Admittedly, I used to ride (and train) with some seriously renowned folks, but it's been a few years (*cough*) since I've been actively training in anything resembling that capacity. That's not to say that the people who I've worked with, or for, since my glory days haven't been accomplished, capable folks. But, there's a difference between really, really, good riders (or coaches) and the people who are actively pushing the max in the discipline of their choosing.
Part of what I love about my current barn is that no one is trying to push the limits. No one's training 8 hours a day, no one is working 18 different jobs to pay for an international campaign, or so obsessed they can't sit back and enjoy down time at the barn. That is to say, while I respect upper level riders in any sport, I also really, really enjoy that our barn is everyone's escape. It's everyone's hobby - and no one's job.
Occasionally I miss the buzz of an active show season, I love watching horses progress from event to event, and I love cheering on barn mates. But, the flip side offers benefits too. No one is stressing out, no panicked searches for that suddenly MIA running martingale attachment, Saturday mornings are more often spent riding out on the roads and trails than shoving an increasingly less organized mass of trunks and boxes into trailers to haul out. (somehow I always started the season with a place for everything and everything in it's place.. then after four or five shows, I'd end up digging through bins of loose tack that more closely resemble tangled Christmas tree lights than careful packed equipment).
However, I recently felt that little spark of curiosity that comes when talking to a barn mate about their latest dressage test or xc run. That compulsive feeling that you could not possibly do one more thing without hearing all the details.
The closest non-horsey equivalent I can think of is when a roommate would come home from a first date.
"Tell me everything." was usually the first thing out of my mouth. Same reaction with a barn mate. I want to know everything. Every gallop, every approach, the flower box under every stadium fence, each transition in your dressage ride... everything.
Anyway, the resurgence of the "spark" came when chatting the other day with our newest boarder. H is potentially the nicest (least crazy) horse person I've ever met. She rolled in from Colorado a couple months ago where apparently she ran her own training outfit, though I've heard remarkably few details on it. She brought an adorable Connemara/TB cross whose shaggy coat and diminutive stature belie her true athleticism. When H is gone (presumably on business), her delightfully charming (and geeky, and British) husband attempts to groom and hand graze her pony (CUTER) while he politely asks for tips on how-in-the-hell-do-you-make-them-pick-up-their-feet.
H is also meticulously groomed. Meticulous in that "oh gosh I just throw this on" sort of way, not in the over dyed, over preened, over-jeweled DQ sort of way. She's always in some sort of adorable stripped button down shirt, with an adorably contrasting bright v-neck sweater... perhaps with a small kerchief should the temperatures warrant it. (essentially, if there were a j.crew catalog for riders... she'd be wearing it).
So about a week ago, we were chatting about former horses and former horsie lives. H casually mentioned that one of her old horses is sponsored by smartpak now. While this is obviously cool (and financially excellent), I assumed that maybe this was because she blogged about smartpak, or wrote lots of reviews, or her horse had some insane recovery using their products or something.
It's because her horse is currently on the USEF team, currently entered in Rolex and maybe one of my favorite US eventers currently gunning for London 2012.
So that's when the spark hit. Tell me EVERYTHING. Tell me about your eventing, tell me about Destination Known, tell me about going advanced, tell me about your fall, tell me about why you stopped, tell me about your pony, tell me about EVERYTHING.
It was great to hear her story, and great to see her enjoying just having a little pony to bounce around with.
What a bad ass... I love my barn.