously picking my way around.
My riding is not dissimilar. I like long spots. Like them with a fiery passion that has my coach screaming, “Wait, wait, wait,” at me on many an approach.
I’d rather jump four feet than work through a technical line of elevated trot poles. I’d rather ride a bucking, rearing bronco than deal with a horse that stops dirty at the base of a jump. I’d rather be afraid than not try.
I had almost two weeks off riding dealing with a gross sickness I’m not even going to get into. Driving up the drive to the barn felt unduly emotional. I was so happy to be back. Catching my coach between lessons, we had a quick gab about this and that. I finally admitted that me buying Star when I did was a pretty stupid move. I wasn’t fit enough to deal with the kind of raw energy and greenness she presented at the beginning.
It’s funny, because I 100% believe that finding a horse to lease would have been the smarter move. The thing is, if I had of leased Star, I wouldn’t have kept her. She was too hard and unpredictable at the beginning.
Over a year later, I’m not seeing the massive setbacks that were starting to feel routine. Every lesson is an improvement, every challenge a chance to grow. Had I leased Star and given her back, I would have missed this. I never would have jumped a meter course with her, never would have felt how responsive she is to lateral work. Star may be eleven, but she’s only had about two and a half years under saddle. She’s slowly moving out of a so green project into something that most experienced riders can hop on.
I’m not suggesting that everyone should just put their head down and ignore signs of trouble, but sometimes if you can work through them what comes out on the other side is better than anything you ever imagined. If you can sit up and put your legs on, work through the bumps and the dumps, you can move forward. For some, that may mean finding a new partner. For others, it may be realizing that your personal goals have to change.
A rider that finds himself/herself maxed out at 2’6” doesn’t have anything to be embarrassed about. But that rider does need to realize that the dream of 3’6” is not happening. That doesn’t mean stop. It doesn’t mean you have to give anything up. All it means is you have to sit up, adjust, and kick on. Life isn’t a straight line dash to the finish. It’s a long winding course of refusals, faults, perfect distances and soaring heights.
I’m sure my coach would be a lot happier if I could translate this feeling into my actual riding. The idea of never hearing “sit up” or “wait” again is pretty laughable. Still, I think it’s important to know your own strengths and weakness. I’m brave and forward, willing to try pretty much anything. I’m also older, not as fit as I could be, short legged and hideously duck-footed (thanks for that, ballet).
Star’s quirks mean I constantly have to question my abilities and goals. For some people that might be a serious downer. For me, it makes me sit up and think. Again, could be a serious downer, but I refuse to let it be. I’m naturally forward, so sitting back and thinking is what I need to learn and work on.
What’s that old song? You can’t always get what you want…but you just might find you get what you need?
I needed Star. I needed my coach and barn family. I needed the support and love of my husband who does not understand my love for all things equestrian at all, but who spends every day nodding and encouraging as I ramble on. I needed to see the lights of unbridled joy that my daughter gets from saying “easy” and “good girl” while watching Star run around.
I’m happy to bring the forward. But I’m so much happier that Star and company so perfectly make me live it all one step 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 Jumper Circuit and Warmblood Breed Inspections. She struggles daily to juggle family, work, and her equine lifestyle, with occasional success.