For the past three years, I have tried to get down South for some spring training.
Two years ago, I ran out of money.
Last year, I ran out of time.
And this year, life happened.
Each time, I hang my head and resign myself to longer road hacks in the freezing cold while the arena sheens with ice. Each time, I throw the heavy weight on my mount while shoving hand warmers in my gloves. And each time, I admit that I will not be ready for that first event in April.
And I get so frustrated.
Frustrated at myself, frustrated at life. Frustrated with the consequences of my decisions, and frustrated that I feel alone in this predicament. I watch videos of 18 year olds who are funded by mom and dad galloping in the Ocala sunshine. I see photos of amateur horses under the tutelage of 5* riders for months on end. I watch as others progress up the levels while I feel myself remaining stagnant. And I feel jealousy, anger, pain, abandonment. Alone and like no one else understands. Even though in my head, I know so many are worse off than I and that no ones path is perfect.
And I just don’t know how to change it. Alter that route. Reroute the outcome.
A couple of months ago, I sat talking to the mother of a friend about life. It had nothing to do with horses, but simply family, friends, and everything in between. The last few months had been filled with what felt like landmines in life, and I just didn’t understand why these catastrophic things were always within my life. When would the illnesses end? When would everyone I loved be healthy? When would everyone I loved be happy?
I lament about how life was unfair, how it was tougher on some more than others. How I felt at times like the bricks were stacked against me, and that I felt like there was no other option than halting and staring, or pivoting away.
And she told me something that stuck.
I can’t change the cards I have been dealt, but I can change how I play them.
I can’t control my situation in its entirety, but my situation surely isn’t the worst, and I am far from the worst case scenarios.
So I brought this idea into my lesson last week, when my trainer had finally arrived back from sunny Aiken.
She asked if I was entered in Spring Bay, and I said no. Again, life would get in the way. My best friend was getting married that weekend, and standing beside Amy on the biggest day of her life certainly trumped running around the first event of the year.
She asked if I would be able to get to Aiken in April or May and I said that I hoped so, but that I needed to start my research projects before I would know. The life of a scientist is tricky, and moreso, the life of a researcher who studies equine reproduction is unpredictable. I wouldn’t know if my mares were foaling until merely hours before they did. But, my impact on the future of equine reproduction was more important than schooling some XC fences.
So we talked. About how little of a spring season I may have, and what this could mean.
More importantly, how this wasn’t the end of the world, and how I could still have a great 2019 without it.
Because during our talk, I realized something.
Every year, I get so frustrated with myself that I try to come out hard in the spring. I enter all of the shows, and demand that we be ready to “move up” in some way or another. Whether it is finally tackling that elusive preliminary event, or getting to 1.20m in the jumpers. Whether it shifts to that bronze medal, or even just in doing a hunter show. It’s always changing, and its never worked.
I burn out by August, and I usually end up with a September and October that amount to nothing.
The months when the weather is the best. When my horse is his most fit. When I am my most ready.
And more importantly, six months away from now. A time the has time.
I don’t need Ocala or Aiken to get to the fall. I don’t need an indoor arena to prep for those shows. I don’t need excessive money to keep kicking along through the summer.
Six months away sounds plausible. Six months of long summer days, intense lessons when I can afford them, and smaller prep shows.
And maybe more importantly, six months of fun.
Fun that sounds exciting. Six months of hacks with my girlfriends. Six months of soul soothing flats sound great. And six months of exciting XC schools with my best friend Mak sounds even better.
We can’t avoid life.
We can’t demand more time.
And we can’t control the next big expense that pops up.
But we can control our outlook on these things. We can choose to not be defeated and keep our heads up. We can reroute the roads that lead to there and redo the plans. We can readjust our expectations and rerun the list to get there.
More importantly, we can decide to keep it fun.
And at the end of the day, isn’t that what got us all to this place? A love of the creatures that we chose as partners and the time we spend with them. The thrill of galloping down to a big table. 1, 2, 3 and over. A perfect leg yield. A square halt. Finally getting that change, and finally keeping that left leg on.
But also, finally squeezing in that hack as the sun sets. Getting to the barn at dusk when it is quietest and you are all alone. The only noise being horses happily munching on timothy and happy breaths of cool spring air.
That should be enough. And that doesn’t cost any money, will be there at any time, and is so essential to life.