“You’re still not riding? What the hell is going on?” Not only did this question come from an extremely well known Canadian Eventing Team Member and ECOGOLD rider, it was also the second such same caliber person to ask me the same question at the same event within a matter of minutes. Double Crap. When the Big Guns start to take notice in little old me and why I’m not riding my horse at shows, then start asking questions, it sort of makes me feel good and sort of makes me go crap.
“Well…I’m not showing, because…well, I am going to start showing.” The look of shock to confusion to excitement was visible on said rider’s face and I was rewarded with a hug and an incredibly loud “congratulations!!” So, fellow junkies, there you have it – I have been lying through my teeth for the past 4 months as to why I have not been showing Colby in competition.
I had full intentions to keep showing until literally I started showing and didn’t think it was the responsible thing to do anymore. That all changed when we went xc schooling the week before what was supposed to be our first event. I couldn’t do it. I pointed Colby to a little log and she stopped dead in front of it. It didn’t get much better after that. To make a long story extremely short – my coach said she could see me going for it – then a couple strides out I would freeze up and pull. Poor Colby was being told to “GO” and “WHOA” at the same time. I would have stopped too if I was her. As soon as someone else got on her, she went ‘thank freaking God’ and proceeded to rock around like she had been doing it for years.
It is incredible what you think you are going to be able to do and then what your body tells you you are going to do. It was almost as if I had no say in the matter at all. And, I was devastated. I had seriously told myself that I have nothing to worry about and that although green, Colby is a superstar. Of course, when I couldn’t do it, I burst into tears and felt like a complete failure. I realize now that isn’t the case, but it was still hard for me to grasp.
One of the riders who spoke with me at said event recently had a baby herself. She told me that she rode all the way up to her due date and that there was no reason why I can’t still be riding. Now, keep in mind that she is a professional and has ridden around some of the toughest tracks in the World, was eventing in competition up to the time she was 6 months pregnant and obviously has way more knowledge, skill, ability and guts than I ever will, but to hear her tell me it is okay to keep riding made me feel really good.
Remember how I said I was not showing Colby in competition? That doesn’t mean that I haven’t stopped riding. When I explained to her that I was being responsible and mitigating any undue risks by not competing or jumping, she smiled and said she was proud of me and she fully supports my decision to keep riding. Honestly, made me feel great. My coach has also been a pillar of support for me. I wasn’t lying when I said standing around and watching other people show Colby is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. To see her getting better and better, more and more confident, and loving what she is being asked to do – all because someone else is riding her – sucks. Big time sucks. But, selfishness aside, the main thing, is that I have such an incredibly amazing support team around me who can keep her going out to get the exposure that she needs at her young age. That is the main thing in her development right now – and I am and will be forever grateful to those people.
My coach has also encouraged me to keep riding – the first 5 months were not easy. Every single symptom you don’t want to have…guess what? I had it. I have moved on from being nauseous 24/7 (the whole ‘morning’ sickness thing is a complete lie) to food and smells in general being a complete turn off. I am in a horrible mood ¾ of the time and pretty much hate everything.
Husband included. You know what he said to me the other day after I had been away for the weekend and he hadn’t seen me for a couple days?? “What’s up Chubbs?” Ass. He’s lucky I didn’t divorce him on the spot.
So, what I am working on? Flat – obviously – and poles. That is my responsibility and my coach and her daughter (my eventing partner) are responsible for her jumping. When I do ride, I am riding in the indoor and not doing anything overly stupid. Yes, while I understand that I ultimately really have no control over an 1,100 pound animal, the thing is, I trust Colby. Maybe more importantly is that I know Colby. Those days when she is in heat and our rides resemble more of a bucking bronco/inverted hopping giraffe-esq picture – I don’t ride. I know her well enough that when I put her in the crossties – I know if it is going to be that kind of ride – so I lunge her instead. And, don’t think that my coach lets up on me at all when we have our lessons. I am dripping buckets by the time we are done…but the change in Colby from the beginning of the summer to now in terms of her dressage is incredible. We have knocked 15 points off our dressage scores.
There are others though, who don’t necessarily see it that way. Some friends/family are supportive; some of wanted me to stop – instantly. But – the similarity is – they all want me to be safe. That is the constant, regardless of if I have their support, or not. And you know what – I cannot fault them for that. If I did, that would make an extremely selfish and unreasonable person. They ALL want me to be safe and they ALL have my best interest at heart. My family and barn mates also said they knew that we were expecting the second after we told them all. How? “I knew an injury wouldn’t keep you from showing Colby.” Touché. Yes there is always a risk when I ride….when anybody rides. I can also fall down the stairs, trip over a curb or put my foot through the vent in the bedroom in the middle of the night when getting up to go to the bathroom, skinning my shin and ankle, while taking a 2 inch chunk of skin out of the bottom on my foot and landing hard on the knee I hurt in May when I fell. (Yes, that actually happened).
The Hubbs has been incredibly supportive, incredibly understanding and has backed me up me on numerous occasions. When I came home from that disastrous first xc school, I looked at him and started to cry. (Hormonal much??!) And he let me cry my eyes out for a solid 20 minutes – and he didn’t say a word while I blabbered on about ‘not being good enough’ and ’a failure’ and ‘ruining my show season’ and bunch of other nonsense. When I had calmed down enough to be somewhat coherent and reasonable, he looked at me and said, “I get it and that is the biggest crock of (insert explicit word here) I have ever heard.” He recently told someone to “take it a little easy, because it is incredibly hard for her to stand by and watch her horse being ridden by someone else. She will stop when she knows she should.” I have never been more proud of him ever.
While I know I will be judged for continuing to ride – regardless of the facts – I have stopped competing, stopped jumping and have reduced my risks as much as possible – I am finding very quickly that when it comes to being pregnant, everyone has an opinion on everything – especially riding – and no matter what, I will always be doing something wrong according to someone. I will ride until I do not feel it is safe to do so. I couldn’t tell you if that will be in a week, a month or in two months. Does that make me irresponsible? Perhaps to some people yes. Does that give people the right to judge me? Absolutely not – although I know it is inevitable.
Know this: I am making informed and responsible decisions…all of which I talk though with my husband – his opinion is what matters most to me at present. If he woke up tomorrow and told me he wanted me to stop. I would – and I wouldn’t even question him on it. He trusts me and is supportive of the decisions that we make. I am more thankful to him for that then anything else.
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