It’s not the horse – it’s me! I felt it hit the Tuesday before the last horse show; I didn’t want to work in the arena. It didn’t make sense at first; here I was having some of the best rides of all time and suddenly tacking up felt like a chore. I knew better than to give Grace the day off that close to the show so we hit the trails in the bareback pad instead. We then went off to the horse show and picked up some new exercises for the tool bag, followed by weekly lessons which built on those tools. The rides were only getting better, not only was my horse moving better than she ever has, she was enjoyable to ride. Then it hit me again last night, I didn’t want to go into the arena. The footing was good, no need to water now that the rains have returned, but my heart just wasn’t in it. Much to Grace and Belle Dog’s delight, we went past the in gate and headed out to the trails.
We experienced an unusually dry end of summer and start to the fall for the Pacific Northwest. The trails where I ride were so dry that the footing was little hard for my taste. We’ve been taking it slow out there for the last few months, keeping those tendons safe. Grace and I usually walk a 5-10 minute trail loop before entering the arena; it gives me a chance to ground myself after a long day at the office. Last night the footing was just right after a few days of rain so we extended our loop adding the jog and lope. I was really pleased by how well Grace worked out there and Belle Dog was ecstatic that we finally picked up the pace. I then took Grace into the arena and worked through all 3 gaits, I could tell that my heart just wasn’t in it. Grace was wonderful; I had nothing to complain about, but nothing to really get me excited either. When I pointed Grace to the out gate after only 10 minutes I could feel our communal spirits lift. Grace had a spring in her step, I was already back on the trails in my head and Belle Dog took off for the trail head barking at us to hurry it up!
As I was cooling Grace out at the end of our ride, listening to the sound of hooves crunching across the freshly fallen leaves in the forest, it occurred to me that I might just be burned out. I have shown more this past year than I have since I was 19. Grace and I have been to at least one show a month since December. We also added bigger shows to our schedule that included more overnight stays. It turns out the only vacation time I took from work this past year was for horse shows. I have a job that I absolutely love and look forward to going to everyday, that same passion for the job makes it difficult for me to take time off. The company has no problem with me taking a vacation; I am the one that isn’t willing to walk away for an extended period of time. In between shows we were busy training for the next show and hauling out to the trainers once a week. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE showing my horse and I love my weekly lessons even more, but I don’t want to forget to just take a step back and enjoy my horse for just being a horse.
We have a clinic this weekend which should give us some new tools and get me back to being excited in the arena again. I am realizing that I need to fit trail rides and other fun outings back into our regular training program. I hope to hit a cow sorting or two over the winter which I thought was to cross train my horse but more and more I’m thinking it is for me. I miss the thrill of Grace locking onto the cows while she and I work together to sort the herd. I miss hauling out to for 3 hour trail rides with Grace and Belle, even when we do get chased by a coyote. I know that there is no happier place on earth for me than in the saddle, but I am now learning that I need to mix it up or I am the one that is going to become ring sour.