"Continuous effort - not strength or intelligence - is the key to unlocking our potential." - Winston Churchill
This is a quote I find particularly inspiring in the light of the weekend I had. On Saturday I went to the Fork to watch the upper levels in the CIC Horse Trials. I came home more inspired and determined than ever. I wrote the other day about how I feel I am starting to scratch the surface of building a partnership with April. The last few rides have only continued to reinforce that thinking. On Saturday we had a hack down to visit Kelsey, and it was the first hack out alone in a long time. April decided to spook at a few things and plant her feet a few times and refuse to go forward. But we worked through it, step by step; made it to Kelsey's, and then finished the ride with some amazing conditioning work out by the power lines. She is starting to build enough strength that she doesn't try to break into the canter while going up hills, and I am staying in better balance which keeps her from misinterpreting my seat as wanting her to go more forward. We were in perfect rhythm, up and down the long steady hills. And of course, I had to hop the ditch before we left. Sunday afternoon brought a short but sweet dressage school, and then a walk out in the open to keep Susan and Bongo company. It still takes me awhile to get it together on the flat, but once we get there it is SO much easier to maintain. I am looking forward to building on this more and more by the day. Just like the quote - continuous effort. I don't have to be naturally brilliant when it comes to riding - which, admittedly, I am not. Years ago, a trainer told me that what I lacked in natural talent, I made up for in stubbornness to figure it out. I am stubbornly applying myself on a daily basis to becoming a better rider, a better horseperson, and a better person altogether.
The week also included trying out a new farrier. This was a really tough decision, because I tend to be fiercely loyal, mostly non-confrontational, and slightly resistant to change as well. But for a conglomeration of reasons, we moved forward with the decision. I had an amazing time during the appointment. I learned SO much. This particular guy is really passionate about teaching, so I learned a lot about medial lateral balance, different perspectives on trimming for difficult cases like Samson, and everything in between. We were discussing the suspensory issue at one point, and when I told him there had never been any core lesions found on the later ultrasound, he turned to me and told me that he LOVES pony club people, because they are so informed and intent on learning the full spectrum of horse management, rather than treating them like 1200 pound pets. It is inspiring and encouring to hear someone of his experience and expertise acknowledge insignificant little ME as someone embarking on the journey of becoming a well-rounded horsewoman. I have infinite amounts of things to learn, but in general, the thought process and the desire is there, and everything else tends to follow suit. To hear this acknowledged by another person that I already have respect for is so encouraging.
So then of course, something has to follow up that encouragement that would rattle my confidence a hair - Samson spiked a scary fever the same evening. A call to the vet confirmed our choice to use oral banamine to address the fever, as well as choices on how to manage it through the night. Of course it would be the one night of the week where the temperature dropped to 39 overnight. Nevertheless, I was curled in the corner of his stall off and on all night, huddled in a pile of turnout sheets and fleece coolers trying to keep warm. At 1 am it dropped to 100.9, and FINALLY, by 6 am was down to 99.9. I nearly cried with relief. And then promptly realized this was the first time any of my horses had been sick. The most I have ever dealt with on my own horses was an abcess. I didn't realize how scary it is to have them sick with something so unknown and unpredictable. I am still counting my blessings that the bizarre fever of unknown origin has disappeared and not returned...
So on to the Fork...I went up with my good hunter princess friend, which was so much fun - mainly because she has never been exposed to the full realm of the eventing world. We had a blast, and I had brought my camera to shoot the cross country phase. We watched the 2* from spectator seating, and I was quickly annoyed to find that it was really difficult to get good shots with my minimal zoom lens and ropes and whatnot in the way.
So before the 3* started, I took a gamble, and walked down to the water complex to ask an official if I needed a press pass to shoot right down there in the midst of the action. She responded that she really wasn't sure, but I was welcome to stand there and act like I knew what I was doing - at least until someone discovered me and made me move; which thankfully never happened! After that, I chatted up the USEA photographer, who was sweet as could be, and Whitney snuck down to pose as my assistant and have a good view as well. Shannon Brinkman, who happens to be one of my equine photography idols, showed up a few minutes later. I knew she was surveying me quizzically, wondering who the strange girl with the tiny Nikon was, and what the heck I was doing down there....let's put it this way....my lens was about a fifth of the size of anyone else's there. But by god, I was going to act like I belonged, and before long, we had our little routine down. Everyone shot the combination of tables, then swung around to the water to catch the drop and corner. At one point, I literally had lenses to my right and over my head so we could all catch the best angle. I was joking with Shannon about how she needed to copyright the yoga poses she kept throwing out in order to catch all the different fences and angles.
We had horses galloping by within inches of us - so close you got sprayed with little droplets as they came out of the water complex. Riders that have been idols of mine since the time I was a KID went right by me, close enough that I could see the looks on their faces, the excitement, the determination, and pure adrenaline that carries them through such a tough phase. It was inspiring to say the least, and I came home with a whole new respect for the riders as well as the horses, who are such amazing athletes and competitors themselves.
That is my last few days in a nutshell. I have over 1200 pictures to weed through, which I will hopefully start on tonight. In the meantime, I want to share two blogs that I found particularly inspiring this week. The first is my trainer Kelsey's blog. She doesn't write often, but when we were discussing a blog that was insulting the sport of eventing, she felt the need to say her piece as well. The second is Robyn's blog, who I found particularly exciting this morning as well. She is making huge strides with her horse, and it is inspiring to see their foray into the eventing world.