Why do I ride?

I’ve asked myself that question a lot since I came to Pennsylvania. It’s been hard for me adjusting to this new system of riding and thinking that I’ve been immersed in. I think it’s because I was so in tune with the atmosphere and philosophy back home.

Lately I’ve seen so many people who ride to compete. It’s all about getting the job done and getting that ribbon. They pay a lot of money to have their horse on full training board. They go out and ride once a week maybe twice if the stars line up. They have two or three horses at two different barns, and they just don’t have time for them. I don’t understand that. Why waste your money?

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I need to be better about riding everyday. It’s easy to fall into the I’mTooTired/It’sTooHot/IHaveABoneInMyLeg mindset of nothing but excuses. That is where your goals and discipline have to come in. Your discipline keeps you riding without stirrups. Your discipline pushes you out into the rain to do what little you can on the bad footing because it’s better than nothing. Your discipline pushes you to be the person who has to shut the lights of at the ring because everyone else has left.

I’ve done all of those things. And not because I had someone expecting me to do it. Not because someone was constantly pressuring me. Not because I felt that I was a professional and should work the hardest because of the moniker and because someone was waiting for me to make their horse better. I did it because I wanted to improve myself and my horse even when everyone else thought I was crazy for putting that time in.

And I didn’t have competition goals. My goals were more like “I want to get her to trot promptly from my leg with very little pressure” or “I want her to be more balanced in the bridle so that she doesn’t hang on me.” And I found my solutions on my own. They weren’t spoon fed to me or even force fed to me. I looked for answers and I found them. I spent free time 100% focused on improving. That’s the part I like so much. It’s the mental game. I like to spend all of my extra time and energy to come up with a solution. When you analyze your riding and your horse that much, you get more out of every ride you have. And when someone tells you that “your horse looks good” or “you’ve done a good job with that mare” or later on down the road “you had her going the best I’ve ever seen her,” then it’s all worth it. It’s worth what temporary discomfort you may feel. It’s worth all the thrown shoes, skin fungi, and late night feedings.

It’s the journey not the ending that matters. That’s something I’ve always known. But sometimes you get caught up looking for something bigger and better, when you’ve always had what you were looking for. I just needed to learn how to appreciate what I had, and respect it so when my resolve falters (as it inevitably will) I can gather myself up and push on again.

So Lego and I are pushing for the Novice Three Day in October. It’s a lofty goal. We’ll have set backs. But, more than making it to the competition I want to be fully invested in my horse again. If I can get that back and maintain it, the three day will just be icing on a Lego-sized cake.

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My Crazy Wonderful Life

So things have been rather hectic lately. I haven’t been as consistent in a lot of my endeavors as I would like. I have a lot of black boxes on my running spreadsheet. I ate an entire big bag of doritos yesterday. I didn’t post any sort of blog at all last week. My life is in shambles.

But the only thing you can do is pick yourself up and get back on track. Tomorrow is a new day. And I can already put a nice blue box on my running spreadsheet because today was a rest day so I’m on track for that. I did eat a doughnut and a bunch of oreos today though. Baby steps.

Me? An Athlete?

I never really thought of myself as an athlete before. Whenever someone asked me if I did any sports I’d say horseback riding. “That’s not a sport.” They’d reply. “Yes it is. You’re obviously too stupid to be alive.” And then I would never speak to that person again. Actually I had more substantial arguments than that. But even though I had a lot of great arguments as to why riding was a sport, I never treated it like one. Sure I went out and rode everyday. I had a plan for my horse’s fitness and schooling, and I followed it. But I neglected a very important member of the team. Me. I need to hold myself to the same level of athleticism that I ask from my horse. But that’s the extra hard part, because I don’t really know what athleticism in me looks like, feels like, or tastes like.

I can look at a person running and tell if they’re fit. I can look at a person walking and tell if they’re fit. i can look at a person sitting on a couch and tell if they’re fit. But I can’t feel how fit I am. Despite being at my lowest adult weight (I’m assuming. I don’t keep scales around. Scales are dumb) and running the most consistently I ever have, I don’t feel fit. I feel tired and hungry. And right now I really, really want some juice. The fittest I’ve ever felt was when I was lifting three times a week and riding two horses a day, before I went to Blacksburg. I must be fitter now, what with all the straw stalls I’m mucking daily, but I always feel like I want a nap. Maybe I’m not doing it right.

Of course my sleepiness could be from this ongoing battle I’m having with my brain. My body wakes up when it thinks I’ve had enough sleep. My brain disagrees. My brain is like “the alarm doesn’t go off for another hour and a half go back to sleep” but my body is like “nope. It’s 4am. Let’s be awake.” And then during the day if I stop moving for more than 5 minutes (like in the horse van coming back from schooling), I’m ready for a nap. But when I get home and actually have time for a nap, I have a gajillion other things to do (like eating chicken that is shaped like a dinosaur) so no naps for Bri. Sleep isn’t really necessary to be an athlete right?

I need to get on Lego’s level. I work him at least 15 minutes a day. I need to work myself at least that much. I make sure that my horse gets the best nutrition that I can give him. I need to stop eating candy because I’m sad, tired, or lonely. I need to get my life together and plan better so that I don’t end up doing laundry at 10pm when I should be sleeping. I don’t want to feel like I let Lego down. And a groggy, hungry, or weak Bri is going to let him down.

My Mid-Working Student Stint Crisis

So I’ve had a weird couple of weeks. I went to a wedding this weekend. That wasn’t the weird part. The weird part was how my schedule got all screwy and took my life with it.

When my friend Colleen got engaged, I promised her that I would wear a specific dress to her wedding. I asked my grandmother to make me the dress but I asked her when I was a size 12. Fast forward to a week before said wedding, and I’m on the phone with her while wearing size 6 jeans. I was nervous. I came home to get refitted, and to hang out with some people I missed. It was a great trip home albeit very short, but in retrospect I think it wasn’t the best idea.

I left home later in the day than I wanted to. The three-hour drive was easy as far as traffic goes, but emotionally I was a wreck. I did not want to go back to work. It’s a damn good thing that Lego was still up in Coatesville because I would have called it quits right then. But I forced myself north through tears and a lot of probably unnecessary drama.

I got back to Coatesville an hour past my bedtime. My room was piled high with crap, so much that I could not see the floor. My fridge was basically empty. Despite the late hour, I got all my stuff ready for the next day because I knew it was going to be a rough morning the next day.

And it was. I forgot my lunch. The candy I had for breakfast made my tummy hurt. And I started bawling while doing stalls. Always a great sign. I talked to Jane about it. And in typical tough love Jane fashion, she got me to take responsibility for the whole crappy situation, with a lot of sobbing on my part. Which is good (the responsibility part, not the sobbing). It’s what I needed. That doesn’t mean I liked it. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t use an ungodly amount of tissues.

So I got it together. Not immediately of course. I forgot my lunch the next two days too. Luckily Alyssa always brings candy or cookies. I balanced those out by eating spinach for my other meals. But I cut down on the sugar. I ran. I unearthed some of my floor.

On Saturday, I met my parents to pick up my dress. They bought me dinner. The leftovers are in my fridge. Did I mention that my parents are perfect? I went to the wedding and had an absolutely wonderful time. I watched the most perfect couple I know, Colleen and Steven get married. I saw friends I hadn’t seen in years. We ate a lot of food. And I danced like an absolutely spastic maniac.

So now I’m sitting in my room, admiring the floor that I unearthed, and feeling pretty content. My room is clean. My fridge is full (thanks to my parents). And I’m back on track working my way towards my goals.

Momma always said “Life is like a tree of figs.

 I’m going all literature on this post. Sorry. But if you stick with it, I promise you’ll get something out of it. Even if that something is just, “Wow! This girl is nuts.”

So to play along, read this comic. Then read my thoughts on the comic. Enjoy the glimpse into my brain.

This poem really spoke to me. I can see myself becoming the woman with the figs even though I don’t like figs. It’s so hard to choose what you want from the possibilities that lay before you. And it’s true that there is a time limit on these possibilities.

For instance, I feel like the fig of my desire to be a professional rider is withered and blackened now.  Or it at least has some bruised spots, and I can see a better fruit one branch over. The window of opportunity on that dream is closed. Perhaps at one point I could have chosen that path but that Brianna and the current Brianna are very different people, and I wouldn’t trade the current Brianna for anything. I fought too hard for her.

I think part of growing up is realizing what you don’t want to do. You can spend years slaving away at a job you don’t like for a life you don’t want because you have some idea that it will magically click one day, and you’ll live happily ever after but it doesn’t happen like that. You have to work for it. You have to find what makes you happiest. It won’t just fall into your lap.

Some people are content with the job being their life. It gives them purpose and meaning. They live the job. They love the job. And eventually they become the job. I could very easily do that. That fits my personality well. For me it’s easy to become the job and forget about trying to develop other aspects of my life. When you wake up every morning dreading your work day and only looking forward to the end of the day when you can curl up with a good book you can’t really live the job.

Unlike the poem implies, the fruit on your tree don’t all wither at once. Alan Rickman started a marketing company fresh out of school and made it a very successful business. Then in his forties he decided he wanted to be an actor. You don’t have to be stuck on the path you choose. You can pick another fig from the tree to try. Life is full of possibilities; you have to take the initiative to go after them.

A lot of people, me included, worry about leaving their mark on the world. Not in an “Oh my God! The world is ending!” kind of way, but in a way that crops up when you’re a little down as one more thing on a list of deficientcies. We want the world to remember us. JK Rowling. George Morris. Jane Goodall. All of them are remarkable people who will be remembered for what they’ve accomplished. But there are tens of thousands of people who haven’t left a mark nearly that big. But I refuse to believe that they don’t matter.

I’ve already left my mark on the world. There are people who would miss me if I were to disappear tomorrow (hopefully in time and space. I’ll be back last Tuesday). There are people who I’ve helped, people I’ve taught something to, and people who would notice that I wasn’t there. And that’s great. Do I still want to write a book? Of course I do. I’ll write a damn good one. But if it’s not popular my life is not ruined. Do I still want to train and compete my horse? Damn straight. But I’m going to do it for myself and for learning, not to try and attract the attention of rich owners.

Part of being successful in life is being happy with what you have. I have a great horse, great riding skills, and great people around me. I’m good at a lot of things when I set my mind to it. Some things I do almost perfectly first time I try them. Zip lining. Shooting. Both of those I nailed on my first attempts. Enough to impress the people who were teaching me and prompted the other students to ask me if I’d done it before. I’m a good writer. I’m a good cook. I can knit well. I’m good with directions. I know how to follow in a caravan (it seems like no one else in this world does). I am caring and generous with my time because I genuinely care about the people in my life. I don’t like all people as a rule, but the people I keep around me are people that I would go to ends of the earth to help.

I love my life. Are there things I want to change? Absolutely. And I’m on the path for that change now. But sometimes I need to take a step back and see the bigger picture. This is my life. This opportunity that I’m taking is just one of many. It is not my only option. It’s just another hill before I get to the summit with a great view. It’s a big ass hill, but I’ll just put my head down and one foot in front of the other until I make it to the top.

I Need Help

I need all the motivation I can get. So I challenge anyone reading this to make me a poster that I can hang on my wall to motivate me. Heck it doesn’t even have to be a poster. I will accept anything from a sticky note to a moose head. Actually don’t send me a moose head. The shipping would be horrendous and it wouldn’t fit on my wall anyway. You can text, call, or email me if you need my working student address.

Fair Hill Recap AKA Get a Plan and Use Your Warm Up

So Lego and I went to Fair Hill’s starter event this past Saturday. He finished third, with a dressage score of 32.9 and a rail in stadium. I finished at 8:00pm and was a zombie on Sunday.

This show definitely served as a learning experience for me. I used to think that I didn’t get nervous for shows. I was always the cool cat watching everyone else getting nervous thinking, “I’m glad I don’t get worked up like that.” I never felt nervous or pressured because I made sure to remove any expectations of me doing well. But I do get nervous. I show my nerves by backing off. I lower my expectations. I say “that’s good enough” to my horse when I should say “give me your best. Now!” We will never show our best if I continue to settle for less than our best. I need to hold Lego and myself accountable for what we can do. Which is pretty darn good work.

To overcome my nerves, I need to make a plan and stick to it. Right now I make a good plan, and then as soon as we get ready to go, I forget it and just ride by the seat of my pants. Riding by the seat of you pants is what you do when the plan goes wrong. It is not the way to make it to a Novice 3-Day. Sometimes I don’t make a plan at all because it takes the pressure off me. If you don’t have a plan, then it doesn’t matter if you don’t stick to it.

Our dressage went better than at Olde Hope’s trials, mostly because he’s had a month more of intense training since then. But I need a plan for my ride. My test went well only because we were more schooled. I rode reactively; I need to ride proactively. I need to look farther ahead than just we’re cantering now, we have to stop after B. I also need to be sure that the warm up prepares him for the test, even if it means finding my own warm up area so that I don’t have to worry about running into anyone. That should help us get better scores… I’m still going to chat up the judge, just in case.

For show jumping and cross-country, I had good plans. But I didn’t hold him or myself accountable in our warm up. I let him pull me around and lunge at fences. So on course, I just let him pull me around and lunge at fences both times. He was long and flat, and I was waterskiing.* That is why we had the rail in stadium. I let him get too flat and strung out. I think the key is to warm up well and really get him paying attention to me. Brianna Hampton, Drill Sergeant.

So after our performance at Fair Hill, Lego and I are going to take a stab at Novice at Plantation Fields starter on November 2nd. In the meantime, we have a lot of training to do. I need to start running again, and Lego needs to put on some more fat. Also I need to strengthen my core. QM anyone? I’m going to start Spidermaning up and down the barn aisle. My goal is to be able to make it down the stairs head first.

Plan on seeing a fitter, well oiled machine at Plantation Field.

*I’ve never actually been waterskiing, except on Lego. I’d like to try it though. As long as there aren’t any sharks.