When I had my daughter, I thought I was prepared for everything. People warned me about the various pitfalls of new motherhood and as a result, I felt ready for those events, even though I had never experienced them myself. Except one: sleep deprivation. No one mentioned it and I had no idea it was coming. I certainly had no clue how tough it would be to deal with. It left me wondering what else I had forgotten or missed or just plain screwed up.
Now, enter my horse, Charlie Brown. I had leased several times before and experienced too many of the shortcomings of the arrangement. But finally I jumped off the cliff and purchased a horse.
It was a happy event, and one for which I studied long and hard. I would be a well-prepared pony parent. I read up on equine nutrition, veterinary care, socialization with new barn mates, injuries, first aid, training for dressage, training for jumping, training for cross country, trailering, showing, schooling opportunities. I was ready! I got this!
Then came the schedule. I knew how much work he was in before coming to us. But it wasn’t as clear on how much work he would need to keep him fit and healthy in his new environment. So, feeling somewhat blind, I began muddling through the process of building a schedule for Charlie, and for us.
Since Charlie came from a fox hunting background, his jumping wasn’t really up for debate. But as an aspiring eventer, I wasn’t as sure about our readiness in dressage – his or mine.
To help us both, I signed us up for a dressage class – a group class for an hour, once a week, with a woman from Denmark with an extensive dressage background. Now, some four months in, I’m beginning to understand the discipline better, but I still have much to learn. Charlie, on the other hand, took to it like a duck to water. I don’t know if it was the change of pace from jumping, or the ability to really stretch out his gaits and move freely while controlled.
But, that class was still just one day a week. My daughter has a group class on another weekday evening. So that’s two days taken care of. And we both ride in group classes on Saturday. Check off a third day. Long trail rides early every Sunday morning with a fellow boarder gets us up to four days a week.
Oh, did I mention I have to work for a living? Yeah. So as much as I’d love to be at the barn riding every day, I just can’t do it. We needed help in order to get Charlie out every day. I didn’t want a cast of thousands riding him, but preferred to keep the list tight.
I sent a short-ish but pretty comprehensive email to a small handful of people who I thought would be good to help us with getting Charlie some quality work every day. One of our trainers offered to ride two days a week. Done! In fact, this instructor teaches both my daughter and me, so it’s a great fit and provides for continuity of instruction for Charlie.
And then, there was still one day left to cover. Thursday. A weekday. <Sigh> So I took a leap of faith and did a little work-life-riding integration. Now, I get up early that day and work from home for several hours. Then I meet a friend at the barn who leases a diminutive Arabian.
When conditions permit, we take the two geldings out for a long, fast run through the park. There’s plenty of walking and trotting. We even found a way to fit in a lengthy graze at the urban garden along the way. But there are also long, winding canters and the eagerly-anticipated gallop up the hill on the way home. It’s a great change of scenery and an opportunity to let off some steam on a regular basis, all without the demands of thinking so much or being so precise about bend and yield and collection and extension.
When the weather doesn’t cooperate, we stick to the ring. But with two of us, we can do some cavaletti and small jump courses.
After the ride, there’s plenty of time to clean tack, do barn laundry, and get dinner started at home.
This wrinkle in the schedule is turning out to be a wonderful addition to our week. To much schedule can be boring, but there’s a lot to be said for a set schedule and the rhythm it provides. These Thursdays give Charlie an opportunity for a complete change of pace. It’s a fantastic wrinkle in his week.