Achieving Happiness

Hey all! Long time no write. Although I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s blogs over the past year, for my own journey I’ve been happier with my personal journal rather than a public forum. However, the urge to write hit me and…well it turned into a rather long essay. When the muses strike, am I right ūüôā

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At a hunter pace – two years ago.

Robbye and I have made the most incredible transformation in the past year. Last January I was so frustrated and unhappy that I put her up for sale. This January we were, as a team, knocking on second level dressage, and really stinkin happy as we did it.

When I last blogged, I wrote about my new strategy for remaining happy (both in and out of the sandbox) – take a big step back from every goal, reassess, and chill the fuck out. ¬†I put a pause on my bronze medal dreams, switched Robbye from partial board to full board, and continued taking weekly lessons – with the sole goal of “seeing where we could get”.

Step back from showing

I didn’t show at all last year. In fact, Robbye may not have even left the farm at all. Competing is extremely stressful for me, especially since I have a horse who needs me to be the boss 100% of the time. If I’m not confident, she’s taking over. If she’s taking over, we’re bucking across the showgrounds.

Do I want to spend $50 at a schooling show to smother myself in anxiety as I hang on desperately to my out of control horse?

So yep, there’s work to be done here, if I want my bronze. A lot of work.

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Our first show over fences – four years ago.

But the truth is, I’m still not sure if getting my bronze medal is important to me. As goal-driven as I am, and as much as I love rewards and ribbons and medals, showing recognized is extremely expensive; the cost to reward ratio seems very high. For now I have my sights set on some local shows so I can start working on my mental stability at a competition, and I’ve continued competing on my own (in cosplay contests) to work on my confidence.

Will we ever get back to the busy show schedule we used to have? I don’t know. At the moment it doesn’t matter to me.

And anyway, “moving up the levels” or “training up the levels” or “learning up the levels” is sounding more appealing to me than “showing up the levels”.

Full board for the win

Putting Robbye on full board has been absolutely huge, and I can’t imagine going back. When she was on partial board, I was required to go out 6 days a week to clean her stall. And for each of those six days I almost always rode – whether I really wanted to or not, ¬†and whether I was really in the right mental state to or not. Now, I go out to the barn when I want to and when I’m prepared to. Weather disgusting? Don’t go out. Didn’t get enough calories today? Don’t go out. Coworker upset me and I just want to go home and nap? Don’t go out.

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A very good ride almost exactly a year ago – we are so much better now.

With the way Robbye is (dominant, a tough ride, challenges me once a ride like clockwork) and the way I am (inexperienced, sensitive, prone to over-correcting and not letting something go once we’re past it), we don’t need to be hanging out with each other when I’m not feeling it.

Does that make me less of an equestrian? Less of an athlete? Less of a trainer?

I’m sure it does. I don’t feel dedicated anymore. I’m more of an ammy and less of an athlete; especially since I haven’t competed in a year and a half.

But part of my strategy for happiness was chill the fuck out – and I’ve chilled. And I’ve gotten happy. So, ya know, I traded some competitiveness for a whole lot of happiness. Worth it.

I’m also enjoying my other hobbies a whole lot more. I’ve started writing book reviews. I won second place at a cosplay contest this winter. I¬†made a whole dress.¬†I planted some flowers!

(And let me tell you about that cosplay contest – hearing how encouraging and positive those judges were as they critiqued my work was eye-opening for me. They told me that their judging philosophy was to note all of the good things a competitor has done with a costume, and judge from there – and they were vocal about those good things. I know not every dressage judge is going to be as complimentary, but I’m going to proceed with the assumption that they are, and that they’re here to reward the good, not mark down the bad.)

Moving up the levels

In November of 2015 – the last show we attended – we absolutely kicked butt at Training 3. It felt great, we looked great, and we even won, but if we respected the “show at a level below where you train” we shouldn’t have been showing high training by any stretch of the imagination. At that point, Training level was our max level.

Oh, how that’s changed! We learned, and then perfected, canter/walk transitions. We learned, and then nailed shoulder-in. We corrected our leg yields and made them dressage worthy. We slowly transitioned from a Training Level-frame to a (gasp)¬†I-could-see-this-horse-going-Second Level-frame.

I mean for heaven’s sake, a year ago we couldn’t make a nice 10 meter circle. Now, they’re part of our warm-up. When we did a test run through last week, my trainer dinged me because those 10 meter circles were¬†too small.

All of this progress has been super for me. I don’t have any goals, but I can still feel us getting better.

Best of all, I think Robbye likes the “higher” (lol) levels of dressage – she doesn’t get bored. We have so much to work on we can’t fit it into just one ride: extensions at all three gaits, collection at all three gaits, leg yields, shoulder-in, haunches-in, simple changes and counter-canter – and that doesn’t even include all of the work we’ve been doing to improve movements we thought we already knew (cough halts cough). Her brain is engaged, her ears are forward, and her legs are engaged¬†and¬†forward.

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Pooped lady from last week.
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And one from last winter – talk about an outline change, even if you take out the roached mane.

I’ll tell you what – a horse who wants to work and is happy to work is a whole lot more fun to work with…and learns a whole lot faster, too.

 

On May 14th Robbye turns 8 years old. Every year I like to joke that “this will be the year she grows up”. Maybe she finally has grown up, and my happiness experiments¬†coincided nicely with her maturation. Or maybe her finally acting “mature” now is actually her just…being a lot happier. She only has to work when her rider is in the right mental state. Her work is interesting. She’s more fairly corrected and rewarded.

 

Happy, happy, happy.

What a happy pair we make.