The last few weeks have been interesting for me, to say the least. I visited my family in Houston to celebrate Christmas for the fifth (FIFTH!!) time in 2016. We rang in the new year with kisses, champagne and fireworks. I was coming off the double high of having some excellent courses with my bay rocketship and starting my new job. A lot of the stress I’d been feeling over the course of 2016 sort of evaporated.

I have big plans in 2017. Lots of them. Most likely I won’t accomplish everything I’m hoping to, but that’s okay. I have to be practical, and sometimes you simply have to let things go.

Riding has been pretty positive, all in all. I have bad days, and so does Star. A lot of the time if I just try to be more quiet and let her go, we can make it through. I was hoping to do more with Star this year, but I’m not really sure how possible that is. I’m letting go of my wants and wishes and trying to simply listen to the pony.

It’s disappointing, insofar as I would have liked to focus on really working on lines and courses so that we had some solid work and a better chance of showing this year. Maybe we still will get that opportunity. For now, we’re just going to take things day by day.

Winter riding is a challenge for everyone, horses and humans alike. With the mix of rain/snow/freezing, there’s quite a bit of frozen ground. Some of the areas end up more like uneven skating rinks than actual walkable ground. As a mom to an almost 3-year-old, it’s not difficult to think about the movie Frozen.

Which is funny as well, since Frozen came up during my last lesson before Christmas. We were working in a larger group than normal over fences. One of the girls is in her mid-teens and leasing a large draft cross. He’s green and a bit of a handful at times, but a lot of their problems stem from her stress level and concern over being “mean” to him. We’ve had long philosophical conversations about what it actually means to be “mean” and what a responsible rider must do in order to encourage and discipline.

Anyways, she was having issue with a line, so I suggested she start singing. It’s a tactic I use quite a bit with Star if she’s super punched up. Not only does it seem to calm her down, but singing basically means I have zero chance of holding my breath or “bracing” with tension. Star seems to like country/folk music, so she gets a lot of Great Big Sea. My young cohort chose, “Let it Go,” from Frozen.

There was something sort of perfect about that choice. Not just because the song is literally about letting go of the idea of perfection, but also because it has a lot to do with seeing what you’re actual capable of accomplishing once you let go of preconceived ideals. Seems like a good lesson for all of us, if you ask me.

Like a lot of other hunter/jumper riders, I’ve been watching the live streaming of the George Morris Horsemanship Clinic. It struck me today how often Beezie Madden said the words, “let him/her go,” or “Just let him/her figure it out.” It made me think a lot about how sometimes riders of a certain level perhaps do too much. We try to micromanage and over organize until our horses are stressed out and confused about what we actually want from them.

My last lesson was a bit of a mess from start to finish. The one thing I was happy with, was when Star decided to throw a fit over our trotting crossrail exercise. She started bouncing around in the lead up to the jump, so I literally said, “screw it,” grabbed mane and locked into a two-point while she thundered her way through the poles and crossrail. My coach nodded at me and agreed sometimes it’s just best to get out of her way and let her deal with her own issues.

We shall see where we go from here, but I’m certainly happy to try and make 2017 the year of letting go.

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 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.

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