I’m in an odd place. I’m a very loyal person. Perhaps loyal to a fault. And I’m often disappointed by those who aren’t as loyal. Some of it is horse related, and some of it is personal. And right now, there’s just too damned much of it going on in my life. Between elderly parents, second-guessing siblings, a teen-aged daughter, a full-time job, multiple professional boards to serve, a husband, two dogs, five rescued cats, and an ambitious riding agenda, my loyalties are being stretched and tested. Sadly, I wonder if some of them are failing.
The barn stuff is relatively simple in a certain regard. My barn won’t allow outside trainers in to teach. And we don’t have cross-country schooling facilities, an eventing trainer, or trainers who are available to go to shows. So getting access to those things means packing up the trailer, and hauling at least an hour away — sometimes two hours. And that means those outside lessons are limited to once a month or so. It’s just too much to do alone any more frequently.
But I live and work in the city, as does my horse husband. And my daughter also goes to school in the city. So while my city barn has several qualities that are less than optimal, its location is perfect. It’s just a mile from my house. It allows me to go early in the morning and work with my horse before the work day begins. And now that daylight savings time is back, I can make it to the barn a second time for a lesson or ride before it gets dark.
Having to go to outside sources for training feels disloyal. But I finally have my arms around the fact that I need to be loyal to Charlie and me first. And if we need to go outside for additional training, then so be it. So I regularly hitch up the trailer, and Charlie and I hit the road to clinics, camps, and competitions.
The thing is, I’ve gotten almost every possible permutation of (unsolicited) advice possible: I should take more group lessons, fewer group lessons, more private lessons, quit; do more ground work, do less, do none; get the trainers at my barn to do more training rides, fewer training rides, no training rides; only ride in the ring, go out on trail more; only ride dressage, continue eventing, quit riding altogether; stay at my current barn, switch barns, sell my horse.
It totally runs the gamut. And the various sources would astound you. Many of them were downright unexpected. I guess I should expect some of this, since I hang my riding life out there for public consumption via this blog. But the disparity is incredible. Advice like this from people who don’t know me is easier to understand because those people don’t know the whole story. And when they haven’t even seen me ride, it’s pretty simple to put their input in context.
But the advice from the people I do know has been — well — disappointing. I’d like to think it was well meaning. Candidly, I’m not entirely sure. There has been criticism of my chosen show schedule, the crux of which is that I shouldn’t show. My absence from class has been questioned, oblivious to my other family and work demands. People have critiqued my rides, which is interesting because they have never taught me or watched me ride. And there are those who have questioned my accounts of the various camps and clinics we have attended, who were never there.
Don’t get me wrong. There are those who have been there for me. They help me look out for my daughter when she rides in one of my classes, when I have to miss because of work obligations. They helped me when I had a (non-horse-related) health crisis. They helped when I had a crisis of confidence. I know who these people are. I am grateful to have them in my life every day, and I tell them so frequently.
Then there are the relationships that I’m no longer sure about. The advice seems to be more geared to their interests than ours. They have lots of opinions about how I should do things. But their absence is glaring when we need someone to talk to, or a shoulder to lean on. And it goes down even rougher because I feel like we’ve been there for them — listening, helping, lending, and taking photos/video.
I have some pretty lofty goals. I want to get my bronze medal in dressage, and my USEA bronze medal at beginner novice. So I focus on my early sessions when no one is around. And in the solitude of those mornings, Charlie and I will find our way — together, and loyal to each other.
And maybe one day, someone will take some photos for us.