The big valleys for me this year were three things: losing a lifetime horse; losing a friend and the impact that had on a favorite event, and taking a hard fall off a horse. And the mountaintops were writing a blog that went around the world, and all of the amazing and wonderful things I did with horses that may not win awards or set milestones for anyone, but left me feeling pretty good.
In December, I managed the second of two really good jumping clinics with CCI**** rider Caitlin Silliman in our region, and the response was great and people loved her, so I am hoping that the four-star schedule this year allows her a bit of time to return. I finished a long-time project at home and was able to enjoy Christmas this year with my homies, considering that the last Christmas was a terrible one with the loss of my mother, this one is going to be much more celebratory and enjoyable. I actually put up a Christmas tree! With the good start to the hunting season the end of the year looks good.
In November, we recovered from the efforts of the fall and had a great Thanksgiving Day, including riding a lot over a super four day holiday which was much appreciated. My hunt’s opening day, it’s 85th year, was a great occasion and was fun to see a lot of fun people who love to ride and have a good time with horses. It was a time for me to get started on the weight loss journey for real, and I downloaded a couple apps on my phones to keep me on the path. I gradually changed my diet and am working hard to stick to it. While my lifestyle is very busy and uncontrolled at times I have made a special effort to control what I can and make time for exercise in addition to riding. So that month started with a resolution and ended with a party!
September and October ran together, due to the immense amount of volunteer time and effort I, and many others, did at Fair Hill International three-day event. There were a huge amount of horses entered and that made for a very large event with lots of work for all of the many volunteers who were involved. The loss of good friend Judy Thayer was felt from one end of the beautiful land up there at the course, to the other. You don’t know how much someone means and how much they do until all of a sudden they are gone, so I dedicated myself to doing as much as I could this year to help. While it sucked away almost every spare moment I had and left my horses off almost a month, it was worth it to honor her. And who could be sad working alone in a huge grass field with just the deer and birds to accompany you, the silence and grandeur of amazing Fair Hill surrounding you?
As soon as Fair Hill ended, I got started back on my horses and unfortunately, had a hard fall on the youngest when he spooked at something, and I couldn’t stay with him. I thought I was making progress, and then that had to happen. While nothing was broken, I hurt a little, and after thinking about it for a while came to the conclusion that I had to find another rider for him. I love him to pieces and there’s nothing wrong with him (which makes the decision even harder) but I am not going to be able to ride a green one anymore, so that prompted me to make some changes in my life, my diet, my exercise level, and try to smart about what horses I CAN ride. So George is for sale while I continue to ride my steadier, older horses, and I’ve learned my lesson – I’m just not as young as I used to be!
Summer this year was a bit of a bust in terms of riding. Losing Rugby, my horse of a lifetime at age 17, was the biggest blow, followed closely by the loss of my dog, Charlie, at age 11 to cancer. These blows were terribly depressing and I wasn’t very good to live with for a long while. In addition I also wasn’t in the best of health, so only rode when I felt good and kept the horses ticking over but not in shape. On top of these tragedies, I received word that friend Judy Thayer died (in July) suddenly. We commiserated online and with friends. Highlights were a couple of great trail rides with friends and a cross country school on Lucky at Carousel Farm in Wilmington with Sally Cousins which was awesome fun. I also enjoyed a wonderful and rare family visit in August, too, which was wonderful and certainly a highlight of the year.
May and June were full of great accomplishments but a couple of hard things. The month of June I received an email from the head of British Eventing, Mike Etherington-Smith, complimenting me on the reflection I wrote, “We Risk. We Ride. We Love This Sport.”, that went around the world and to date has had over 51,000 (!) views. In May, Lucky went to a Phillip Dutton Clinic and was a star, and won a Thoroughbred award at a schooling dressage show and we got a picture in the local horse magazine. I accomplished a personal goal in May, and set myself on a more organized and attentive personal path; I had plans to show and compete the horses the rest of the summer, but then an injury to a horse, my own health, and an extra heavy work schedule sort of interfered with those plans, and in looking back, it’s clear that being able to roll with setbacks and come up smiling is also part of the experience.
April was filled with the lead up to Rolex, then traveling to Rolex, staying with friends at Rolex, and enjoying the competition from the first step I took out of the rental car in the grassy field parking lot to the last step you take in leaving the grounds and flying home. It was amazing as always, but I was also exhausted after it was all over, so being fit enough to walk all day long is real goal for this year’s annual mecca in April.
March was the last foxhunting for the season, and I always both dread the end of hunting but am grateful for every day we can go out. While often the hunting isn’t the best this time of year, the horses by this time are fit and wonderful to ride so it is great fun, and the folks in my hunt are at their funniest and most entertaining! Our annual hunt ball resulted in a personal honor of being awarded my colors, a life-moment for me, but the sad thing was not being able to share the news with Mom on the phone. I still talked to her and told her about it, though, as I drove home from the party.
February was a blur this last year, and it’s my hope this coming February will be the exact opposite; a long planned trip to a warm Aiken with horses in on the books for this year, and I’ve been hoping to do this for about ten years. Who knows? And January of course was a depressing and stressed month, one I will not look back upon with undiluted pleasure, to steal a phrase from the Queen, as it began with the funeral of my mother and subsequent aftermath. Being home with my horses finally and my husband was the greatest gift of the new year and I was once again reminded of how lucky I have it and not to take any of my things, my homies, my horses, my house, my friends, and everything I have for granted.
So here’s my year for you. Everyone has a story – I’d love to hear about your year and how well you did with your horses. Please share in the comments what happened in your horse life including the good, the bad and the ugly. And of course, have a GREAT 2015! Happy New Year!
— Holly, Lucky, Hamish and George