Monday, February 20, 2012

Do You Set Goals?

Since I've been effectively grounded due to a leg injury, I've been thinking about my goals with my pony and wondering what direction I'm going.  It's early yet, but there's a part of me that is wondering if I will be physically able to ride dressage.  See, here's the back story on me and riding...

When I was about 23 I was riding six to seven days a week.  I would ride anything I could get my hands on.  I was riding three day eventing, not because I was a brave, fearless rider but because my trainer felt I had natural talent.  I had a half Arab cross that was a handy jumper, but a bit strong.  One day we were training outside on the small cross country course.  We were galloping over a log jump with a drop.  I was scared, my horse was too fast and I was leaning too far forward.  This was before eventing vests were popular.  I was wearing a helmet and boots but that's about it.  We tumbled end over end over end. I broke all the little top bones in both my feet (metatarcils...may have spelled that wrong), cracked a bunch of ribs and hyper extended a bunch of muscles in my lower back.  I also ripped my hip flexor tendons on both sides.  I was out of work for two months and in physical therapy for a year.  Though the major things healed up, I was told that due to damage to the hip flexors I would not be able to ride again effectively.  I sold my horse soon after that.

I decided the next best thing would be to ride Western where I would not as deep a seat.  I bought a cute little Western Pleasure bred mare and futzed around with her for a few years.  I missed riding english.  I sold her to a 4-H'er and went without a horse for about ten years.  Then I had a baby.  I missed horses and ended up buying another Western Pleasure horse.  Due to crazy life circumstances and a distinct personality clash (the horse was supposed to be bomb proof and was scared of his own shadow), I ended up selling him to another 4-Her.  He is now happily cleaning up on the 4-H circuit.  I also realized that Western Pleasure just wasn't my thing, especially how it's done these days.  Between the spur training, the dangerously long, loopy reins and the training that most folks use to get them there (tying the head around etc.) I just wasn't interested in going there.

Fast forward a few years and I'm taking dressage lessons once a week.  My hips seem to be handling it just fine so I jump head first into buying a horse (welcome to the Princess Pony!).  My riding goes from one day a week to six days a week.  Still no major problems.  But I haven't really been 'riding' six days a week.  I get on and work through my fear or work through the pony spooking or not going forward, but it's been pretty rare to actually ride hard in a lesson.    Until recently.  We're getting past all the little foibles and starting to work hard.  Sure enough, now I'm injured.  I haven't written dressage off yet.  It could have been a combination of too deep a seat and not enough stretching.

However, it did make me think about what it is I want to do with this pony.  And I don't know.  I like dressage for it's technical aspects and how it feels when you get it right.  It's a bit of a high when you feel their back come up underneath them, when their back feet step deeply underneath and the two of you float on a singular thought, on a shared breath.  This is what I want.  But if my body can't handle the deep seat of dressage, maybe I just want a good horse.  Maybe I could do little local shows where we ride Western and English.  We could trail ride.  We could try archery on horseback (ummm, yeah, I found this yesterday and WANT WANT WANT to try it.  I'm ignoring the fact that I'm still nervous just riding and haven't shot a bow and arrow since I was 13 and had to do it in gym class.).

Do you have big goals for your horse?  I'm not talking about daily, weekly or even year goals...I mean, do you have an overarching GOAL for you and your horse?  Does your barn support multiple disciplines?  This is another thing for barn is an eventing barn.  Period.  You can just ride the dressage portion (which I am right now) but NOBODY rides Western or goes to other shows that are not dressage or eventing.  Do I need to know what I want to do with my pony (besides the obvious equipment question...)?  


  1. Oh this is a regular one for me! It's almost worse being at a barn that supports multiple disciplines because there isn't even an atmosphere to keep me from wanting to change lol. Mostly these days it's the debate about quitting reining and concentrating on western pleasure. Although what I really want to do is sidesaddle. Oh I want to so much! This whole topic will probably be an upcoming blog because it's getting to that time of year where it's making me crazy.

    I've competed huntseat, western, dressage, saddleseat. I've even shown in harness. I like all of them. But they are all so specialized these days I know that if I want to compete I need to specialize, too. I wish I could do like my mother always said I just go have fun with my horse and forget this horse show stuff!

    I'm sure there is a dressage saddle out there that suits you, so not to scare you, but I do have a friend that for medical reasons had to give up dressage because she could not ride in the saddles. She ended up getting into reining.

  2. I think goals help you see the forest and the trees, where you have been and where you are going. Since I keep my horses at home and mainly ride by myself having big goals keeps me focused. I have ridden and shown in different disciplines, right now we are perusing eventing but since money is an issue I am not as single focused as a lot of my friends. We get to lessons and shows when I can afford it but also spend a lot of time trail riding, swimming in the river and messing around bareback.

    For me it is about my relationship with my horse and how much fun we are both having, sometimes there are those rides that suck but in general I have a blast with my little mare.

    Injuries are frustrating but I agree it to soon for you to write off dressage, maybe have two days a week where you "work hard" and a couple "play days", that might be a better schedule for your body right now then forcing it to work hard everyday.

  3. Insomnia girl here. Lol. For me it's the exact opposite. I had friends that showed Arabs native costume and saddleseat and that's all I wanted to do. I bought a little mare who didn't do ANYTHING. We settled on huntseat and hopefully western in the future. For 10 yrs I was focused on my goal of her being a show pony. For a couple yrs she just sat.

    Now I pasture board on a wonderful private road with 3 adjoining farms. Everybody does something different. And I just ride. We ride in the creek on the trails in the arena sometimes. I have bought a dressage saddle and a bareback pad. We've learned to jump cross rails and cross water. And we're having a blast. I've noticed that both of us have relaxed. Fun shows, hunter paces, clinics, and maybe an overnite ride are in the future this year.

  4. I board at an eventing-specific barn. You don't have to compete (or necessarily jump), but it is one of those places that requires X number of lessons (or training rides, but everyone does lessons) per month, so a certain amount of on-the-same-page-ness is in practice required. I totally get why that would not work for some folks, but it's a feature, not a bug, for me. Means that I can't guilt myself into skipping lessons when money gets tight, and cuts out a lot of the drama that seems to occur at some barns where people are going in all sorts of different directions and possibly some folks are a little unsafe. We do indulge in some extra-curriculars and everyone is pretty supportive of that.

    I am uber-goal-oriented in my hobbies in general, but not a big believer in committing to big grand-scale several-years-out GOALS. I get how that keeps some folks motivated! But for me, that's biting off more than I can chew, and allows too much room for error. A goal for me requires that I can see the path from here to there, and can actively and concretely work towards, with a reasonable expectation of successful achievement even if there end up being a few bumps along the way. If there's too much wish-and-a-prayer in a dream, it maybe lives on my radar in the vague soft-focus distance, but I don't work towards it consciously, and generally don't talk about it out loud.

    For example, I would like to go Prelim with Tucker. I started thinking it about a year ago, but we weren't solid enough at Training at that time for me to discuss the idea with anyone. Last season ended really well; I could see the springboard from there to Prelim after most or all of another good season at Training. So I mentioned it to a few friends, and then I discussed it with my coach, and I understand what we need to do in order to get there. So now I have X steps to accomplish, and Y improvements to make, and I roughed-out timeline (maybe this September; more likely 2013). It's possible that something could go wrong and derail the plan (temporarily or forever) and that's understood, but it's real enough to be a goal.

    On the other hand, I would also maybe like to someday go Advanced, or ride upper-level dressage, or complete Tevis. But to do those things, I will certainly need a different horse (or seven), and a different financial set-up, and basically a significantly different _life_ than the one I have now. It might be possible, but I can't see the route from point A to point B and I can't (or am not sufficiently motivated to) work specifically in any of those directions. The size of the goal, if I were to make one out of any of those, would be overwhelming. Too big to get my head around. So I work towards what I can work towards for now, and then at some point in future (it's always worked this way in the past) I will pick my head up and there will be another goalpost materialized a little farther down the road, and I will work towards that.

  5. I think that dressage training lends it's self well to just about everything. My QH and I have done quite well at recognized dressage shows (70%+)and hope to make our 2nd/3rd level debut this year. We also have buckles and ribbons in english pleasure, english equitation, western riding, western horsemanship and reining (all at local levels). Our dressage background makes us contenders at just about everything...
    Goals are important. I have 2 GRPs who will hopefully go FEI dressage someday. My QH and I have the goal of PSG... Someday.If it happens, great, if it doesnt, at least I tried.

  6. Thanks for everyone's comments. It's interesting to see what everyone else does. I think that maybe I need to intersperse our 'goals' with some fun days where we just screw around.

  7. Moon and I *currently* are focused on Dressage b/c we want to show just once in my life and we kinda suck at everything else ; ) (total jumping chicken here). But long term? I want to gallop over wide fields and just LOVE riding him. Probably a bit like you, I want to mess around with local shows and every discipline. EXCEPT mounted archery. I'm an avid archer, but pretty sure if I tried on horseback I'd shoot Moon in the ear... ; )

    Try everything once. Who cares if no one else is in a western saddle? Inspire them!

  8. My barn supports EVERYTHING it is so nice theres always something different to do and something to learn about all the different disaplines. When i started riding it was for pleasure, then to jump, now for G we are going to go into dressage and are looking to start competing next year :) Goals are forever changing :) i try to just go with the flow.