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.