Strategy for Happiness


My life got a whole lot happier after I decided to keep Rob. I’d like to think that hers did, too.

As soon as she came home, I put her on full board. I no longer needed to go out to the barn six days a week to clean her stall.

I also immediately forced myself to take a huge step back from the attitude I’d had about riding and training for the three and a half years I’ve owned Robbye – namely, one of constant progress, weekly consistency, and an honestly grueling weekly schedule which didn’t care a whole lot about weather.

Instead, I decided that I was going to do some major chilling out.

Honestly, I don’t know what my goals are anymore. My “huge life bucket-list” goals, at least when it comes to competition, used to be earning my bronze medal and completing a recognized horse trial. Now, those goals seem expensive and silly. Do I really care about showing recognized? I’m not sure.


As I backed off of my goals, I backed off my schedule too. Do I really need to train five days a week? In February?! Hell, no.

There were several work weeks in the middle of winter where I didn’t go out at all. It was cold, it was raining or snowing, or I had a meeting. I didn’t feel well physically or I didn’t feel mentally up to having a dressage ride.

I’ve slowly been fighting down the guilt this new schedule causes.

You know what’s helped the fight the most? Realizing that we’re not doing any back-sliding.

Hell, we’ve been making a ton of progress lately! Every ride is like a happy surprise – this is what my “young” and “green” horse is like after five days off?! What fun!

Fun. Fun. Riding and owning a horse is fun!


2015 Goal Number 3: Calories

(I really really really don’t want to offend anyone with this post. My eating situation is NOT a psychological illness, and I deeply sympathize with those who struggle with them. Neither do I want to belittle the weight-loss journeys many individuals in this community are currently on; I admire the strength those struggles require!)

I’m sort of a perfect storm for bad nutrition.

  1. I’m a strict vegetarian (always have been).
  2. I’m an athlete, and am active outside of my sport as well (running, standing desk, walking in the sunshine).
  3. I’m extremely picky. I honestly think I have overactive taste buds or…something. To me, plain spaghetti, spaghetti with butter, and spaghetti with Parmesan cheese are three completely different meals with different tastes and textures.
  4. I don’t have much free time and I don’t enjoy cooking.

These four facts combined mean that I don’t particularly like to eat; I’m a bad, unhealthy vegetarian who doesn’t like to experiment with food and who naturally burns a lot of calories. Of course this leads to side-effects – like disregarding hunger until I’ve made myself sick. Or like not having enough energy to ride through a course or lesson.

(One of my big takeaways from my first season of showing with Robbye was that I needed to pack a lot of food and MAKE MYSELF eat it, even if I didn’t notice any hunger.)

This isn’t a comfortable way to live, not to mention the fact that it’s incredibly unhealthy. I know this is bad for me and I think about it a lot, but I don’t have a solution yet.

I know fixing it is probably going to be a process.

That said, my third and final goal for 2015 is to

Count calories in and calories out.

I actually am only planning on doing this until the end of February, when I’ll re-evaluate. I’m not sure if I’ll want to continue tracking for another month, do my own research and modify this goal to eat healthier, or consult a nutritionist.

It’s bad. The red line is maintaining my weight (115 @ 5’6″), which I already consider my “rock bottom”. I’d love to gain weight in muscle. Which, from this graph, doesn’t look possible.

I don’t know anything about nutrition and will gladly and gratefully take any help you would offer. Does anyone else struggle with eating enough? Has anyone else consulted a nutritionist?

2015 Goal Number 2: Zero Days

There’s this post on reddit about “no zero days”. I don’t know if it’s anywhere else – maybe it’s a thing. But this post is literally how I live my life.

The concept of no zero days is simple: there are no zero days. If you’re depressed, or anxious, or intimidated by a big project, or shy, or or or…you can get so scared that you don’t start anything at all. Scared you’re going to fail, scared you’re going to start and never finish, scared that the project is too big for one person. Or maybe you’re not scared, you’re just really depressed or anxious and it’s hard to start anything.

…at least, this has been my experience, and apparently the experience of whomever wrote the reddit post. I’ve felt zero days. I’ve felt them in regards to cleaning my house, making artwork, coding a project, going to school or work. I’ve felt them in regards to getting out of bed!

It can be hard to get out of bed, get clean and dressed, eat healthy and enough, go to school, go to work, tidy the house, take care of the litterboxes… It can be hard to do anything, when starting a day or a project means seeing everything that’s laid out waiting.

No zero days means that you don’t have to do everything. You just have to do something.

There used to be days, for me, where getting out of bed was an accomplishment. But it didn’t matter that that was the only thing I did that day – because just getting out of bed made that day not a zero day.

Now, since I’m happier and healthier, my standards are higher, but I still use the concept with almost everything. Don’t feel like cleaning the house? At least make it a no zero day. Don’t feel like socializing? At least make it a no zero day.

(I really should find the post and link it, because this person wrote the most eloquent, inspiring and inspired post about zero days, and I’m just rambling trying to express how much no zero days means to me.)

Of course I use this concept with Robbye too. On days I don’t feel like riding, I longe. If I don’t feel like longeing, I do groundwork. If I don’t feel like doing groundwork, I do an intense groom, or clean out my box, or teach tricks, or whatever. As long as it’s not a zero day.

The no zero day thing is really important to me.

That said, my second goal for 2015 is:

Have zero days.

This is going to take a lot of effort for me; I can already feel anxiety rising from it. But that’s the whole reason I need this goal! I’ve been taking riding way too seriously for the past year. I’m getting too intellectually involved and not having enough fun. I’m expecting way too much from myself and especially from Robbye.

I’m going to try to be okay with days where all we do is walk around with no tack on. We don’t have to work on roundness with no tack on. We don’t have to work on conditioning, we don’t have to work on transitions, and I don’t have to work on my bravery. We don’t have to work on anything. We can just fiddle fart around and enjoy being together. It’s a zero day.

2015 Goal Number 1: Creativity and Creation

I take a really long time to come up with my goals.

I’m highly goal-oriented and list-oriented, so writing down goals is a big deal for me. If I write down a goal I can’t achieve or end up disliking, I either have to take it off the list, keep struggling through the goal, or fail at the goal – none of which make me feel very good.

So I spend a long time thinking of what I want to make my goals, in order to minimize the risks of both disappointing myself and spending time on goals I no longer find any value in.

Whiskey, who is definitely related to the content of this post. Definitely.

In 2014, my goals looked like a whole lot of lists. I was planning my wedding, cross-training, working hard for a promotion, and trying to “get serious” with Robbye. This made for a ton of goals, some of which were useful and successful (the promotion, the wedding) and some of which were a huge flop (the eventing season that never happened). The lists worked for last year, but I’m not feeling them for this year.

I want this year to be more carefree and less calculated. I want this year to be two honeymoons and slow but steady riding progress – not a wedding and 20 shows.

So with that completely unnecessary and probably-too-honest explanation out of the way, here’s my plan: I have three goals for this year. It may go down to two at the end of this month. I may add a few specific Robbye goals, but for now I’m looking forward to not having any.

Here is my first goal:

Work on something creative every single day.

In December, when I was making a lot of Christmas presents, I realized how much I had missed being crafty. More than that, I had missed using my brain to create things other than code. I need that moment of creation, apparently.

Why yes, Rhett is also related to my goal!

So this year I’m going to either work on something creative or work on the plans for creating or improving every day. I’m making this vague and broad because I want it to include a lot, including improving my home.

Here are some things I’m looking forward to, and which would count:

  • Writing my journal or other blog posts
  • Crafting
  • Working on something for my home, or researching plans for said projects
  • Creating a gift
  • Designing something, whether it’s for print or digital
  • Sewing
  • Drastically re-organizing an area of my home
  • Taking a creative photo, whether it’s with my DSLR or not

I think I may list these at the bottom of my journal posts. It will give me the accountability and list-factor that keeps me motivated.

Because I have way too many words for such a silly subject, the other two goals will have posts of their own!

Holidays and the End of the Year

It’s December 30, and I’m not feeling any better about my situation with Robbye. It’s so frustrating because I was feeling SO AWESOME about our progress before the indoor was closed for a week. How can we lose so much in a week?

It’s also the end of the year which means I’m sad about the goals I made for 2014:

Easily Achievable
1.       Jump 3’ bareback and bridleless – Got up to 2’6″ish, which I guess is pretty good.
2.      Complete a dressage test with happy results – Walnut Creek Stables CT 3/30
3.       Complete a show jumping course with happy results – Walnut Creek Stables CT 3/30
1.       Complete a horse trial – Entered but scratched
2.       Complete a recognized event (horse trial or dressage) – Same as above
3.       Complete a Novice CT – Did begin a Novice jumper round, but we were over-faced. Did complete half of a 3′ jumper round, before I fell off. Our dressage wasn’t even close to Novice level. Or even BN.
 Get us Both More Experience
1.       Trailer out 20 times – Ended with 17, with the final being my traumatic trip to the STB World Show.
2.       Compete or exhibit 8 times – Ended with 7, with the final being that same traumatic show.

So ya, only crossed off 2 of the 8.

But then I’ve been reading all the bloggers talking about their years in review…and so many people are disappointed. Which makes me feel better about our failures at jumping and dressage. We ARE moving slowly and I’ve always said that I’m okay with it. Why suddenly is it bothering me so much? Maybe because I got a taste of what I will have, dressage-wise, a few weeks ago.

I did have a (comparatively) really good ride last week. We jumped around the indoor and I focused on relaxing, paying attention to my equitation and letting Robbye manage herself. I put one jump up “high” – which was probably 2′ – and a vertical with no fill. And this fall I was doing 3′ with fill! Ugh. Anyway, it was a step in the right direction I guess.

We had a lesson on Friday where Michele confirmed that we’ve lost ground. At least now I know that I wasn’t making it up! She did say that our downward transitions are much better – which now that she’s pointed it out, I can see it too. It used to take us 15 strides to go from a trot to a halt, and now it takes us probably 4. Improvement! She also said that even though we’ve lost the wonderful frame, we haven’t lost the build up to that frame. So we still have the bending/straightness, the engaged hind end and the tracking up. We just need the round back and lowered poll/relaxed throatlatch again.

I think I’m going to try to longe in sidereins for a few days during this second round of holiday days. Maybe that will remind her what her dressage job is.

Hoping 2015 brings us a new beginning!