Wednesday, October 28, 2009

First Horse Show

Well, I did it!  Rode in my first horse show this past weekend.  The goal I'd set for myself last winter, a result of childhood dreams and years on the rail watching our daughter had left me wondering how it would feel to be on the inside looking out. 

Sure looked easy enough.  Yet this past year's experience of learning how to ride correctly revealed that it wasn't as easy as it appeared.  Added to that, the great robber of joy - lack of confidence - well all I can say is that I'm sure I've been a challenge to both my horse and trainer.

Didn't sleep much the night before the show and was sure nervous that morning.  What helped me was the familiarity of being at many shows in the past as part of the support team.  I knew the drill and it was pretty easy to not focus on the fact that it was ME who was going to be out there riding.  A good suggestion for anybody wanting to ride in their first show would be to become familiar with the routine first.  And an set of extra hands are always welcome.

It was cold out and Champ was fresh so I asked Hero Trainer to ride him first.  As I watched her dealing with his frisky attitude, I kept telling my husband, "Oh No....I can't ride THAT!!!"  My husband kept telling me I'd be ok.

And he was right, as soon as I got on a great calm came over me and confidence, my new-found friend, took the upper hand.  Trust me, this is a LONG way from where I was a year ago.

I rode every Western walk/jog class I could, starting with the first class of the day.  I found myself grinning ear to ear because I was really enjoying myself.  It's said that smiles are infectious.  Must be true because after a few rounds in the ring, I noticed that people in the stands were also smiling.  I kinda got a kick out of that and it made me smile even more.

When I was out there I thought about all the things that had put me in the ring that day.  I never rode this show to 'win'.  Why was I out there? 

I thought about my dreams as a child and this past year's goal; my friends who wanted to return to riding but were tentative (one of them right there on the rail cheering me on); my husband, the guy who years ago threatened to divorce if me if I bought a horse, who had insisted on washing the truck and trailer the night before this show in the dark because he said I shouldn't go to my first horse show in a dirty rig; our daughter, home from college for this event to support me and the horse she loved but trusted to be in my care; Hero Trainer, who gave me the gift of confidence; and all of you who might happen to come upon this blog, hoping it will inspire you to climb back on or never get off.

So in my zone of thoughts it was with much surprise that I placed in seven of ten classes.   That was a nice 'extra' I sure didn't expect.  And I choked up a little when I heard my family and friends cheer each time they announced my name. 

Hero Trainer has called today and wants me to ride at the next show in November.  Our barn will there together and it will be fun to ride and be with friends.  I'll show again and see where this road leads me, but my goal for 2009 has been met and my mind is flying....what will my 2010 goal be?  Well some big changes are coming for this 50+ rider as 2010 arrives so thank you for dropping in and hope you'll stay tuned!  :)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Crunch Time

A week-long business trip pulled me away from riding the week before last.  Being a 'remote' employee means you don't visually get to see your co-workers very often.  It had been eighteen months since we'd last met so our visual meeting that Monday included lots of hugs and hand shakes when we all got together for dinner.

It was with some concern the next day when over half of my co-workers didn't come down to breakfast because they were sick.  Infact most of them never came down the entire week.  The only other time I saw them was as they drug themselves through the lobby Friday morning on their way back home.

Not good I thought, for us trying to stay healthy.  Not good I thought for someone who has planned for the last year to ride in her first horse show this next weekend.

Arriving home Friday night, I was beat.  Saturday morning arrived with headaches, scratchy throat, etc.  And it's been that way every day since.  I'm on the edge of sick and what I've worked so hard for this last year, my first horse show, is coming up seven days from now.  I could call the doctor but knowing my health provider, they'll want me to come in and I just know I'll be doomed for sure if I go where all the sick people are.

So this past week, I drug myself home each night and laid low.  No energy to even go out and see Champ.  With each day, I felt my muscle tone leaving me and I also started to get that good old feeling of anxiety for my next ride. 

Yesterday evening I sucked it up and went out and took a lesson from my "Hero Trainer", as I call her.  The most patient person in the world, who endured months of my walking and trotting because I was afraid to lope.  In the past year I have yet to have a 'bad' ride thanks to her guidance, although some have been more challenging then others. 

Last night was the most challenging yet.  Two weeks of not riding has reduced my muscle tone and balance.  I feel weight in my gut and butt.  And I could really feel the difference, especially when in (trying to) lope I almost went off of Champ's right side (my fault totally).  I also cleared (a lot of ) air in another attempt to lope, bringing my rear down with such force on the saddle that it was heard by all throughout the indoor arena and has left my right ribs and back sore today.  Pretty ugly and poor Champ.

Yeah, woe is me, pitty party.  Well, sorry - that's not me.  Seven days until crunch time so I'm off to ride when I complete this.  Regardless of how I feel, my expectations for next Saturday are to meet the goal I set a year ago.  Ride in a horse show.  I intend to ride, laugh and have fun.  If I get a ribbon, great.  If not, that's great too because I will have achieved my goal.

However, if I get a Blue I'm afraid I'll wimp out and cry, thinking about that little girl who always wanted a horse, rode rocks and fences, ambushed trail riders begging for a ride, and put her marriage on the line to make her first horse purchase.   That little girl will be thrilled.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

10 Things I Couldn't Have Made It Without

It's been a year since I decided to start riding our daughter's horse, Champ.  Formerly used in APHA and 4H shows, he comes with many buttons that I knew nothing about.  He'd been sitting idle for a year in our pasture after our daughter headed off to college.  I hated to see all that talent wasted.  Last year at this time, I returned Champ to the facility we formerly boarded at and arranged to start taking lessons.

I've been reflecting today on Champ and my journey this past year.  From my first lesson, held outside his stall because I was too afraid to ride, to my accomplishment of finally getting up the nerve to lope a month ago.  I am grateful for this last year and thought about the ten things that I couldn't have made it this far without:

1.  My husband.  Always there to support me.  I'm grateful for his patience and presence when he comes to watch and the space he gives me when he isn't there.  He carries my tack when I ride and gets up early every morning to feed our horses at home.  Today, the guy who threatened to divorce me if I ever got a horse loves them as much as I do.  And I love him for it with all my heart.

2.  My trainer, who has the patience of a Saint.  Any trainer who will encourage the rider for eight months to lope (we called it 'getting my wings') before it finally happens has got to be a Saint (that's two months after my initial lesson).  She never pushed me to lope (although she suggested it plenty of times).  She tells me where I need to improve but also tells me where I've improved or done a move well.  After jogging for ten months, I was totally comfortable but bored with it and found I was ready to take the next step without any drama.  I use my wings quite often these days.

3.  The mounting block.  Champ is a tall horse.  The block makes it easier for me to climb up on and I'm sure it's more comfortable for Champ.  This starts my rides out on a positive note.

4.  Poles.  These have helped me learn the buttons Champ has as well as work on my balance.  Initially walking or trotting over them, I'm now able to back thru all sorts of pole configurations, like a V configuration.  I can also sidepass both directions and do haunch turns.  I love the communication with Champ when I play with the poles.  Next step will be loping over them.

5.  My helmet.  It's ugly green and banged up.  Not fashionable but it's a necessity and I never ride without it.  I've had my concussion Thank You and never want another one when I fall off.  I also feel responsible to my family to take the necessary measures to be as safe as I can when I ride.  And I want them to wear a helmet when they ride too so I practice what I preach.  There's no guarantees when you're up on your horse that you won't have an accident and you do the best to avoid it.  At +50, I'll take all the insurance I can get to be as safe as I can from injuries.

6.  Eating right.  The years of not eating correctly have caught up with me.  I found if you pig out before you ride, you'll pay the price.  There is nothing worse then the ugly feeling of crawling up into the saddle feeling stuffed.  Your balance will stink and your energy level will be low.  You'll peak out early in the ride, cheating you and your horse out of why you're out there.  Eating lighter will give the opposite of those experiences.  I don't know how many times I've wanted ice cream (my downfall) and reminded myself of how I'll feel on the horse if I indulge.  Makes it easy to turn away from the temptation and although the pounds aren't dropping fast, they are dropping steadily.

7.  Music.  It helps me relax and have a good time.  Some songs inspire me to try different things and the music alleviates the anxiety that might come along if I was out there in silence.  Riding to music is just fun and keens your spiritual awareness of being one with your horse.

8.  Pants.  Yup, pants!  I initially started riding in my department store jeans.  After my pant legs kept riding up and zippers and metal studs carved ugly scratches in my saddle when I dismounted, I needed a change.  Enter my Women's Wrangler Stretch Jeans.  They fit me great and are perfect for riding.  Long Live Cowgirls.

9.  50+ Ladies Night.  Held every Wednesday night at the barn, we get together and take a group lesson.  We cheer each other on and the night is always full of lots of laughs.  These gals are my soul sisters and I don't know what I'd do without them.  We finish our evening with snacks and the beverage of your choice, recalling our rides and what we'll do the following week.  We are currently working with our horses on learning how to sort cows.  We're also talking about Dressage.

10.  Ibuprofen (sp)?.  When I've had a few days off from riding and return to it, I pay the price of sore muscles.  This helps me relieve some of those, "Ughs" that come from me when I get up out of a chair after those first few rides.  Luckily, I find the more often I ride the sooner the pains go away.  Recently my husband told me I had legs like nutcrackers.  I am so stupid, I went to work and told everybody, thinking of the Nutcracker Ballet.  Took me a few days to figure it out.  :)