My blog has been silent for a long time. Other than some recycled work, I haven't posted in over a year. I went through a rough year, probably the hardest of my life, in 2017. Writing has always been an outlet for me. Although I wrote prolifically in my journal, my journey was personal. Plus telling a story while you are in the midst of it, well, that just isn’t the time. Perspective is important in all narrative. But some parts I’m ready to share, if just to bring things up-to-speed for some future blog ideas I have cooking.
Blogging as a performance- based business owner puts me a bit at odds. My writing mentors have always rewarded honest, real, gritty prose. Business marketing tells me to fill the internet with fun, fluffy, positive things. As a culture, we tend to gloss over emotionally uncomfortable topics, pretending the rains never happen. But life isn't always nice and pretty, and growth is often uncomfortable, messy, and painful. Change rarely comes from comfort, and growth often has a price. The beautiful thing about life is often when the struggles are mounting, there’s a bright spot somewhere. I’m sure this comes as no surprise, but horses are my bright spot.
If you follow Straight Forward Dressage or know me on Facebook, you’ll know the 2017 show season was a good one. Secret had a solid PSG/I-1 season, earning a handful of the scores I need to advance in my judge’s training and competed in her first CDI. Capi ended up winning Region 8, BLMS, and stood 5th at Nationals with his second level Peter Pan freestyle. Sling was 3rd level champion at the DVCTA championship show. In the barn, my students earned a large handful of All-breeds awards, a regional reserve champion, a 10th place finish in Kentucky, and a freshly minted bronze medal. My para-equestrian student was 2nd at the Para national championship in Tryon (more on that in a later blog, I have GREAT photos) and won USDF Grade III Para Rider of the year. Last year, this consistency was really reassuring. Even with the hurricane whirling around me, these horses were the calm eye of the storm.
This year the horses continue to shine brightly. Secret gave me the rest of my PSG/I-1 scores plus a few to spare, collecting many blue ribbons along the way. Capi had an amazing year with many 3rd level and freestyle scores in the 70’s. He had some very-normal-horse moments this last weekend at Regionals (I just don’t understand why they have gatekeepers in championship classes and no other national classes, but I digress...) that put him mid pack in most of his classes, with the exception of his 2nd level freestyle, which he placed well enough to earn him another trip to KY this year. Sling went home to his young rider to teach her FEI dressage. As a trainer, seeing a long-term training horse go home and do what you trained it to do is really rewarding.
My personal horses were not so comforting—I’ll spare you all the details. In 2017 and even into this year, I have been reminded that it isn’t the long hours, the work, or the low pay that exhausts professionals. It’s the heartbreak.
With all the goings-on in the second half of last year, in addition to my blog, my riding education was put on hold. I hit an occasional lesson here or there, but wasn’t able to keep my education in the forefront like I usually do. This year I have been able to amend this. Most of my education budget and time have gone to judge education. In the spring I audited Part 1 A and B of the L program, and I’m really glad I did, as I received a last-minute invite to a small r program in August. I also played scribe for the L Part 2 while my assistant trainer, Kelsey, prepared for, took, and then passed her exam.
In addition to educating my judge’s eye, I’ve been back in lessons regularly again. Secret has stayed home from the show circuit since June, and with Scott Hassler’s help, she is making huge strides on the big jump to Grand Prix. Every day she reminds me that, in this dressage game, heart is more important than breeding. Jeanne McDonald has seen Capi and I as regularly as our messy schedules allow, contributing hugely to his show ring consistency this year.
I’m super excited for the upcoming winter. Instead of freezing up here in PA, I’m headed to Fl for 3 months of training. I’m sharing a facility with Sara Schmitt, where I’ll get her eyes on my riding daily, as well as access to all of the other wonderful instructors who winter with the Palm trees. I haven’t had this long of an intensive since I was a working student. I’ve gone to FL to warm up and get inspired for bits of time each winter, and last year even took a student down for 2 weeks to compete. But this will be the first time I will be able to be fully immersed in my own education. With Secret schooling the GP and Capi knocking on the door of PSG, it’s time. I’ll keep you all well apprised of my progress.
Although I’ve had the opportunity to go to FL in the past, I’ve resisted, because FL can be an amazing, inspiring dressage immersion, or it can be a sunny place to feel poor and inadequate. Plus as I’m not taking my entire barn south, I’ve needed the right people in the right places at home. Now I do. I have a solid stable manager in Carly, who I trust completely with the care of not only the horses but their humans. I have newly-minted L grad Kelsey who has matured into a lovely instructor and my eyes-on-the-ground at home. Cheryle, who has helped keep my office stuff organized for years, has taken on additional responsibilities as well. These women, just by being who they are and doing their jobs well, are providing the springboard to my dreams.
This blog started out as an update-my-readers bit, so I could jump into my dressage story line where it is today, but as writing often does, it took its own path. The more I write, the more my emotions turn to gratitude to my support system that has stayed with me to the other side of my rough year. Shelley, Linda, and Wendy are amazing owners who have trusted me with their horses. My trainers have been amazing to help me get as much education as possible around my nutty happenings. My barn family, both staff and clients, have been there for me every step of the way, even when the steps were messy and confusing to them. Because of all of you, my heart is full, and my future looks bright.