Sunday, October 25, 2015

The highs and lows.

As riders and professionals in general, in an age of social media and instant gratification, we're taught to hide behind "PC" posts... Posts that tell the good side of a weekend. The Side that says We Finished Third!! The part that gets left out? (Except we had three stops, I barely survived my stadium round, and my horse currently won't load onto my trailer and I've now escalated the threats to include dressage boot camp AND cow training.)

This weekend, I really really feel like deserves a blog to properly get you in the mood for how I felt driving home from Kentucky this morning. We'll start with Tuesday. I run my own barn, which includes feeding riding teaching showing ext. Tuesday After feeding in the morning, I got a call from my round bale delivery guy that he wasn't going to be able to drop the round bales until Thursday. So this starts off my day of running around a bit like a chicken without a head, and my Facebook status of:

Things that happen in preparing to leave for a horse show:
1. Write down 100 things to do
2. Remember 6 more things.
3. Throw a frisbee for your dog because
4. Check weather for the 110th time
5. Vow to keep your truck cleaner if it would just tell you where your polo is.
6. Argue with the cleaning lady hat $22 is ridiculous to have 1 jacket cleaned. I don't care how bad it smelled.
7. Thank your feed store for reminding you that you already bought grain yesterday
8. Sit on hold with bank for the 5th time on 1 day.
9. Check fencing for the 8th time.
10. Beg the horses to behave for 5 days. Bribe with apples and carrots.
11. Resume panic packing
12. Ask your groom to buy a hair brush so you don't rock dreads for the jog
13. Sh*| the jog....
14. Loosing weight is annoying because your slacks now look like hood pants...
15. Ask your dog to find something. Realize he still lacks thumbs. But can roll his eyes.
16. Post a struggling Facebook post

‪#‎eventerproblems‬ ‪#‎ihaventevenleftyet‬ ‪#‎p3d‬ ‪#‎longformat‬‪#‎idontevenhavethehorse‬\

I'll preface that my horse went with her owner so I also didn't have my truck this week. So after an eventful Tuesday, Kayla my wonder groom and I head back to the city to put my jog clothes into Target bags pack, and then head on our way. Except there was a Cubs game = a ridiculous amount of people trying to leave the city. Scratch that and we got up for a 2 am departure time. And off we went.

                                                     Thankfully Busy handles stress well

We arrived first thing Wednesday morning, and after the jog has been changed for the 8th time, have a few hours to relax and pick an outfit before braiding the lovely mare and heading on our way. Nothing beats the sound of hearing "Busy Bea - Accepted!" Good start.

                                          Two Jog pictures because I can and she's lovely

I can't say enough about the long format, and especially the education that comes with every step of the way. When Kate (Busy's Owner) and I decided to do this, my intent was to really work on Busy's fitness and teach her to be a bit more relaxed in her cross country style as she can be a bit over enthusiastic, which can lead to minor difficulties as we moved up to Intermediate. I didn't have terribly lofty expectations.

What I ended up with however, blew me away. I came away with a rock solid partnership with an incredible horse. A horse that gave me everything she had, and came back the next morning swinging. A strong, fit horse with extra gas at the end of an hour of work. I spent so much time in the saddle with Busy, so much time watching her heart beat (I swear by the KER Heart-monitor, it changed my life). I know every inch of that mare's body. By the end, we were doing 5 x 5 minute hard gallops, with 1.5 minute rests, and an hour of trotting with 10 mins of slow cantering (Shout out to Lara Knight for the advice!), and about 20 minutes of trotting every day no matter what, sometimes bareback, some times in a halter and lead rope, but lots and lots of trotting. I can never thank Kate Saulle (her incredible owner) enough for trusting me with this mare, and by God I was going to make her proud. I woke up at 4 am after coming home at 11 so I could get a dressage lesson in with my coach, put in 4 hours a week of driving back and forth to her farm, 2 hours a week to jump lessons, anything and everything I could do to make sure we were well prepared.

But having never done a long format before, Midsouth and especially Dorthy Crowell, went ABOVE and Beyond to make sure we all were successful in our outing this weekend. The education was second to none after we arrived, and I made sure to try and ask as many of my dumb questions as I could think of at every opportunity. So we schooled the roads and tracks fully (and timed it!) on Wednesday before a dressage school, Thursday I did a full Dressage school in the morning before trotting all of A, then a quick steeplechase lesson with Dorthy.

Now starts the fun. Thursday, my wonderful mother drove up from Florida to cheer me on. That night we drove my car and my moms car back to the hotel. Friday morning? It's dead as a door nail. Thank god we had another car.. So I left my keys under my tire so we'd have them when we went back to jump it. However, the fun doesn't stop there. I wake up and could barely walk. I'm talking serious limp, can't put on a shoe. Wish I knew why. Thursday I'd been a bit sore, but nothing crazy. Friday I'm biting on a towel just to put my zip on boots on. Always fun. So I suck it up and button up my tails, and head down to dressage. We've been working so hard with Wendy Sanders on this, and I came out thrilled to pieces with putting in a relaxed but ambitious test. I went big for my mediums, bold on my counter canter. I hopped off in a bit of tearful state as I was in a ridiculous amount of pain for something in which I have no idea how i hurt myself, but alas my wonder groom was able to take her back to the barn for me. While the test wasn't the sub 30 I was hoping for, it was enough to put us in first. We were standing around chatting with my wonderful sponsor C4 belts and Jon Sonkin, and Kate nearly burst into tears when she saw. And she didn't' think she bred a dressage horse. Psh.

I try not to get too excited after one phase, and its especially hard for me in an event where I only have one horse competing. It's so easy to get so emotionally involved, putting so much pressure on each stage of things. We love these horses, and we love to be competitive or we wouldn't put ourselves through the heart ache. I think checkers would be much easier on my heart.

So now that Busy is done for the day, and we're heading back to the barn, we let out my dog from her stall who stated his resentment in being left behind.... I should mention he's usually very mild mannered

        He wasn't leaving anything to chance with us being able to leave him again...

And I started to try and sort out my ankle as I was going to be in the tack for a lot of hours the next day...


It was cold. Very very freaking cold.

Thank goodness for body worker Charlotte Morris for her incredible work to get me back and moving my foot again before Saturday. I'm grateful and can't wait to have her work on my horses next...

So my mom and Kate head back to jump my car. Except one problem. Someone stole my keys. PLEASE! Steal my new VW. Then you can pass emmissions with it. I joke but really? Who steals keys. Jokes on you have the jump the damn thing too. Oops. At this point I think my mother is seriously wondering how I function alone as an adult. Maybe I am a little too but alas.

So we limp around the Cross country course to take a peak, and it looks fantastic. Flowing, straight forward and great. I'm thrilled and ready to go in the morning.

Next morning, it's obviously pouring rain. Because eventing.

But by the time we start, it's managed to stop, and I can't even begin to put into words the emotions I felt during that hour of riding. You're relaxed for A, until you start to get ready to steeplechase. Then it's three minutes of unadulterated exhilaration. To those of you who haven't done a long format 3 day yet, please put it on your bucket list. Nothing beats the feeling. As you come off steeplechase, it's a 20 minute ride with your horse where you have to know them SO well as to what they need. Is it more trotting? Walking? Some walk and slow canter? I find Busy does best with some slow canters to even out her breathing than just trotting, so we worked in walk breaks, some slow canters, and lots of trotting before heading into the 10 minute box. I can't say enough about how wonderful Kate and Kayla were in getting Busy cooled off and relaxed before we headed back on course. I'm working on my helmet cam now to show both the 10 minute box, so you can see how it all works but its thrilling just to be there in the rush. Then so quickly I was back on and heading onto Cross country.

This mare is just an incredible cross country horse. Imagine never pulling back, just re balancing and kicking and that's what it's like to ride her. She's brilliant, honest and so forgiving and the best part was feeling her come into the back field before the finish and kick it up ANOTHER gear. She crawled a bit all over the 5th to last fence, just misread the squareness of it a bit, but kept galloping and felt great.

We cooled her off, and she was back to resting TPR in less then 10 minutes and on her way back to the barn. I was just thrilled how she felt, how she recovered, and as we put her in her stall I just was in awe of this incredible mare. A year ago she'd just done 2 novices with me, and here we were finishing up just a couple seconds over time and still sitting in first after her and my first long format. What a privilege to ride this creature. As we brought her out that evening for another walk, I noticed a bit of swelling over the knee. As we iced her legs again, I noticed the swelling had increased a bit more. Our third walk out, her knee was quite swollen. As Kate and I looked at it and discussed, my heart began to hurt already. As riders, we know everything about our horses. While Busy jogged sound, she just looked a bit sore. So we iced and we iced and we iced, and we walked.... And we said some prayers, we begged, we bartered with the eventing Gods.... and we tucked her in for the night slathered to her eye balls in poltice, hoping for the best in the morning.

We went off to eat at the competitors dinner, and got about a plate of food each before the course designer, Brody Robinson, asked anyone sitting there for help. No one seemed to be moving very quickly, so I volunteered my team for another fun team building activity as we reset the 1* for Sunday morning. 3 hours, a lot of swearing and laughing, and thrown out backs and cursing of heavy potted plants, and no additional volunteers, it was pitch black and I got a course walk from the designer himself by golf cart light. I was thrilled, and tried to be optimistic about jumping it the next morning.

Well morning came around 5, so we could get in lots of icing and walking. We walked for about an hour, iced for 20, another hour of walking and I hopped on her to see how she felt. She felt fabulous! Loose, relaxed, forward!!! No sign of soreness in that still large knee. So now comes the question. Do we present? Do we jump? The mare feels great, she feels ready to jump she's keen. She's jogging pretty good!

So we get her ready, figuring we can jog and then decide. As I walked her up there, I prayed to anything and everything I could to just let this mare feel her best for Kate. Just please. Walk her on up there and we're pretty quick into the order. She took two steps down the lane and it took everything in my years to not burst into tears. I could hear it in her step. She was just a tick off. They sent us to the holding box where the vet walked over. As Kate came running, I looked at her and she nodded in agreement as I withdrew her then and there.

I should mention at this point, that Kate is the reason Busy is on this earth. Kate took a chance on her lovely bred yet not as wonderful personality mare and bred her to a lovely Clydsdale stallion on the corner for $500. She was there to see Busy drop on the ground, put in every single ride, before handing over the reins to me last summer on blind faith alone. She jumps every fence with us, rides every step of our dressage test, and feels every bump and bruise along the way. Busy won her first Novice with me, has been 2nd a handful of times in her 9 show career, and here she was poised to win the biggest event of her career thus far, and we both sat there knowing there was no chance we'd ever risk that beautiful mare. It was never a question of the thousands of dollars you spend in the months proceeding a big event like this. It's never about what you deserve. How hard you've worked. None of that matters in that moment. You are simply heart broken that this beautiful doe eyed creature doesn't feel quite right. That never in a million years would she say no, and that she places her entire faith in you to not push her. Event horse don't know the word no. If I asked, Busy would have walked into that show jump ring and laid down a beautiful round, of that I have no doubt. As I walked back to the barn trying not to let anyone see me crying my eyes out, I couldn't even look at Kate. I felt the weight of letting down this beautiful horse, this incredible women who gave me this opportunity... If only I hadn't missed, or if I'd done more to prepare, or a thousand things.... Maybe I wouldn't have to look at Kate and apologize to her and Busy.

Once she's in her stall and munching and knocking over her buckets, I realize Busy has no idea that she missed out on anything today. Well maybe a meal but she usually feels that way. It's me who feels robbed. Who feels sorry for myself, the could have beens, the what ifs. The damn cooler and neck ribbon I wanted so badly. And then I cry harder because damn I'm a terrible person for even thinking those things. I'm the one who screwed it up right?

Everyone in this sport is so wonderful. So quick to remind me that indeed, these things happen. I'm not the only one who will cry today. I'm not the only one who will hug their horses neck until it's soaking wet. And even though I'm a "professional", it's ok to feel this way. The high of yesterday, it's what brings us through the lows of today. They're what push us through the moments where you just want to hang up the boots and take up waitressing or writing books from the safety of your couch. And maybe Chess will be your adventure sport. A bruised King can't take you out of the championships.

But then, you remember that feeling of galloping flat out as fast as you can down the long side to that big brush fence. And you know damn well that you'll be back on those babies Monday morning, getting the next generation of event horses ready to do the same thing.

From my father:

My Darling Daughter Shannon, hold your head up high and be proud of what you accomplished, know that it was a sport accident, not for the lack of talent or training and ability. If the road was easy you would have to wait in a long line.

All are very very proud of you and Know that God has a plan for you and this is part of it.

Love You,


You will cry. You will laugh. You'll cry as your writing a blog. You will spend an unhealthy amount of money at a Candy factory. Your boyfriend will spend an unhealthy amount of money on bribes to get you out of the house. But you will be back. Because it will happen again. You'll get to see the highs of winning the few ribbons, and the lows of an injury from a beloved horse. And I promise it will all be worth it because Life is so short. And you don't get out alive.