Friday, September 27, 2013

Life Changes

I’m not even sure how to start this post but to come right out and say it – I left my husband. The reasons why are not something I want to hash out on the Internet. I will say it was a very big, scary much needed step for me. The important thing for this blog is to know that Grace is safe and I am able to hold on to her. I am bouncing from place to place right now and hope to have a more permanent residence starting in November. In the meantime I am living out of the truck with a weeks’ worth of clothes. I had planned to return to the rental house on October 1st with Grace but my husband will be staying there instead with our dog Belle. It breaks my heart that I had to walk away from Belle, but I had to take care of myself first and foremost. Hopefully we can work out some sort of a partial custody agreement when the divorce is final. 

Grace and I are at a horse show this weekend, the last one of the season. I debated going once I left but my entry was already sent in, I’d put in for the time off of work and I really could use some time away. After this show I’m not sure what the future holds for Grace and I. I will do everything I can to hold on to her just like I have for the last 13 years. I know the decision I made is the right one and that we will both be better off for it in the end. I just wish I didn’t feel so lost right now.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Meet My Boyfriend Max

The week after the horse show Sarah experienced a pulmonary embolism. She was rushed to the emergency room in time and is doing well now, but she is on anticoagulants and blood thinners and is very limited to what she can do with the horses. When she was still in the hospital she asked me if I would consider riding her 4 year old gelding that the Finals show which is at the end of September. My first thought was “No Way!” this is the horse that Sarah started as a yearling and the last thing I wanted to do was to mess him up. But then I thought about all the times that I’ve ridden other horses and how much better it is for Grace; I’ve always increased my expectations of her after sitting on something that is a little more respectful. I agreed to come out and ride Max with Sarah last Friday which would be followed by a lesson with Edward who was visiting on Monday. 

Max is just dreamy! He is a joy to ride and seems so much less complicated than Grace. When I put leg on him he pushes up into the bridle. When I sit deeper he rocks back on his hock and slows down. When I ask him to move his hip, he moves it! What a difference from the sassy little mare who questions me each time I ask her to do something. I was nervous about riding him in front of Sarah but ended up having a really good ride. I then had an excellent lesson with Edward on Monday during which I had a moment when I realized that I am actually a good rider! I could feel when I needed to move Max’s shoulder or hip even before Edward would tell me to do it. Edward gave me some really good exercises for keeping Max on his hind end and helped me to learn to stop driving with my seat and allow Max to carry himself. At the end of the ride I told Sarah that I was pretty sure she gave herself a blood clot on purpose! She’s been telling me for 6 months now that I need to ride Max, even going as far as calling him my new horse. I kept putting her off but after sitting on him I see what all the fuss was about. I told Sarah that when I ride Max I feel like I can actually ride and she pointed out that Grace is not doing me any favors. 

I have a very emotional relationship with Grace; she’s been my only horse for the last 13 years and many times I have made sacrifices in order to hold onto her. I’ve always wanted for her to have the chance to shine, I think she is an amazing horse and I’ve wanted the chance to shine with her in competition. I still think she is an amazing horse, but I also am well aware of her limitations, this became very clear after having such good rides on Max. I had a lesson that afternoon on Grace with Edward; the ride was much more of a workout than the ride on Max. We did get some good lope strides in and Edward once again gave me some really good exercises to keep Grace back on her hind end. Sarah let me know that if I want to back off on showing Grace that I am more than welcome to show Max. It is a thought that I am putting at the back of my mind as I am still not ready to give up on Grace. 

I went back out to Sarah’s on Tuesday to ride Max but got home too late to also ride Grace. I made sure to put her back on the priority list on Wednesday. Grace was different from the moment I sat in the saddle. Her walk was slower and more thoughtful. Edward had told me to ride her in draw reins, something that I haven’t trusted my hands to do in the past but after getting a good feel for it during our lesson I felt confident. This time when I asked Grace to move her hip she just moved it, no head tossing, back hollowing or grunting. She was oddly respectful throughout the entire ride. Her lope was the biggest surprise of all, it was an actual lope! We worked on a counter canter exercise from our lesson and I could feel her load her hock the entire time. I then had the same ride tonight on Grace after riding Max at Sarah’s. The only change in the last week is that I am riding Max. If I had known this would be the result I would have started seeing other horse’s much sooner!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Jan Perry Gleason

I received an email just over a month ago with an announcement for a memorial service for my first horse trainer. After the initial shock that she had passed on – she was in her late 60’s, I made plans to attend the service. I hadn’t seen Jan in over 20 years but she made a huge impact on my life, one that I never had the chance to thank her for. 

My parents really had no clue what to do when we acquired our first horses. They were city folk that moved to the country to raise their kids. Luckily we had good neighbors that bred Quarter Horses. After being entertained by our beginner antics they would often lean over the fence and give us advice. I was on my second pony when the neighbors suggested that I start taking lessons with Jan Perry – the lady that had a barn down the street. They had watched me get bucked off my first pony time and time again and didn’t want to see the pattern repeated. I was only 8 years old at the time but I will never forget what a big deal it was to get to ride with Jan. The neighbors told me that I would have to mind my Ps and Qs while on Jan’s property. My pony would have to arrive brushed and my tack had to be clean and I was to listen to Jan and do what she said. Most of all I was not to embarrass then since they had put in the good word. 

Jan was recently divorced when I started riding with her and was running a full care boarding facility and training barn on her own. She also drove a big dually truck, she was by far the coolest woman that 8 year old me had ever met! She had breed and shown Appaloosa’s with her ex-husband, the tack room walls were plastered in ribbons, plaques and trophies. Jan was a stickler for equitation and good horsemanship. She was in no hurry to teach me to jump but made me ride in two point forever in order to strengthen my legs and seat. She took me to my first horse shows at the saddle club; I still have the ribbons I won in the walk jog classes on my pony. Jan ran a tight ship and I always knew I had to follow the rules when I was with her. I had to ride by her place on my way to the saddle club and she made it clear that if she ever caught me trotting or cantering my pony on the road that she wouldn’t teach me anymore. Jan taught me to put my horse first which meant skipping out on more than one ride with the girls down the street who liked to run their horses on the road. 

I was given the opportunity to share my stories of Jan at her memorial service. I only rode with her for a few years; she wasn’t able to keep the farm afloat on her own so she went to work for Washington State Ferries and eventually sold the farm. She walked away from the horse world and moved onto the next chapter of her life. I was blown away at the service hearing about all the different pursuits in her life and all the people she inspired along the way. After the service I was approached by her family and asked if I would come take a look at the horse related items she left behind. She had held on to 4 trunks of select items but rarely spoke of her time as a horse trainer. I finally made the trip out yesterday to pick up the tack. 

It is amazing to see what one holds onto when they walk away from horses. There are quality bridles, reins, romels, halters and a few bits.  My plan is to hold on to a few select pieces and donate the rest to a horse related nonprofit. I have no interest in making money off of Jan’s possessions; instead I want to find a way to honor her legacy through them. The pieces that I am keeping are the show halters and head stalls all of which need a good polishing. The silver has turned black and I’m hoping I can bring it back. I have Jan’s show saddle which I am unable to part with. If it doesn’t fit my horse I plan to hold onto it as a show piece. The custom saddle is also in need of a good polish, but I am just in awe of the quality of it. Clearly this was something she treasured. The timing of this is interesting as I am in the process of making some changes in my personal life and wasn’t looking to acquire more stuff.  What it has done is to cause me to reflect on the quality of my life and how I want to live each day. What legacy do I want to leave behind to those 8 year old little girls that might look up to me?