Everyone has to have goals. A life isn’t really all that exciting if you’re just floating along watching it all go by. Some people like to call it a “bucket list,” while others prefer to just announce it as the horizon they are reaching towards.
Danny Foster jokingly suggested that myself and my fellow clinic rider, K, should aim for the Rio Olympics next year. He insisted that there was no point in working as hard as we do, without having BIG goals. I told him I was too old for the Olympics, although I would like to do the High Amateur Owners some day.
Truth be told, it’s on my bucket list to jump a full-size Grand Prix course before I die. Even if it’s only in my backyard, the idea of soaring over a jump as tall as me actually sends a little thrill down my spine. But I’m getting ahead of myself here…
There’s an unwritten rule in hunter/jumpers that you don’t wear white breeches unless you’re jumping 1.20m (3’11”) or over. It’s a bit of a badge of honour, I think. White breeches are certainly the most impracticable, as they show every pinch of dirt, sweat, and everything else one picks up by simply looking at horses. But there is something about that too, much like a gleaming clean grey horse. You know the time and care that’s gone into keeping them light and dirt free.
Despite still not jumping a full metre with Star yet, I own two pairs of white breeches. Both of them were crazy steals (under $30!!), which is mostly why I got them. I’ve worn them a time or two when I’ve gotten to the bottom of my stack before laundry day. Every time I do, I feel like a bit of a fraud. I literally will embarrassingly yell out to anyone I see: “These were my only ones clean!”
Still, I’d be a liar if I didn’t say I want to wear them for real someday. My favorite showing breeches growing up were a very light dove grey. I like the look of them against the dark of a show jacket and white breeches showcase that opposition even better.
I’m starting to realize more and more that a lot of hunter/jumpers are not like me. They like the classes that max out at 2’6″ and are proud to jump that high. I’ve been told before that I should be more cautious. I wish I could have a bit of cautious self-preservation, but there is some sort of wild being in me. A bit of a kamikaze that half wants to get pointed toward a six foot tall puissance wall, just to see what happens on the other side.
But for now, I’m earning Star’s trust. I want her to know that anything I point her at, she can get over. This week we worked on standalone verticals. Everyday, I bumped it up another hole. The higher the fence, the better her form. She hesitated a time or two, especially on her weaker lead, but I put on my leg and pointed firmly. She never refused. Even when she’s not sure, she’s far too brave to give up. If I insist, Star gulps down any uncertainty and tries her heart out for me. Together we fly.
Before I retire her, I’d love for team Sharpe/Star to enter the ring in white breeches. One or both of us might not be capable of that. We may hit 1.10m and find out that’s our limit. We may not even get there. But I’m not giving up on the idea. As Danny Foster said, why work this hard without a BIG goal in mind?
For now, the white breeches stay folded neatly in my closet. I know they are waiting and, if I have anything to say about it, they’ll see ring time before I’m forty. For now, I’ll happily pull on black, grey and beige. Because, goals notwithstanding, getting on my horse at all means I’m already living one of my biggest dreams.
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.