Training alone... well, with furry beasts only

I used to live in a world where I had a choice of high-end barns to train, and goals of moving up on a regular schedule were practically chiseled in stone. Things change as time and life get in the way of dreams, but it’s never too late to start over.

And starting over is where I am right now. I’ve been riding off and on for over 40 years, but haven’t competed in over 20.  The kids are grown, out of college and on their own:  it’s time to find myself again. So what do I do? I walk out the door and come home with a rescue horse not even under saddle. Yep, I’m gonna to find myself… upside down in mud.

I now live in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, no high-end training barns, no very accomplished trainers, “dressage just isn’t something we do up here.” Oh well!!! I’ll find something.

“A Dressage Girl Living in a Western Pleasure World” that is where I am. I call it hell with fresh air and clear water. I do love my barn, the people are nice, it’s small, very clean, and my horses are well cared for. Here begins the problem, most of the time, I’m alone.

So what are my real goals?

To own a pretty horse that eats the lawn and paychecks then fertilizes the barn? To hit the show circuit hard? What shows? When? Where are these shows? What tests?

I barely know my way around here, let alone how to find any of this stuff. I’m too tired tonight to deal with any of this, it can wait ‘till tomorrow.  After I do the dishes, walk the dogs and answer a few emails, I’ll go ride. It’s too windy, too cold, tomorrow will be better for me.

This new horse became like the diamond and emerald bracelet I just had to have  (which has only been out of my jewelry box once since my husband bought it for me, 18 years ago). So I sat down and made a list.

I set out a plan as to what I was going to do. How I was going to get there, and just how flexible I was planning to be in hitting my targets.

1.      Getting the horse going under saddle. ~ I got a lot of help from the Western pleasure trainer at the barn.

2.      What Discipline was I going to focus on? ~ Dressage

Now, just how am I going to do this when the nearest Dressage trainer I can find is 125 mile away?

  • Books!!!  lots and lots of books.
  • Commit to ride 1 hour, 4-5 nights a week
  • Set one new goal a week and build off of that.

Example: this week we will trot for 20 minutes before a walk break.

  • Ask after every ride … did we both enjoy that?

I read somewhere that after 21 times something becomes a habit. So once I established the riding habit, taking a night off felt wrong, so it is very very important to question myself over and over again, “Are my horse and I having fun?”

Other ways to stay focused:

  • I subscribe to a few horse or dressage publications.
  • Participating in blogs, make friends with those of same interest on Facebook.

I found blogging and Facebooking helps a lot, especially when I have some problems, I can reach out and get a bunch of solutions.

  • Find a partner.

I have my son who calls me with an update of what he did after every one of his rides and he expects me to call after every one of my rides with a complete report.

  • Keep a journal.

This has so many great purposes. I record what we’ve done, when it was good and when was not so good. Through this, I discovered that three days prior to my mare coming in to heat she is super tense. Now I plan for that. I also write about where I want to go, I keep a special section in my journal of dreams like someday we will canter, (actually last week after a year of bad bad times we cantered off).

  • Rewards

If I am able to come close to achieving a month’s worth of goals. I will travel 125 miles to treat myself to a lesson or I will attend a clinic.

My all time favorite way to stay focused while riding alone day after day is to repeat out loud:

I AM A HORSE JUNKIE AND I DO THIS FOR FUN!!!

3.      To show or not?? Still on the fence. But it’s in the dream section and we will just see what happens next month.