Star is basically a yak during the winter. This in and of itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. They’re kinda cute all fluffy. I had no idea horses got winter coats until I moved to Canada. In the South they may get a bit longer hair, but it’s nothing like the full-out rugs our horses grow up here. The problem with Star’s coat comes from our riding. She sweats like crazy at the best of times, so having extra fur really makes her warm quickly.
Because I love my girl-yak like or not-I don’t want her to ever overheat. Therefore, I clip and blanket. I hate it. I mean, I’m not sure that anyone likes clipping. The physical exertion of moving a two pound clipper up and around a 16+ hand horse is at least as good as an arm day at the gym. And the hair you find in the most bizarre places (nose and ears, anyone?) even after a shower or three is super gross. Maybe those super professional clippers that draw crazy intricate patterns with clippers love clipping. But they’re the only ones.
I don’t clip whiskers, or the insides of ears. It’s more of a european thing, and it’s a luxury I have because I’m not worried about showing hunters. As much as I know there are practical reasons to clip, I also like the look and feel of a freshly clipped pony. They also seem to come clean so much faster.
We last did a body clip in October, but when I tried to do it again in March, Star lost her mind. She acted like I was making literal attempts to murder her with the clippers. I managed her neck, shoulder and some of her chest before I decided it was far too much stress for both of us. But the spring shed is upon us and it needed to be done. Armed with some tranquilizer from the vet, I got the full clip done, this time only missing the outsides of the ears and about half the cannon bone down. Her ears were just a no fly zone for her. The lower legs boiled down to mud and lack of time to completely wash them clean.
Seeing Star doped-up was pretty funny. She’s a hot horse who likes to keep an eye on everything and everyone normally. Having her hang her head with droopy eyelids made her look like an entirely different horse. I can’t wait until we get a solidly warm day and I can give her a full bath. Then we can finally take some proper conformation photos and get her passport dealt with. But, for now she looked much improved and lighter.
Which brings up another interesting point. I have a long history with food and weight, not a lot of it is good. Since meeting my husband and having my daughter, I’ve been much better about it all. I would never starve myself again, for instance. I’m nevermore focused on a particular size or weight. It’s all about health to me now, and whether or not I can easily do the things I need and want to do.
After our big fall in November, I really fell off the wagon of working out and eating cleanly. Then Christmas, New Year’s and birthdays happened. Next thing you know, I’m noticing that riding was getting harder. That is something I cannot tolerate, so back to working out and eating better I go.
I was a huge gym rat in my late teens and early twenties. At some points in my life, it was definitely an unhealthy, obsessive type habit. When I was an active actor, for instance, I worked out twice a day for a total of about four hours. I was just over a hundred pounds and could bench press 125. The really disgusting thing is, I wanted to lose another 20 pounds. Looking back at photos and video of that time, I have no idea where I expected those 20 pounds to come from. I’m fairly confident I would have had to remove actual organs at that point.
But I digress. The important point is, I have to be careful about working out. It can’t become my life, just a part of it.
Through a very lucky series of events, I got an high-end elliptical machine for free. So now on days when I’m not riding, I’ll be doing some cardio cross training. My husband has taken up the challenge as well, as we both are feeling older and less fit than we’d like at the moment. It has only been a week, but I have to say it’s certainly a nice start. I’m looking forward to feeling stronger and less winded for this summer.
I don’t think riding should ever really feel easy. It’s one of those things that needs constant, evolving improvement. I do firmly believe, though, that riding shouldn’t feel hard because of a lack of fitness. I want to be challenged and pushed and have days where I’m not entirely certain I’ll manage the task at hand. I just refuse to allow myself to fail because I’m not fit enough to succeed.
In the end, I think that’s a goal all of us can live with.
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 new Thoroughbred mare, Star, toward the Trillium Jumper Circuit in 2016. She struggles daily to juggle family, work, and her equine lifestyle, with occasional success.