That’s A Wrap

I am “that girl” during Christmastime – you know, the one annoyingly obsessed with the holiday, who insists on wearing red & green and buying a tree as soon as the calender switches to December. The second a local radio station I never otherwise listen to switches over to 24/7 Christmas music, it’s all I have on in the barn. Students got in the spirit by decorating the barn for me one morning, and each horse had a glittery little stocking. I even made time for something other than horses and actually went SHOPPING a few times during the holiday season. Now, of course I procrastinated, and still found myself wrapping presents at approximately 11:59pm on Christmas Eve, but my heart is always in the right place. I think I do it on purpose, actually, just trying to make the holiday last. It’s the days before Christmas itself I always like best; the excitement, the anticipation, the magic quality of the holiday that can make us all children again and kind of want to put sugar cookies and milk out for Santa, even though you’re 24. There’s all the build-up, a wonderful couple of days with family, a million candy canes being passed around to the all the horses, and then BAM. Over. Done. And I’m always a little bummed out…even if I do end up with new toys to play with.

And boy are there toys to play with this year. Maybe just having Pirate out and about again got me in a good mood, or maybe I’m starting to grow up, but I had a very big girl moment at the beginning of December a bought a 5-horse head-to-head trailer. Huge move for me, HUGE. I remember rolling up to horse trials as a kid feeling like the Beverly Hillbillies, with the Chevy Starcraft conversion van pulling a horrific steel box I can’t believe my little Laddy Pony ever stepped onto, seeing the big fancy head-to-head trailers, and thinking to myself, “I’ll NEVER have one of those things.” This eventually transitioned into, “I really want one of those trailers…sigh, one day…” and I carried on being super jealous, though at least I had a nice little Trail-et and a big ol’ F350 by then. And then I had this lightbulb moment this fall…like everything else in life, if I wanted it, I needed to make it happen. If I wanted a big 5-horse head-to-head trailer, then I was going to have to buy the damn thing myself, and sooner rather than later so I could quit whining about it.

Jaz winning another Novice.

Merry Christmas, students! :) We filled it up the first weekend we had it, with a very successful day at The Ark. Little Jaz won her Novice HT division for the 3rd time this season, following both her win at Windridge and another very successful day in October where she won another NC event (TTC HT) on a 29.1, also winning the award for lowest final score of the day there. Students kicked butt in their CT divisions (on my horses and their own), and we all had a fun XC school afterwards, where Gracie was a star jumping around the Novice and Training courses. (Photos here). Someone should buy her before I decide to keep her… (NO. NOT keeping another one. End of discussion). ¬†Videos of her schooling at home here.

Dressage at Pine Top in the old saddle.

I also bought a very fancy and well-deserved gift for my Pirate. Drumroll please….a new dressage saddle!! The days of asking my poor sweet boy to do his dressage in a poorly fitting, rock hard, piece of crap saddle bought for under $100 at a yard sale, are over. Feeling how free he is through his back, and how much better I’m able to sit in a saddle that actually fits both of us, I feel terrible I ever made him go in the other wicked saddle, and I’m also in disbelief that my lovely kind horse managed for years to score so well, somehow, rather than bucking me off every time I asked him to trot up centerline. Anyway, it’s a Stackhouse (like the custom jump saddle we won a few years back when he won at Ocala for me), and though it wasn’t technically custom fitted to us, it may as well have been. I really lucked into a saddle that was designed for a horse and rider exactly like us (not easy finding a narrow tree dressage saddle), for a used price, though it barely seems to have been used at all. Merry Christmas, Pirate! You deserve it, sweet boy.

I didn’t fully realize how upside down my life had been for the past year, with Pirate out of commission, until we got back into the competition scene. He was a total psycho on cross-country that first time around back in October, though still finished 2nd (when you’re jumping sideways like a freak, spooking violently at other levels’ fences, you need to go pretty slow and accept the time penalties that bump you out of the lead), and was decent at his 2nd outing, though found The Fork’s schooling Prelim HT much too easy. Pine Top was our first recognized outing back, and it was quite a stiff Prelim, with some rather challenging questions for the level. He was lovely in dressage and stadium, in the lead going into cross-country…but unfortunately I couldn’t stop picking and just let my boy gallop on and jump the fences in front of him. For lack of a better term, I choked jumping up the bounce bank, not quite liking our canter or our distance, and rather than just looking ahead and kicking, I pulled him at the last second onto the option, crossing our tracks and getting the pesky 20 penalties you always hate to see on your record.

Easily over the corner at Pine Top.

It’s so hard taking them out of the bubblewrap. We want to protect them, while at the same time participating in one of the most dangerous sports out there. It’s scary to ask so much of them, when we love them so. Once they’ve been hurt, it’s worse; you can’t stop thinking that maybe they’re hurting, maybe their leg won’t hold, what if, what if, what if. And then you scramble up a bank and pull them sideways, instead of kicking on and helping them out of trouble like you always have, and you realize that, by trying to protect them, you’re going to hurt them.

And then you finally, FINALLY, get out of your head.

When I left him alone and let my brilliant horse do the job he knows and loves, we had a blast out there. If anything, he felt better, smarter, and more grown up than he ever has before. As I think of spring horse trials and CICs, and maybe, just maybe, a fall CCI**, I get goosebumps. Maybe 2013 will be our year? We’ll start it out right, as we’re flying British CCI**** rider Francis Whittington¬†over for a clinic at the end of January, held at both The Ark and Gibbes Farm. (E-mail me if you’re interested in riding with him while he’s here; I can’t say enough good things about him). I can’t wait to see what he thinks of my Pirate, and more importantly, to get the help from him I so need; I’ve never been able to take as many lessons as I should, and Baby P deserves a rider who gets better all the time rather than relying on him, who is on this learning journey with me.

Just thinking of the future, what the next year will hold for us…it’s like Christmas Eve all over again.

There are all these things ahead…unwrapped presents, so to speak, things you suspect may be in the future but can’t really be certain of just yet. You can shake every box under the tree, guess what’s in each one and think you’re very clever, and then the big day arrives and the biggest box contains a little gift card, while the smallest has the keys to a new car. (Definitely hasn’t happened to me, but I’ve seen the commercials so clearly SOME people get this). And then you’re glad you didn’t guess correctly, because what’s the fun in that? The Mayans totally got it wrong about the world ending on December 21st, so we ought to have learned our lesson about predicting the future. Make your plans and stick to them as well as you can…but keep guessing about the outcome along the way.

Otherwise, you’ll feel awfully silly on December 22 when you try to figure out where to store the water bottles you’ve stockpiled for the end of the world.

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