Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Change is gonna come

A few years ago, while I was still in corporate I sat down with a friend over a few drinks. As we chatted away they had asked me what I wanted to do, obviously knowing I was, despite good paycheck and vacation days, unhappy with my then-present situation. I don't remember much about the conversation, but it involved a lot of mention about changing.

2014 was one of those seasons that involved a steep learning curve, it was my first year as a professional, it was my first year out of the traditional corporate structure, it also involved in a lot of letting go, and finding out what needs to be done for the future. In short, it involved change.

Change is funny that way, you don't see it coming but, it's always happening. I really don't think I would be pursuing what I'm pursuing if this year had not happened the way it happened. I'd still be planning Florida with the pony and Haiku, I'd still be involved with Reba. Haiku and Flair I don't know if they would be even in the picture. Germany would be a non-entity. Whether you call it luck, karma or anything else, I do feel that I'm doing what I've meant to be doing; and despite all the upheavals over the past 12 months, I'm alright with things.

Part of that is very much due to the team, sponsors and ownership behind the horses. Pennfields, Rood and Riddle (Dr. Laurie Metcalfe and Dr. Ashley Embly), SunShine Meadows, A&G Investments, CORE Therapies, Rosanna and Carey Gage, Noble Spirit Stables, Equissentials Breeches, and many others who coaxed, cajoled, and flagged waved along the way.

Truth is, I've only really accomplished two goals for 2014. Which for who I am, is really frustrating. There was so much I wanted to do this year.  But in honesty, this year reached more towards the overall goals versus the month-to-month, year-to-year things. I'm looking forward to 2015, and the string of horses I have.

2014 Goals:
1. Start Gold Medal. Be schooling the majority of GP.
No. But before Sinari's semi-retirement, we were schooling all the canter tour of the GP, minus 15 ones (she batted off 9). My plans for the USDF Gold are temporarily shelved for a variety of reasons. First being my FEI horse was decidedly not going to physically hold up, and secondly, after seeing a few of my professionals pursue, and received their's with barely-pushing 60 percent (with the ambition that they will be successful at CDI level with current mounts), it gave me new perspective on what kind of quality I want to be known in addition and the fairness aspect of pushing a horse that far. It's still on the goal list, but it's going to be more about the right time, right place.  

2. Have national rankings on each horse. End up in the year end awards for All Breeds and at minimum be qualified for regionals.
No. With Sinari out, and Danzador experiencing intermittent, bad-timing cellulitis and Flair being barefoot and pregnant, all competitive goals were not met. By the time Haiku came onto the scene, the year was over. 

3. Increase fitness (human and horse).
Achieved. I go to yoga two to three days a week between riding horses. I plan on adding more cardio in 2015, but yoga has given me a lot of strength and body awareness in the tack. Only downside of it is that I have to shove myself to the studio, which isn't as habitual as going to the barn. Plus some bonus items that allowed me to work through some mental garbage. All my horses were fitter (well, Sinari got fatter, Flair became more pregnant-y). Even Haiku is pretty fit as a two year old, Danzador, up until he was sold could do a solid trot set and canter work. 

4. Expand clients, horses in training, and investments that are capable, at minimum of shining on the national stage, also continue to remain fiscally solvent.
Achieved. I expanded my clients and investors. Fiscally speaking, it ended as a good year. I had a few horses in training earlier this year, but they and their ownership wasn't the quality I was wanting to represent so they were sent home. I picked up regular lessons, in addition to some work for a few eventers that need help with their dressage. I also received opportunities to go abroad and work, and began thinking about the long-term quality I want to be sustaining and what stage I want to campaign on. 

2015 Goals:

1. Expand clients, horses in training and investments that are capable, at minimum, of shining on the national stage and continue to be fiscally solvent. 

2. Continue to increase fitness (human and horse).

3. Pursue the young horse track. Develop horses for the USEF Young Horse Championships alongside the USDF Breeders Championships with the aim of looking toward Verden. 

4. Dedicate personal educational opportunities once a quarter with my coaches (in a non-clinic capacity) to keep developing. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Everywhere I Go

First, thank you all for the well-wishes and support. After the last post, the phone, Facebook and my email filled up really quick with support and good tidings for the upcoming trip. A few close readers even sent some wool knit products as a surprise, which is beyond generous.

All of this was actually rather unexpected.

I've always kind of done my own thing. Notoriously, sometimes stubbornly and stupidly have gone my own way. I don't expect support because I was raised taught you do what you feel is right, and often times, it means going against what is popular or what other people feel you should do. The support comes at a time when I'm transitioning from the image of being the amateur / organizer to a professional rider. That one image has dominated the conversation all year, and breaking with it while still keeping parts of that identity, such as the organizer part, is tough. So when people actually flag wave and support, it's a very pleasant surprise.

Right now, there's a lot of holiday bustle at the barn and trying to finish up the last part of the year. Haiku is working three days a week, and going swimmingly. She's doing very well for herself and maturing quickly into lovely dressage horse. She is talented, and is very reflective of her pedigree gait-wise. When she gets more strength and maturity she's going to be much like Gal's Undercover, not uber flashy, but very much a power horse.

Sinari has been back out walking and keeping company with Haiku when she hacks out. Recovery is slow, as are all things when it comes with being older and tendons. At this point we put the idea of lease on hold until she's fitter. She's the same as ever, chipper, but five laps around the arena and she's pretty winded. I can only guess what her resolution is going to be in the New Year.

Flair's drop date has been set, she will be here shortly after the new year. I wish we could have shipped sooner as I would have liked to had more time with her before leaving, but there will be plenty of time after I get back to continue the relationship.

The big news is that Danzador has been sold, but will remain close to home (actually, same stall, same facility) as the other half of the ownership has obtained my share and now owns him outright. He truly is a lovely amateur's horse and should be happy being spoiled.

Cleaning has also being going full throttle for my departure.

I dumped my tack trunk out and sorted through all the odds and ends. Gone are the old, outdated, half full bottles of God-know's-what, evicted is the last of the summer laundry, gathered items in for repair (those five muzzles will be reinforced...), halters that were too destroyed were tossed, those that looked salvageable went in, took home the quarter sheets, the fleece and knits for washing, monogramming to go with the girls. Even the feed bins were wiped, labeled and sterilized.

In are the fresh supplies for the girls for the three or four months I'll be away.

Shampoos, soaps, liniments, a 90 plus day supply of feed and supplements, fresh supplies of medications, clean pads, rags, standing wraps and fresh sponges that aren't harboring strange new life; topped off spray bottles,  and put back clean brushes. Everything has been Sharpie'd, taped off, tagged or monogrammed so none of it would be lost or "confused" with other items.

There's still a few more things to purchase. Like bungee cords, a wash garment bag, a new trash bin for a separate type of feed, a few locks, and maybe if they're on sale- box fans.

Things that aren't going with the mares, or won't be used, will go home.

Thankfully, the human side looks easier to pack, as all the laundry from the prior trip was stuffed into the laundry basket as soon as I got home. But even then there are bits and bobs everywhere. Taking a chapter from my running friends, I went to the Under Armor outlet to get some base layers. Also, thankfully SmartPak was having a sale and I found a pair of nice schooling gloves and liners so I don't experience bleeding fingers again (or being cold).

My leave date has been also appointed as well, I'm officially out January 12th, with the Haiku leaving on the 31st. Sinari will be staying field boarded through winter.

Which makes planning a show season a little tricky and with the focus on the USDF BC's it means hauling, and with one, maybe two qualifiers around Kentucky and Ohio, it means also making sure the truck and trailer are in running order when I come back.

I also sat down with my students and began developing their plans for the 2015 calendar. One part of me wants to stay and push their development more over winter, the other part of me goes, I can't develop them unless I come back more developed. It's a tricky Catch 22.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Your stairway lies on the whispering wind

It's been close to impossible writing this post and so it's been kind of quiet here.

I've tried so many drafts each kind of close but not really right. How do you break news that will very much alter your world and your perception of it?

After two successful back to back clinics with Mary King, I hopped one more flight. This time to the Netherlands. It's been awhile since I've been, and last time I travelled there, I was much younger and there for different reasons. 

The trip actually started in August when I saw everyone's plans for Florida. 

I love Florida.

Who wouldn't? It's warm, it has all the major competitions within a four month span, plus prize money. You're neighbors with top riders, who you can extend your education with easily. The selling market is pretty good, in addition to all the fun social stuff that goes with the temporary office space and socially starved riders.

I, like many other riders worship at Our Lady of Palm Beach come January. The last winter being the bad exception to that streak. This year, I was unsure of where I was going to end up. My rides are very young, 2, 5, 4 and 15. Sinari doesn't need to go down to the fishbowl, neither do the kids. I was left facing some choices including an eternal winter to face and not a whole lot of riding or teaching if winter turned south. 

I thought a working student position would be a good idea. But being over qualified and 30 against 20 something's has its own set of issues. Time was running short, everyone was confirming their plans and I felt very much stuck. 

During a few conversations my mentors and friends suggested I expand my search, knowing that if I went after anything less than something that would have a good ROI in terms of network, learning or career advancement I would be terribly angry with myself. 

That search lead to Holland. 

I went over not expecting much, if anything I was expecting the comments to be along the lines of nice, but American. 

So, I rode, worked, drank coffee, rode, worked some more, showed up and kept my head down. 

By Tuesday I found my routine, and I stuck to it. By my last day, I found myself at home with the head riders helping me through some sticky areas.  I barely know anything in another language, and while lonely, horse in any language creates a common bond. In a short week I received an eye opening education and came away with more things I wanted to do than have time for. 

Before I left an offer came through for a barn in Germany and, like in 2002 when I received my first acceptance letters to University, I felt like I took one huge step to put myself forward into my career. 

So, in short, I will be riding and campaigning in Europe for the winter months. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Spark of Madness

I grew up incredibly awkward as a child.

Attending public school, I was the odd kid out who did the weird sport and often spent lunches in the library so I can avoid the cafeteria, which was pure terror (they still scare me, never know where to sit). I never attended a party. I went to bed at 10.

My social life was devoted to two things: school and horses. School was alright. I did my work, got reasonable grades, and for the most part, had really wonderful teachers. My second school, the barn, was also pretty cool. I also grew up in an old school professional's barn, where children are seen and not heard- it was tough, but gave me a lot of the essential tools that I still use today.

I was a barn rat ala working student. I spent every possible moment I could there. I read everything about horses, I rode everything I could get my hands on. I researched, participated, volunteered, and I dreamed that someday I would dominate the large European eventing tracks (Badminton was my favorite). I was very cocksure around a horse, around people, not so much.

It took me a long time, and an entire business to learn to reach out to people, even at the fear of rejection. While I don't harbor a single desire for clearing solid obstacles, I still have an overseas ambition. My people skills are vastly improved, and I'm not a wallflower.

When I turned professional, I faced a huge amount of challenges. I felt I wasn't enough.

I wasn't ready enough to impart what I had learned, so I shunned teaching for a long time.  I felt  I wasn't good enough for investment horses or training horses, so I stuck to my basics- quietly buying, breeding and selling for myself. Thinking that I made it to the holy grail of Grand Prix I would finally get fulfillment.

15 years after I graduated high school, I was back at the cafeteria wondering where to sit and debating if there was a quiet corner in the stacks to eat a sandwich while I read a book. Who would want to take a lesson with me, or why would anyone plunk even a dollar down for a nice horse for essentially a no-name can ride? Or who would train me consistently?

I essentially lost my way.

I was begging for a corporate job by mid-year. I wanted to run back to the safety of the doldrum office, comforted by business casual dress and clinging to my stacks of emails, settling for a consistent paycheck, happy weekends off and late nights schooling my herd.  Knowing it would be the death of whatever happiness I built up leaving corporate America to begin with, but still, it was a safety blanket.

I lacked confidence in what I was doing.

Combined with a rough show season, situations happening, being around drama llamas- people who breathed for conflict, and having a blasé routine (wake up, work out, ride) it pushed my perception of my world around.

Then things started to change. I picked up some extra work for another trainer, I have a regular local clinic I teach, the other side of the business of sales, improved, picking up Haiku G and having a drop date for Flair was a relief. Sinari continues to mend, Danzador continues to improve.

So, as I end my first year of living off the corporate grid, and being a professional I find myself again moving and breaking out.

I'm incredibly thankful for my students and clients, but again I find the same fear of settling has started creeping in as winter approaches.

I have one more trip on the docket for this year that will hopefully prove game changing. I feel though that my luck and my time is stretching a tad thin at this point with back to back successful clinics and good investors this year. But nothing ventured, nothing gained.