Those of you who follow this blog, know about my on-going struggle regarding my dressage future. An incident based on misunderstandings happened about two weeks ago which forced me to make a decision.
Yes, I've been wishy-washy about dressage riding ever since Gailey could no longer be shown. One minute I was quitting, the next I was going to buy a new horse, the next I was leasing a schoolmaster. I wanted to give it up, but I didn't. Partially because it's what I've always done. Partially because I've left so many goals unearned.
I'd been half-leasing the schoolmaster since September. For various reasons--some of my own creation and some out of my control--I rarely rode him more than once a week. In December, I informed my trainer and the owner that I would not be leasing him any longer if I couldn't find a way to ride more often. They both convinced me to stick with it. A month later a friend of mine started half-leasing the horse with me. That caused an interesting problem. Along with her half-lease and mine, another person was also riding the horse one day a week in lessons. That didn't leave any leeway if I couldn't ride on my three assigned days. I asked the owner for a swing day by taking priority over the person who rode in a lesson once a week. She has another horse anyway, so she was just riding him to learn the upper-level movements.
At this same time, the person who was half-leasing wanted to full lease the horse. The person riding one day a week didn't want to give up their day. Based on a few conversations, I believed the owner was going to allow the other rider to full lease the horse. Without going into details, it all culminated in many of us jumping to conclusions and making assumptions that may not have been accurate. So I gave up the horse and my lessons. I was a little upset at all involved.
The horse's owner realized she might have given me the wrong impression and offered to work with me on the lease. The trainer wanted me to keep taking lessons. I realized I'd jumped to conclusions which weren't exactly accurate. But for once, I'd made up my mind. I stuck with my decision, and I told them so. While they were both sorry to see me go, I hope they understood.
Once I'd made the final decision to give up lessons and the lease, I experienced some feelings of grief, though not as intense as I'd expected. I've been taking dressage lessons without a break since 1984. I've had a showable horse since that date also. It's strange not to go to the barn after work or feel guilty because I didn't go to the barn. I now have very little in common with my dressage friends, and the majority of my friends I met through dressage. For years, dressage was where I spent my time, energy, and money.
Now I'm not doing that. Part of me is sad.
Part of me is liberated. I'm free to go home after work, putter in the yard, spend money on clothes, take the $500 a month I was spending on the lease and lessons and pay off some bills, spend more time writing novels, and make friends who aren't in the dressage world.
So while it's the end of an era, it's the beginning of a new one--one that will always have horses in it in some form or the other, but perhaps not as high of a priority as before.
I'm not totally closing the door to dressage riding and showing, but I don't see it in my future at this time. This year will be my year of spreading my wings and concentrating on other aspects of my life. While I'm a little forlorn, I'm also excited about the possibilities.
You have done a lot of soul searching and heavy thinking. I find decisions like that so difficult to make, but once made, I always feel relief and I enjoy the energy I can then expend on something else.
It will be interesting to read about what the future brings to you!
Jami, Like you, I recently took a different path veering away from my writing, which has been part of me since 1982! I have not regretted it.
Good luck and since you have an open mind, something will come along that seems just perfect!
Jami--I felt a lot like you when I gave up competing at team roping--fourteen years ago. A bit sad, but still convinced I was ready to let go of it (for a lot of reasons). But I can tell you for sure that it was the best decision I ever made. I enjoyed the years I spent competing--like you, all my time and spare money went into it, all my friends were part of that world. I don't regret those years at all, but...I am so glad I let go of it when I did. The freedom to do other things, to enjoy my horses in a relaxed way, just to be more contemplative and putter around the garden and the barnyard (as you say) has meant so much to me. I ride two or three days a week, usually, but I don't worry if I don't feel like riding. I enjoy my horses as much or more than I did when competing. Its been a really lovely stage of my "horse life" for me.
I hope you, too experience this pleasure, and feel just as positive about your choice as I do about mine.
Horses are such an investment, in both time and money, and showing is even more so. Then, as you mentioned, there's the feelings of guilt if you don't ride, because of all the money you're spending. Stepping away from that - for a month, a year, or forever - can be a good thing. You may find yourself coming back to it one day, or you may find you simply want to ride with fewer expectations. It sounds like it was a tough decision that you made, and I certainly understand your sadness, but I hope you find peace with your decision.
It's amazing how much we define ourselves by our activities. I felt the same way when my daughter decided she wanted to try school. I realized a lot of my resistance had to do with me defining myself as a homeschooling mom. It's a transition when things change, but you also open yourself up to other possibilities.
Jami, of course you're sad, it's a huge thing to give up when it's been a part of your life forever. But you know, I quit for seven years and thought I'd never get involved with horses again. When I think about it, I didn't even miss it when I quit, it was a really a big relief (it was after a bad riding accident). Quitting riding left me space to do other things (it's when I started writing). When the time was right, horses came back to me, in ways that have been better than ever before. No matter what happens, you will be fine. The right things will happen. Sending you lots of love.
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