Monday, October 1, 2012

4th Quarter: We're All in this Together

This time last week, I was awash in a sea of indecision, disappointment, and self-loathing about my work with the Bay Boy Wonder.  And it was a turbulent, cold North Sea to swim if there ever were one.

I'd had such a great day two weeks ago on Monday-- when I'd put the little socks on the Boy's girth, and made him so happy that we worked twice in one day!  Two days later, nothing I did could make the Boy happy, and I was left with deep gouges in the arena sand where he'd just ripped forward and upward as he expressed his full-on Morgan temper tantrum, tangible reminders of the deep gouges he left in my confidence.

I looked at the late-September calendar, very aware it was marking the end of our "reliably good" riding weather, and asked myself what, exactly, have we accomplished this season? and answered a woeful, not a hell of a lot.  

And then, of course, the inevitable perfectly-reasonable, genuinely-friendly inquiry from my best horse friend about heading off to a hunter pace in mid-October came and just added twenty pounds of anchor chain to carry around while I was swimming in that cold North Sea.  I didn't have anyone ready; there was no way I'd have anyone ready, and really, that's the only thing I actually know I want to do with the BBW, so wow, what a failure am I!

Wallow, wallow.

And then a funny thing happened in the second half of last week.  Weather and work (and, yes, wallowing woe, I must admit) kept me from getting any horse training in, but I became aware of something stirring in the virtual world that feeds my equine addiction in the hours I'm not out in the physical barn.

From Facebook, to CoTH, to the blogs I follow, there was a streak of similar woeful wallowing!  Other people, other riders and writers I enjoy (and from whom I take inspiration), were expressing variations on the same theme I'd been hearing in my own head.  I suck!  I'm not getting anywhere!  Everything is hard!  Maybe I should take up another discipline!  Maybe I should sell my horse...

Everyone was having trouble in the last two weeks of September! Some were dealing with mysterious lameness, some had young brats responding to the brisk fall weather.  Some just hadn't gotten as far as they'd wanted in the summer.  Some had disastrous outings at shows or clinics, or outings that just felt disastrous.  Some were just perturbed that, though all the cylinders seemed to be clicking, the equine engine was still running rough.

I took notice of this wave of  unhappiness and, in a truly classy streak of schadenfreude, I started to feel better... (Author's note: I actually spelled that word correctly from memory; good god, I am a monster!)

Maybe misery does love company, and it was as simple as that.  I know I took tremendous comfort in the post by one self-effacing, always hilarious, generally game, go-getter equestrian blogger who took my breath away when she wrote about quitting.  Quitting?  Her?  No way, never!  But, hell, she's having a bad week, too.  Man, if she's having a bad week, then there must be something going on in the phase of the moon or somesuch.

But maybe it's a little bigger than that.  I'm wondering if it isn't the fault of the Olympics.

Bear with me here while I run this thought by you...

The internet was full of humorous, and sometimes semi-serious, commentary on the Olympic Hangover syndrome that accompanied the ending of all three equestrian sports.  The Eventers hit it first, of course,  and maybe we laughed that off, as they are such an intense, in-the-moment group.  Then the Showjumpers finished up, and it felt sad, too.  And finally, the pinnacle of the dramatic British home-team double-gold in Dressage-- oh!  So much adrenaline to process!  While the Olympics were on, and the entire equestrian internet was mainlining cocaine livestreaming amazing horses and riders doing their thing in the world's most gorgeous and stately venue-- we were there, doing it, riding alongside, and periodically instead of, those phenomenal teams.  It was brilliant and magical and fantastic.

And then it was over, and the next few days were a little hard.  Coming down off that high was a little rocky.

But I think a bunch of us (or maybe it was only me) dealt with the withdrawal by turning the hunger for good riding inwards, and we said, hell, if that doesn't inspire us to get going, nothing will! And we redoubled our commitment to our own work, hoping that if we got only 1/10th as good as what we saw, then we'd be making real progress and feeling like Olympians ourselves!

So off we went to the arena or the XC field or the lunge ring, to get back to work!

And then, reality set back in.  We don't, most of us, get to actually live like Olympians, riding all day, every day, on horses of varying degrees of skill and experience for certain, but most certainly some schoolmasters in the bunch.  We have our regular lives and our regular horses, and we've got to find time, energy, and good fortune in equal measure to get those things to line up nicely.  And that's not easy.

And so we get to the end of September, a good 6-8 weeks after our Olympic booster shot, and we're still not ready for London 2012 ourselves, and we get bummed.

Plus, we Americans had a challenging Olympics, and the USET is now deep in the throes of some serious soul-searching as we look ahead to 2016 and beyond.  So being better and owning up to our shortcomings has become a national responsibility-- talk about 20 pounds of anchor chain for the adult ammie, working at home to just try to get a ride in... yikes!

Or maybe that's just me getting caught up in the zeitgeist and over-empathizing....

Anywhoooo, back at Chez BBW, I've taken all this in and given myself permission to shake off the recent despair as a case of perfectly-reasonable seasonal blues.  I looked back and asked myself what worked, and was again reminded that riding first thing in the morning, before anything else beyond morning coffee got done, was what has gotten me this far.  So, that has to continue, and it requires three specific changes--

  • Getting to bed and turning the lights out by 9pm in order to be out of bed by 5am
  • Prioritizing riding at the expense of dirty stalls a bit later into the day
  • Maintaining a rigorous discipline about getting my day job done early and thoroughly so I have the time to give to riding
The first two are ridiculously easy, so easy that it's stupid to have to write them down, but for some reason I had let those go and gotten myself in trouble.  The third one is also manageable, but requires discipline.  You know, like Olympians have to be disciplined.  So I got that.

Last Friday, I spent a rainy day getting all my grading done, and prepping all my course work for this coming week.  And I started going to bed at 9:00pm, and getting up at 5:00am.  Saturday stuff came up, but Sunday and today I have managed my morning ride with Sherman.  Not perfect, brilliant equestrianism by any means, not going to get me to Rio in 2016, but most certainly getting me out of swimming in the North Sea.

So it's October now, the 4th Quarter of the year.  There is time to salvage 2012, and thanks to hearing from my fellow writing equestrians, I know I'm not in this alone, and I feel like we're going to get there.  

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