I recently realized that I’d been at my barn for a full year starting from May 7th, this past Friday. I can’t believe I’m not further in my riding, and I’m shocked how far I have to go to get where I want to be.
So often in the equine world, we talk about the process of “getting there.”
I recently read an article about what “there” actually means, and it’s funny because the author and myself had very little in common with the exception of horses and “there.”
I suffer from insomnia from time to time, and late one night I decided to go back and find all of Star’s old videos from life at her last barn. I know I babble on often about the ups and downs of my life with Star, but it’s different to go back and observe her long before she was mine. I even saw a video in which I tagged a friend, back around this time last year.
The difference in Star is mind boggling.
She tracks up now, often even oversteps. Her body has more of a warmblood look than an OTTB. There is no more bunny hopping to fences. This past weekend we even managed a full course of 2’9/3′ jumps without much more than a few uncertain poles. Our first jumper schooling with the rest of my farm was pretty darn fun. But nothing matched my coach’s simple, “She did good.”
I think sometimes it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the present, that you forget the past. That mare has worked her butt off for me, and often times it gets forgotten because it feels like not enough. Yet a simple look back shows how far she has come.
This July will mark a full year in my life with Star. I’m not going to lie, I thought by this time we’d be doing more. Jumping higher and doing better. In some ways it feels like we’re back to square one. But then I watched those videos…
The perfect horse doesn’t exist. Neither does the perfect rider, to be fair. We all make do with the best we can manage. Sometimes that means that progress (and never, ever perfection) goes slower than we would like.
It’s taken me almost a year to realise that does not in any way matter. Every day with Star is better. It’s never going to be perfect. The two of us together are never going to scale 1.6m. Or, at least, I very much doubt it. We’re not going to be at the top of the Jumper boards the end of the show season. We may not even manage a Trillium this year. (And I hope I don’t need to convey how depressing that is to any of you.)
The point of it all? We have come so, so very far in less than a year. It doesn’t matter that I forget that. It doesn’t matter that a year ago I thought “there” would be different than what it has become.
What does matter?
The fact that my mare finally trusts me matters more to me than…well, than a lot of things, to be honest. I won’t go so far to say she loves me. I think she loves the lovely girls and women who feed her daily far more than me. My presence means she has to work. Star and I together means time, sweat, and occasionally pain and tears.
I don’t know if I’m her perfect rider, but she is, without any doubt, my perfect horse. She isn’t easy, or made, or anything else that should make her my favorite. Yet she is. Today, while I was working with Star at our jumper school and among the rest of my barn’s jumpers, I realized how spectacular our relationship has become.
Why? Because we trust one another. We are still figuring each other out. I don’t exactly know how to push Star without stressing her or releasing the racehorse that always lives, quietly waiting, in her veins. I’m not also sure, exactly how to slow her, calm her, without dropping her at the base of a jump to manage it from a standstill.
I exaggerate, of course, because my writing is much more funny if I do. The truth is we managed to get through a messy round in the rain with little more than my drive and her athleticism. Oh. And trust. Always trust.
At the jump school it finally came to me. My silly bay mare and I finally trust each other. She trusts that I won’t point her at anything she can’t handle, and I trust that she’ll get us over said anything. It’s a lovely sort of feeling, to think that all we need is time together to prove our worth.
I’m not sure if there is anything more that I can say, at the moment. Although there is always something we can learn. Because “there” is not an achievement we reach. “There” is the achievement we always reach for. The point is, obviously, that “there” moves. “There” gets further away the longer and better we work.
We never get “there.” If we did, why on earth would we keep riding? So why on earth should we stress out over not being “there” yet? The only answer to that question is, we shouldn’t.
Trust, time and work should get us into the circle of “there” we’re currently trying to lock ourselves into. The rest is just gravy. There’s no getting “there” from here. There’s only getting to the next “there,” from here.
Personally, I’m looking forward to the journey.
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. She struggles daily to juggle family, work, and her equine lifestyle, with occasional success.