Maybe it's because I was mentally guarding against long rehabs and what may or may not work... or it might be because we have a crazy toddler who (as it turns out) does actually have an impact on my ability to ride and show as much as I would love to...
Or it could be because my mental discipline is pretty much terrible all the way around these days. (really, you should see what I come home with from the grocery store these days... I could benefit from the use of a list of two)
But, I have always found goals helpful for my work with the horses. Even if they get thrown out the window, it is nice to at least acknowledge my hopes and intentions on paper (screen?) and provide some benchmark to look back on.
In terms of competition, I still don't feel like I know Windsor well enough to make reasonable, well educated goals. That makes me reluctant to declare that 2016 is the year we will be attending Derby Finals and putting Brunello in his place. (second place to be specific).
But I also don't want to set my sights on the 2'6" ring (again) just to ensure that I am not left disappointed.
So as I start to think about what would make 2016 feel like a success, it gets a bit tricky.
I want to move slower with Windsor than I did with Prairie in terms of introducing him to a new sport - but I also recognize that Windsor is a different horse and unlikely to be intimidated by the same things that intimidated the mare.
For one thing, he's already proven that he can jump big and that he isn't worried about that. But he hasn't ever had to show in an environment where his disposition and relaxation were part of the game. He also hasn't ever had to jump fences with fill. And while I've always found the fences in the Jumper ring much spookier than those in the Hunter ring, I've seen enough seasoned Jumpers freak out at a 2' flower box to know I shouldn't take that for granted.
So for now, I think it's helpful to separate my goals into what Windsor is doing with me and what he is able to do with my Pro.
I should also clarify that Windsor wasn't purchased with the intent of being solely a Pro Ride - but with a toddler on the loose, I can see how my personal schedule might possibly influence the priority of which goals are more important - or quite frankly, more fun to pursue.
|Real Goal: 8,000,000 gray nose kisses|
Goals for Windsor with Me:
1) Show. (more than once this year)
This is sort of cheating, since it has more to do with soundness than skills - but my last two show seasons have been extremely short. Both years Pair showed extremely well at Thermal and then two weeks at home before missing the rest of the summer.
I'd like to avoid that pattern this year and shoot for one(ish) weeks of showing each month of the season.
2) Show in a Rated division.
I always hate making goals that have to do with a particular level or height because it feels like that means I don't care about the horse or our relationship or any of those warm-fuzzy things. However I am really competitive and I like getting better, so it's time for some declarative statements.
Plus, if I'm being totally honest with myself, one of the reasons we brought Windsor home was to get me back in the Rated Divisions (3' and above for the non-hunters out there..).
I don't need to walk into the AA's our first time out, but I'd like to get there before the end of the year and that seems doable to me.
3) Groom Myself
I used to always groom for myself, and only in recent years have I discovered the option of having a professional Groom at shows..
I do miss being in total control of my horse and my preparation for a competition. However, while I totally see the value (and freedom) that professional grooming can provide - it is one of the larger expenses for me when I go to a show.
Candidly, the option of Grooms makes it possible for me to show with a kid. It's much easier to keep The Boy on board when the prospect of attending a show doesn't involve me being gone from 4am to 9pm, or even totally absent for a week (or two... or three).
With a kid it's nice to be able to leave when my classes are over and know that the horses are still getting great rub downs and wrapped and all snuggled in for the night.
So why is this even a goal?
I think that handling my own horses care has consistently offered me lots of information.
Information that my Pony-Club-Upbringing has beaten into my head as necessary - so when I don't have it I inherently feel uninformed.
Are they anxious? are they eating differently? are they napping frequently, freaking out and herdbound? Does their poop look normal?
It's also hours I love spending with my horse. I love the energy at 4am on a show ground with hay being thrown and stalls being cleaned. I love listening to my horse munch hay while I take out braids and I love being the one to give them a final pat and thank you before tucking them in for the night.
In fact in an odd turn of events - paying for a Groom used to feel like the ultimate luxury, while these days having the time to do it myself seems like a much bigger treat.
I probably won't be able to groom for myself at the longer events, but hopefully I can make it work for some of the smaller shows. I miss it.
Although I'm certain I will be cursing Windsor's dappled self the entire time...
4) Still Love the Horse
I'm fairly confident that I will enjoy my partnership with Windsor, so I'm not sure this is a great goal to set - but as my time available for the horses gets more and more restricted by other obligations, it's becoming more and more important to me that I love the horse I'm spending time with. It's not worth struggling with a personality or any issues that scare me.
When I first started struggling with Pia, my trainer at the time told me that "life is too short to ride horses that are trying to kill you." She perhaps overstated my conflict with Pia a tad, but her reasoning was sound.
When I was single and my primary relationship was with a horse, it was easier to justify the fight and struggle and despair. But now that I have to come home from the barn energized and refreshed, I will probably decide to change horses much sooner than I used to. That's not to say I don't expect bad rides or struggle (it's still a horse). But my tolerance has shifted. Though maybe that's just because I'm no longer in my twenties? lol.
Goals for Windsor with my Trainer:
1) Watch Her School Him Once a Month.
I learn a lot by watching others ride my horses, but I tend to get greedy about always having the ride when I'm at the barn (for good reason).
This year I'd like to get in the habit of watching my trainer ride at least once a month in order to see for myself what they are working on and how it differs from my own rides.
2) Watch Her Show at 3'6" or Higher.
If I'm being honest (again) - part of what made Windsor so appealing to me was the possibility of watching him jump around (much) higher courses than I ever need to. I wasn't shopping for a High Performance horse, but the idea of watching him go around some of the bigger jumps sure sounds fun to me. And also to The Boy. I think he's secretly hoping for some GP action, but that's not gonna happen.
Also - Derbies. This guy isn't the fanciest mover out there, but I think he's brave enough for the fun Derbies. Sadly the Derbies at a lot of our local shows are basically normal courses and jumps with a handy round tacked on the end.
There are a few shows that our barn attends with beautiful Derby fields and fences that are a significant departure from the line-diagonal-line of the divisions - so hopefully I can make attending those a priority.
Eventually I'd love this horse to do the International Derbies, but I recognize this is his first year in a new job and the National Derbies are probably a good place to start.
Finally, I have to note that a USHJA Derby cooler is definitely on my Show Bucket List, so we might as well start marching toward that!
Mostly I think 2016 will feel like a huge success if my learning curve stays as steep as it has been. Starting a new partnership with a horse as forgiving as Windsor, is making it possible for me to push forward faster than I have with a horse in a long time. That in itself is super engaging and rewarding and a new experience that I am really trying to enjoy.
Of course a ribbon or two, or a cooler along the way never hurts....