Friday, October 23, 2015

The Worth of a Horse...

I haven't posted in a while. Lack of motivation... lack of time, and lets face it who actually reads my blog posts?... They are more for me then for anyone else, but lately I've been doing a lot of self contemplation about what's important in life so I'm sending this one into the void and I hope that if someone else reads it they take something positive away from it. 

I've seen my fair share of life struggles... divorced parents, abusive step parents, long distance moves,  strained relationships, lost time with family that can never be made up (but thankfully are better now) job losses and struggles, hard life choices, and it seems to me the one constant thing in my life has always been, and hopefully always will be, horses. I work like crazy to afford my horse addiction. Most normal people would, and have told me that the amount of money I spend on my horse and the amount of work I do to make sure I can continue to keep him ... the sacrifices I've made and the choices I've made just to ensure his future are crazy... I don't spend nearly as much as some do on this crazy sport... and recently I started to think maybe they were right? Maybe. I let the negative creep in. 

Life has a tendency to knock you down...

The $600+ in student loans take  their toll... and its going to take  8 years to pay them off.. yep 8 years.  The student loans are a quarter of your take home pay... Side note... don't take out loans for school its not worth it!

People you thought were your friends take advantage of you... not paying rent, and then not splitting the refunds from your recently vacated shared apartment... and basically stealing money from you after you so patiently and forgivingly let so many things slide and did something nice for them to help them... all the while acting like you're crazy for suggesting you can't trust them financially or as a friend... and throwing away 2 years of friendship. 

The job you love you also hate... because you're working so hard just to keep a float, and do the best you can for the 16 first graders depending on you to shape their future.  How are your screw ups, learning curves and imperfections going to affect them... their futures... their lives? Yet you can never seem to get ahead or find a life balance... all the while feeling like the scape goat for our country's failing education system... when in reality our government is making decisions that don't allow us teachers to do our jobs and our parents are failing to parent. Never mind the fact that every year you face the possibility that your job could disappear and you could be back to square one... again.  

You start to wonder if life will ever smooth out... feel normal or be easy... ever. Even just for a moment. You get stuck in the negative. And you think maybe letting go of the one thing you care so much about might make life easier... take one stress factor... finding away to keep from losing what you love off your plate... accept the inevitable... rip off the bandaid... give up. And, then you have a day like I had to day and you remember why... why you fight so hard to hold onto what you love. 

I had a day off work. I put everything aside and stopped thinking about it. I rode in a lesson today. The sun was shining. There was a breeze and it was just cool enough that it felt like fall in Florida finally. We had a small... almost insignificant moment... literally a moment... where I was working so hard to ride my horse correctly even though every muscle in my body was protesting and then I felt it click... and for that one moment my horse was connected and carrying me... really truly... not just half way...rather then me struggling to hold him together... to keep myself balanced and for a split second riding felt easy... or easier. It didn't last... we went right back to struggling to find a balance and a connection, but I realized that all the hard work we do together made that small moment possible and that if we keep working those small moments will become bigger... longer... better and more connected. Maybe life is that way too... the small moments make the hard ones bearable. 

I rode him back to the barn with that realization and my horse was perfect and quiet on the rode despite our friend's younger less experienced horse having moments of spookiness and I thought about how far we'd come together in a relationship thats lasted over ten years. I spent the evening hanging out with my horse friends at the new barn we are moving to and I realized how many awesome friends I have made because of my horse.  How many amazing connections I've made because of him. 

In every up and down I've faced...  every loss... every achievement... ever moment... good... bad... positive... negative... aggravating... and awesome moments, horses have always been there for me. 

You can't put a price tag on that. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Make It Go Sideways...

Where to start? the last 3 weeks have actually been pretty eventful in spotted pony land... which is a very nice change considering how little I've had time to ride in the last 6 months. Tomorrow is my last day of freedom before spring break ends and the teaching marathon to summer vacation begins, and I plan to make the most of it, and keep my forward momentum going so that by some miracle we might be ready to try a training level dressage class at some point this summer .

Rio went to his first show in... a really long time, and his first english pleasure show ever with his young leaser Laura. It was fun getting to know Laura and her mom Carol a little bit better, and bond over the experience through prepping for the show which included a 3 and a half hour braiding marathon... I will never do that again! I'd rather pay someone else to braid! 

I was really impressed with the two of them I have to say. Rio got off the trailer and pretty much settled in like it was his long lost home. He placed well despite some communication glitches between the two, and a lot of rushing between classes. 

More importantly I think going to the show served a few good purposes. First, we all got a little closer, and having a team is vital to riding and showing successfully. Second, I was able to get Rio out in a controlled setting, and act as support from the ground which was a confidence boost for myself.  With out their help, and ability to haul a trailer that probably would not have happened, and it made the idea of going to a show and riding myself a little less intimidating. I was able to school Rio between classes, and give Laura a few pointers, that I think made a difference in their final two rides of the day. Again a major confidence boost for me in what I know, my ability to teach others, and how well I know my horse. 

Laura was able to compare her riding with the other competitors and I think came away with a better understanding of what it means to have connection and consistent contact through the reins and using her seat as a driving factor to attain that connection. She's starting lessons with my new instructor, and I am very excited to see her work on her dressage skills because I think she has a lot of natural ability and drive, and the end result will be a very good rider. I have to also selfishly admit that the added rides Rio will get out of it with Casey our new coach will be an equally awesome bonus. I see such a difference in how he responds to aids and moves in just two lessons with her. 

We've got a lot to work on. Our biggest issue is that Rio is stiff through his back and needs a lot of suppling and strengthening in that department. I'm working on sitting straight, and keeping my center of balance back over the saddle so that I can ride more effectively to help him bend and stay balanced. When I'm correct he's correct. Its made me much more aware of how I affect him. Even though we're struggling the thing that excites me the most is that by the end of each lesson I can feel a difference in my own posture and effectiveness, and in Rio's responsiveness to my aides. While the next several weeks are going to be stressful with all the testing and the end of school year routines to get through making that progress is a very motivating factor in my attitude when it comes to making time to ride at the end of a 12+ hour work day. 

The other part that I love about our new riding instructor is how fun she makes the lessons. She listens to what you want, and sets realistic goals to work on, and she has a sense of humor about the whole thing that makes you relax. Even during our first lesson 5 minutes in I felt like I was talking to a friend which hopefully she will become, but point being she made it very fun, and very not intimidating. My favorite quotes of the week include... make it go sideways... which sounds silly, but the little bit of lateral movement I've learned to get out of him really has made a huge difference in suppling him... and "You have to bend... you're not a 2 by 4, your not a 2 by 6, and you're definitely not a 2 x 8".... which pretty much accurately describes Rio's main issue right now. At the very least the banter back and fourth makes for an interesting ride. 

Given how much work his canter needs this may be a lofty goal, but I'd like to enter him in a training level dressage class at some point this summer, which right now doesn't seem completely impossible if we can find some consistency over the next couple of months. 

On a side note... my roommate is fired! The job of picture taker and videographer is now open  for applications... the only major requirement is that you be able to keep the camera focused on the horse... in the right direction... though I will admit her videos are entertaining... just a little... 

Happy riding all!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Back to Basics

The number of posts you've seen on this blog in the last 6 months (hint - 0) is a pretty good indicator of how NOT motivated I have been to ride or to write for that matter! But! Hopefully we are back on an upswing!

If you could picture Rio for about the first half of Casey's
 ride on him this is what he would probably have looked like!
He did eventually give into her!
To recap Rio stepped on a nail last May. That resulted in no riding for a good three months, and then right about the time he was ready to go I got a new job! Yeah for the job! I LOVE it! I get to do three jobs in one, Gifted Teacher, ESE Teacher, AND staffing specialist (think lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of paper work, and meetings with occasionally grumpy parents). Minus the paper work I get to work with some really cool people, and some pretty awesome kids... and it pays for the horse addiction, that try as I might, I can't seem to kick! For the most part I love it. 

But, I digress.... over the last 6 months we have gained 2 pretty amazing leasers who love my horse as much or more than I do, and make it possible for me to afford the occasional  lesson, and keep my sanity when I can't get out to the barn because of work or family obligations... which unfortunately for me, has been ALOT of the time lately. 

We're back atSeminole, and despite the fact that I'm looking to move closer to work which is currently a 50 minute commute... I don't think I will be moving my horse any time soon. Too many crazy people in the horse world, and for the first time in a while I am generally happy with where we are! So now you are pretty much up to date... on with the real blog topic for today!

Laura (one of my awesome leasers!) and Rio. 
Rio, and I have been out of lessons since our last trainer moved up to Ocala. In an effort to gain some forward momentum with my riding again I took a lesson with a dressage trainer who happens to lease the property up the road from my barn yesterday.  

Let me just say; I have been riding for 25 years. I have taken lessons with at least 7 or 8 different trainers over the years, not including little clinics and one time rides for outside help. I'm not a great rider,  but I am by no means a bad rider. I've learned a lot from every one of those trainers including an international level trainer, but I think the lesson I had this weekend was quite possibly THE single best lesson I've ever had... or at least one of them. And, do you know what we did? We spent the majority of the lesson working on an elementary move. Turn on the forehand. 

It was a light bulb moment for me though because for the first time in my riding career I was able to feel exactly what it means to ride inside leg to outside rein, and use my outside rein effectively. I've read about it. I've had trainers tell me inside rein to outside leg. I thought I understood the concept. And, then I felt the difference when I was able to get Rio to do the turn on the forehand, and nope... I really never had a clue!

Rea & Rio (My other awesome leaser)
Casey got on him for a while during the lesson which was enlightening too because I was able to see him move under her, and watch her respond to all of his little hissy fits about having to work, and give, and bend. He spent a good chunk of the time going sideways every time he would throw his shoulder, or root and try to pull her out of the saddle to avoid the work, and eventually he gave in did his job. When I finally got back on him he was so much more responsive to my leg, and I realized that I was a big part of the problem with him not being as responsive as he should be. I over use my leg and work harder then I need to, and as a result he tunes me out, and stops listening, and I work even harder to get his attention. Its a snowball effect. 

Lauren & Rio! So much to update on I almost forgot to mention
our former lesson student turned adopted little sister came
for a visit at Christmas! At some point I will do a before & after...
Lauren learned to ride on Rio when she was 9 ish. She's almost 18 now!
I went back out today and had some one-on-one time with the pony practicing on my own what we'd worked on in the lesson, and playing with my outside rein more. I put him back in my german martingale to avoid what what I'm now dubbing the giraffe effect. I warmed up at the walk encouraging him to really stretch, and then worked for a while on turn on the forehand to get him back in the mindset of giving to my aids more, and to remind both of us what it felt like. We followed up with some serpentine work, and low and behold using my outside rein correctly he gave me a really nice bend through the turns instead of fighting me. I even got some shoulder fore towards the end of our ring work, and finished with with some work over cross rails because my horse actually loves to jump now... small revelation if you've read our earlier posts from years past! 

Carol clipping Rio for our show next weekend!
One kind of really cool revelation I got from watching Casey ride him, and then from playing a bit on my own is that my horse has had little to no actual training for lateral movements, but when you ask correctly he will give them to you. It made me realize what we could be capable of with a little time and effort, and the right teacher. 

At the end of the ride I took him out around the 2 mile trail loop in our neighborhood by himself... again another awesome accomplishment. A year or two ago that never would have been possible. Today he walked down the road calm, but alert and enjoying himself. The one or two opportunities he had to be a little bit spooky I resorted to playing with turn on the forehand down the side of the road and he was so focused on having a different job to do rather then just walking forward that he forgot to spook at the barking dogs or the trash can we were waling by. 

Ninja pony...
Next weekend he goes to his first show with Laura, walk , trot, equitation and possibly cross rails. Its nothing big, but it will be his first time to a show in a while, and I am excited to get him out and see how they do. I'm hoping that with a little bit more work, and more free time over the summer I will get to a dressage show or two... that's the goal I'm setting for myself at least. I want to get consistent enough with my riding to try a training level dressage class. 

I think Rio could probably do it no problem... Its my confidence I have to work on. Which, I'm noticing is a common theme for me! Casey spent a good chunk of my lesson telling me to stop blaming my riding for all of our little issues. My principal at work tells me at least once a week that I need to give myself more credit, and that I'm doing awesome for being "new" to everything that is being thrown at me. I never thought of myself as a perfectionist, but I'm starting to question that now!

Ready for our riding lesson yesterday...
All in all life is good. Things are moving in the right direction, and with a little luck and a lot of prayers they'll continue to move in the upward direction!

Until next time... hopefully not six months from now (sorry!) Rio & I hope all our friends, family and readers are well!

Rock'n it out on the trail... super pony style!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Growing Pains & Self Reflection

"Disclaimer…. this is not a horse blog… infact my horse centered blog has been decidedly un-horsey as of late...perhaps I should start a new blog! But, it does pertain to things that ultimately make my horse life more attainable… and might give someone else hope, perspective, and forward momentum… so read on at your own risk! For those of you who just want to hear about the horse already… we will return to our regularly scheduled program shortly! I have a lesson on Sunday and will finally have something to share in that department. "

47 days ago I gave myself a challenge and while I haven't accomplished all the small pieces of that challenge my life has drastically changed for the better in ways I could never have imagined. And, the even better news is that I have 53 more days and a lifetime after that to keep moving forward.

My goals were smallish: loose weight, eat healthy, ride more, blog more, be more positive, do things that make a difference. Be accountable! For the first time in a very long time I can say I set a goal that I am following through on, and that I am truly happy. And, it didn't happen in the way I had imagined.

In fact, everything went out the window with in a week of giving myself the hundred day challenge. My focus jumped from accomplishing the smaller goals above to finding a new job… that new job is what has been a springboard towards accomplishing my smaller goals and going beyond.

The short version of a long backstory is that I graduated college Suma Cum Laude ready to face the world, and thinking that having my degree after 8 years of hard work would be the magic answer to officially becoming a self-sufficient happy "grown up" member of society. What followed was a hard life lesson in self worth.

Finding a teaching job now or then was/is hard. The demands put on teachers are almost unattainable. As a result I took the first job that came along rather then believing that I was worthy of the best, taking my time, and being picky. While that job as an ESE facilitator in a charter school was one I could have stayed in long term and learned from I wasn't making enough to survive or getting the support I needed as a new teacher to continue to grow. From there things snowballed. I took a very difficult long term sub position followed by a middle school reading position where I dealt with some very challenging students, and a very unsupportive administration.  I left that position feeling so defeated and wondering if I had made the right decision to in becoming an educator. Perhaps I was just not cut out for it. I took on a private school position where I felt more secure because my knowledge base was so broad in comparison to other staff in the small school that I was finally able to have moments where I felt I contributed positively even through many many struggles, but in the end I was left unsatisfied because the school's financial limitations, and choices,  made it so difficult to meet the students needs appropriately. At this point it was time to rectify and give it one more go or give up. I was living at home again because of car issues and financial difficulties and I'd pretty much hit a low.

As miserable as I was, I think it took hitting that low point, and taking ownership of the fact that my choices brought me to that point rather then looking at it as though all these bad things had "happened to me" for me to finally fight back. What's the saying…? Something along the lines of if you keep getting asked the same question and being told your wrong change your answer? I had to change my mental approach to life.  One small step at a time I began to do just that.

In july I moved out of my mom's house despite it being a very real fear in my mind that I would not find a way to pull my own weight and support myself. It was long overdue time to cut the safety net I'd created for myself… something I needed to do in order truly move forward.  I finished my recertification. I applied to 3 counties and I started interviewing. To say that I had focused intensity was an understatement. I lived, breathed, ate, and slept job applications and interviews…  some times having one interview a day while still working 60 hours a week, and taking the time to continue applying. I felt lost… and that's an understatement. Two years in a private school and I was so far behind current teacher evaluation trends that I had plenty of moments of "what if I can't cut this?" I was grumpy. I was tired. I'm pretty sure my roommate wanted to kill me.

But, then something happened. I found a job. I found the right job for me, something I should have made a focus all along. And, I did it in two weeks in a climate where despite there being a teacher shortage, the competition for jobs is still very intense. Making it all happen in such a short time period made me realize that despite my own poor self image of prior experiences someone still saw something in me that until that moment I couldn't see in myself.

I am now a proud member of the Tildenville Tiger family teaching gifted, and ESE students… even taking on the role of ESE staffing specialist. And, while I have A LOT to learn for the first time in a very long time I am happy. I feel like goals are attainable. I don't see them as  challenges that will never be overcome. In large part thanks to the support of my principal who is taking the time to give me tools.

I changed my approach because past choices weren't working. I prayed to God to put me in the right place, and to give me courage and self worth. I said thank you instead of always asking, but never really giving back. And, I took action to make the changes I wanted happen. But, I also directed my focus towards positions I knew would be a better fit and I was open and honest about my struggles.

The end result is that I found a job where I can give back and make a difference, where I can feel successful, and where I am no longer afraid to ask for help because I feel supported by my principal and my fellow teachers. And, I'm able to give back everything I've gained in my short time at Tildenville by helping other new teachers who feel as stuck and as scared as I did. In doing so I'm realizing just how much I know, just how much I have to give, and just how capable I am.

As a result of the positive and self confident attitude I've developed, I've also achieved my smaller goals with family support loosing a total of 33 lbs in 2 years, becoming more fit, more active, and more healthy, becoming financially independent, and being able to do more with my riding and my horse.

I'm finally where I wanted to be 5 years ago, and should have been all along. I don't regret my past. In fact God has made sure to surround me with reminders of it in the people around me…. God puts you where you need to be. Perhaps I needed to go through those challenges to help others. I learned a lot of things the hard way. I look around me now at other new teachers, at my roommate, and some of my  younger friends and I see the lost version of myself in a few of those faces. I also see what they can become. And, I better see myself and just how far I have come. The reality is they will have to fight there own battles, but I hope I can use my experiences to set positive examples.

I also recognize there will be challenges still to come, but I fully intend to face them head on with confidence and positivity. Bring on the last half of my positivity challenge!

Go forth and make a difference in your life or someone else's.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Hundred Day Challenge...

Soooo this was supposed to be a long overdue update on our move... Why we moved... Where we've been... And why we're now back where we started... But then I decided that I probably would have spent the entire blog complaining about a lot of negative experiences. Honestly I'm tired  of focusing on the negatives and ready to focus on the positives... And, so, without further adu... I give you my 100 day challenge....

I've seen a lot of people doing a lot of good things lately....

I got challenged for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge which I fully intend to take up just as soon as I find someone willing to hold a camera and 5 spare minutes to accomplish the task... I also plan to donate, because that's what's really important and it's a good cause... You all should too!

In October the 22nd annual Chdren's Miracle Network Trail
Ride takes place to benefit Schans research for kids with cancer... It's an awesome cause that I've donated to 4 years in a row now and I plan to make this year number 5. If you live in the central Florida area or can travel in,  come join me!

Another great cause, and positive movement is the ride it forward challenge, which is what actually inspired this blog. Joe a former Biggest Loser contestant, is riding across the US to support living an active lifestyle, and is specifically working to help kids realize that getting off the the coutch and away from electronics can be a good thing... This is especially near and dear to my heart because I work with kids!

Joe rides a bike, but talks about getting out and getting in to shape all sorts of different ways, and I think horseback riding is an amazing option. You not only have to be over all very fit to ride effectively, but it teaches balance, coordination, teamwork, and responsibility.

Last summer I kicked myself in the butt and lost 25 lbs... And improved on my riding skills, but then things just kind of stalled out. I got busy with work. Rio got hurt. My main riding buddies lost their horses and my trainer moved to Ocala. We've been stuck in a rutt for a good 6 months now.

But, seeing all these positive movements have inspired me to pick up the pieces, dust myself off and spread a little posativity of my own...

I'm giving myself a week to plan and organize and 100 days (starting September 1st) to accomplish the following:

- Get back into healthier eating habits
- Exercise every day even if it's just taking 5 minutes out for sit-ups & push-ups on my way out the door
- Ride or work with the horse a min of 3 days a week...he's closer &
I have a lighted ring... No excuses now!
- loose the remaining 23 lbs to reach my goal weight
- Do something positive for someone else just because every day!
- Blog progress, updates and just in general weekly
- AND... Hopefully inspire a few others to start thier own 100 challenge whether it be getting in shape or just accomplishing something you've been putting off...

It also doesn't hurt that by putting it in writing I now have to follow through!

Stay positive... Move forward... Love life!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Journey Come Full Circle

Have you ever made a decision and then spent what seams like an eternity looking back and wondering if it was the right decision? But, once you've made the choice you really can't undo it and you, probably will never know what would have happened had you made the opposite choice?

I feel like that's the last 2 & 1/2 years of my life… at least when it comes to decisions I've made regarding my horse, which, lets face it is an irrationally large priority in my life. Only my other horse friends will ever understand that.

I made the choice to move my horse from a barn that he'd spent two years at. A barn where I had friends. A barn that was as professional as a backyard barn can be. A barn, where I could see him everyday thanks to a lighted arena. A barn that, for the most part, is affordable… unlike so many in this area. And, I regretted it every day since I left. Its one of those places that, without God's good grace and timing you can't go back to because they are always full.

I wanted to follow friends so that I'd have people of my riding level and competitive ambitions to ride with. So, I took a risk against my gut knowing the horse boarding market, and what was likely to happen. I can't say that all the stress, hopping between barns wasn't worth it. I made stronger friendships with the girls that I followed. I meant and made new friends along the way. Despite the issues and challenges at each new barn I'm still grateful that I meant those people and learned from my experiences there.  Despite challenges and disappointments I don't want to point fingers or complain.  I improved my riding exponentially, and meant a trainer who I will always have great respect for. And, the bond with Rio is that much greater because of it.

Mostly, it made me realize and appreciate what I had left behind. When I wonder what the purpose of this journey was, I think maybe it was for me to realize that I can overcome challenges, and achieve anything I want to anywhere I go. I never had to leave to do what I wanted to do despite the barn not being show oriented. But, maybe I had to leave to realize that. It also made me realize that I have to make the best decision I can for me and my horse no matter what others want, and not feel bad about making that decision. I'm going to take what I've learned, and go after what I want.

In August Rio and I go home, unplanned by me, but somehow I think I had God on my side. And, I can't wait to see what the future holds, and what we can accomplish.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Jail Break...

Its been one week since Rio stepped on a nail… longest week of my life. I keep holding my breath waiting for him to turn up lame indicating an abscess or bone infection. So far everything looks good. Thank GOD… And, I do mean thank God. I feel like everything that could go wrong went wrong, but in the best possible of circumstances. And, I truly attribute that luck to the heavens. 

The nail was "Just" long enough and hit in just the right place to possibly have hit the bone… so any hope that it was small and not going to be a big deal went out the window after 6 sets of X-rays confirmed an 80% chance that it did in fact hit the bone. 

When it was all said and done the problem was caught and treated quickly and aggressively and I truly hope we've dodged a bullet. I found the most amazing vet who has been working with me all week to treat him. He's bent over backwards to make it as affordable as humanly possible. Everything that was done should have cost me about $1500, but total I think I put about $1100 into him thanks to some very nice discounts. 

We moved barns, yes AGAIN, and I think this barn is a keeper FINALLY. The owner is amazing, knowledgable, and has been a huge help and very patient with my emotional state during all of this and with all the work involved to keep him moving forward infection free. 

Today, I broke down and bought Cavallo boots for Rio. The nicker and happy winny as he trotted away to find his girlfriend tonight made spending yet more money VERY worth it. He's been locked in a stall 24/7 for 7 days now. So, he was very happy to be outside… and not attached to a person at the other end of the lead rope. 

Rick, my most awesome farrier comes out to trim him Wednesday. I'm hoping for more good news. Dr. Mike cleared him to start riding in 2-3 weeks assuming the farrier also clears him, the whole is closing up by that point and I ride in the cavallos. 2-3 weeks of no riding is so much better then no riding for 6 months. 

There is still a chance that 2-6 months from now an infection or abscess will rear its ugly head so in the mean time I'll be praying… a lot. But, everything that could be done has been done, and now its all in his hands…

Happy weekend all!