Sunday, February 21, 2010

Pondering My Future

Many years ago, as a college sophomare at Washington State University, I read about this horse sport called dressage in my friend's Practical Horseman magazine. I really liked the part about being one with your horse and how it's something you can do for a lifetime and keep learning.

Intrigued, I started "English" riding lessons at a local barn. In my part of the country, you don't see English saddles, let alone ride English. So after six months of weekly riding lessons, I asked my instructor if I could learn to ride dressage. She laughed and said that was what I'd been doing all along. Thus began a life-long pursuit of dressage.

I've always had it in the back of my head to ride Grand Prix, even better to show Grand Prix. After a series of inappropriate and/or untalented horses, I took my little Morgan/QH to Prix St. Georges. I never showed him at that level, but he did all the tricks.

My dream was to own a warmblood, but the money was never there. When I turned forty, we refinanced our house, and I had money to buy a nice horse. I bought my current horse, Gayliena. Everyone loved Gailey. She was talented, though difficult because her tendancy was to go downhill and run. Over the years I had several offers for her, including trading me any horse in my trainer's barn for the mare. But I kept her. Over the past few years, the very thing that made her comfortable to ride started to be her downfall. Her pasterns have a lot of give in them and her suspensories were stretching. Regardless, last fall we were mastering all the movements for 4th level and Prix St. Georges. She already knew more than I did, as I kept her in half training with my instructor. I was even considering showing next summer.

Then came cellulites. I won't go into the details here. You can read my old posts if you've missed them. Unfortuantely, my mare is one of those horses whose swelling isn't going down. Her leg is twice the size as normal. The swelling has stayed the same since December, despite the vet's and my efforts.

I've had a few lessons on her. She seems shockingly sound and unaffected by the big leg. In fact, she's sounder than she was before this issue. Yet, she can't really do laterall work because the big leg gets in her way. I can't help but thinking that she's uncomfortable, even if she doesn't show it.

I'm at a crossroads, and I don't know which way to go, or if I'll even get a choice. There is no money for another nice horse. My husband and I did an addition on our house last summer which ate up our expendable income. I'm facing the facts that my life-long dream of riding Grand Prix dressage might be dying a slow death. What do you do when faced with the reality of losing your dream?

I've been dealing with coming to terms with the inevitable, if it is inevitiable. It's not just the riding, it's the barn atmosphere, the friends I've made, and the exercise I get all year round. Is it the end of an era for me?

Do I breed the mare? Lease her to someone to breed her? Keep her at home for a trail horse? If I do breed her, do I really want to wait for four to five years for a horse to ride? These are my delimmas.

My biggest delimma is starting over or not starting over at all. Do I give up when I came so close? Or do I find the joy in trail riding? So that's my story.


Shanster said...

I'm so sorry to hear about Gailey. Tho' i know you are glad she is still here and comfortable. (my caps key gets stuck - sorry)

it is a hard mental road to face about what to do when the door closes (or is slammed shut) and the answer is probably only one you can answer.

keep your eyes and your heart open, sometimes opportunity presents itself in the most unlikely places.

i wonder this same thing from time to time about my mare and i don't know the answer.

my trainer's mare who she was doing one tempi's last summer suffered a devestating injury which will hopefully leave her pasture sound - tho' she isn't out of the woods yet and i see my trainer really suffering thru this issue of a plan or dream being snuffed out and having to move on.

I understand breeding can be almost as expensive as buying a horse in the end - with all the training and time that goes into them along with breeding fees.

And with babies comes the question about soundness and injuries from the dumb things they sometimes do as they mature...

I don't know the answer. I hope a window opens and another path presents itself that makes this loss a little more bearable.

My thoughts are with you -

Laura Crum said...

Jami--That sounds like a tough spot to be in. I gave up competing for trail riding, but it was a choice I wanted to make--it wasn't forced upon me. I have had the experience of losing the use of a good horse, and I did go ahead and find another horse I could use (I retired the injured horse). But this isn't always an option. If you can afford to keep Gailey and take care of her, in today's horse world there seem to be all kinds of opportunities. Perhaps a horse you can show will come your way--in a way you can afford. I've found (I know this sounds dumb) if you ask the universe to bring you what you need, it will happen, though often what you get is not what you thought you needed--but it turns out its the right thing. Or that's been my experience, anyway. I know this is probably not much help, faced with the frustration of your situation. I'm glad Gailey is sound, though. I hope the right path opens up and you feel some clarity. Not knowing may be good for us (so I've been told), but it isn't very comfortable. And having our horses get hurt is always hard. I'll hold good thoughts for you.

little K said...

I second what Laura and Shanster have said. My thoughts are with you and I hope you find the answers you need. I don't think in this situation anyone can tell you what to chose. I do however know what it feels like to have your dreams crushed. When I decided to go to school instead of continuing on with my riding career I was decastated. I had resigned my self to at least 5 years without horses. Then with some good timing, luck and a big leap of faith I finally bought my first horse last year. Its tough and I never planned to own a horse while going to school but I'm so happy things have fallen into place. I guess what I'm saying is someimes the outcome is not as bleak as it appears. You never know what tomorrow may hold and even if you chose to put your grand prix dreams on the back burner you never know when the situation will turn around. If you don't feel ready to abandon your grand prix dreams don't. I think dreams are what keep us going when bad stuff like this happens.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear about your mare's big leg. We had a big mare who had a big leg (28" circumference at one point). She lived and worked with it for a few years, and we put her down 2 winters ago. Do what's best for your horse's comfort, and keep your heart and eyes open for a new partner to fulfill your dreams. There are so many horses out there and finding one is easier than breeding. Also, if your mare's cellulitis is anything like ours was, please don't breed her. The circulatory and weight bearing issues of carrying a foal to term are enormous. Again, I'm just so sorry for you and her.

Linda Benson said...

Jami - I do feel for your dilemma. It's so hard to know the right road to take sometimes, especially when it involves giving up on a dream. I'm glad your mare is traveling sound, at any rate.

I think if you still want to ride and perhaps show in dressage, you should continue to pursue that in some fashion, even if you don't buy another horse. And as others have said, there are many horses out there and maybe a good opportunity will present itself. Maybe leasing, or riding someone else's horse, or finding another talented young prospect?

I know with springtime coming on, people get in the mood to breed their mares. But with the overpopulation of horses being what it is, I would think a good prospect could be purchased so much more cheaply than breeding and raising and waiting for one (because even with breeding you never know for sure what you will get.)

I have found my dreams have changed as I've gone through life. At one time I wanted to ride the entire Pacific Crest Trail on horseback, from Mexico to Canada. Alas, I know now that will never happen, and that's okay. Other good stuff has come my way, that I'm very grateful for.

I hope something wonderful, Jami, whatever it is, is waiting right around the corner for you. And for Gailey. Good Luck!

Monica said...

Did you have her insured for loss of use?

HorseOfCourse said...

I'm so sorry, Jami.
To have health problems with your horse is tough, but to have health problems after years of dedicated work with a talented horse is a heartbreaking experience.

Finding a horse that have GP potential is not easy, and does not come cheap. At all.

To take a horse to GP have many similarities to win at the lottery, I believe.
Even if you are lucky enough to keep your horse sound through all those years of education and building strenght, still many talented horses don't make it to GP.

The making of a dressage horse takes so long time, and so much patience and dedicated work.
I can very much relate to how you feel Jami, and I will keep my fingers crossed for you.
Hang in there, and don't give up on your dream.
Maybe Gailey will recover?

stilllearning said...

Adding my sympathy. It's always tough to decide whether to stick with what suits the horse (especially in unplanned changes of course), or to change horses and follow the original plan.

I second the opinion that breeding is not an efficient way to reach your GP goals.

It sounds like Gailey could be an amateur's dream horse, maybe someone who is aiming at a lower level?

It's a tough call.