My Time as a Working Student

I feel like the role of working student can mean a lot of things.  In some cases you ride, in others you chase school horses, sometimes you teach, sometimes you run the office.  It’s one of many grey spaces of a job in the equestrian world.  My time as a working student really began when I was 13, I was desperate to spend more time at the barn so I agreed to come help tack up lesson horses on Saturdays.

I was there rain or shine.  Snow or blistering heat.  One day a week turned into two, into three…Later that year, I was introduced to my heart horse, partially (in my opinion) because I had proved that I was in it for the long run.   After that my role slowly expanded to more, and more riding.  First it was just a very long hack where I would attempt to wear down one particularly jazzed up school pony before his beginner got there. Ricky Then it was an adult beginner who often didn’t make it out there-his gelding needed a quick ride.  A mare who needed exactly 11 minutes of trotting for her rehab…and more just kept working out in my favor.

The teenage me thrived on every second at the barn or in the saddle, and it only go better and better.  My trainers would shout out instructions as he walked by the ring, or give me mini lessons while I was hacking out horse 1 or horse 2.  I learned to water an arena without covering myself in mud.  I knew every way to wrap a horses leg.  I was a horse show pro.  I could tack up a hot-headed jumper mare in the pitch black morning and toss my trainer aboard without thinking twice, all while still holding onto the other horse he’d just gotten off of.

 

Eventually I found myself riding 2 sometimes 3 horses a day, and often doing jump schools on both client and sale horses.  I rarely got tossed off, but racked up an impressive list of other injuries.

I never complained.  I never really remember hurting or being sore.  I remember the obsessive love.  And the pride that came with knowing and riding almost every horse in the barn, from Prix jumpers to Arabian ponies.  While far from being our best rider, I was scrappy and devoted.  That counts for a lot at the end of the day.

I would split my day into parts.

  • Arrive/water horses.
  • Muck stalls.
  • Feed horses.
  • Turn out horses.
  • Check arena.
  • Check water.
  • Ride #1.
  • Ride #2/3 (one of which would usually be the one I was leasing)
  • Check stalls and toss more hay.
  • Prep lesson equipment.

This was all done usually by mid-day.  Usually done in tandem with trainer, barn manager, or barn staff.  It was still a lot of work for a 15 year old girl, but I thrived on it.  And my riding improved in ways I can’t even describe.

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When I graduated high school I remember being terrified of leaving for college, but not because of leaving friends; because I knew that my time as a working student was over.  In the career I wanted, I doubted I would ever be that deeply involved in a show facility again.  And I was right.  Now, years removed, I realize that it’s okay, because I took all that I could from those years and those skills continue to help me daily.  I would not be the person or the rider I am today without those opportunities and experiences.  And I’m eternally grateful.

Sucker punch 

Last week being an equestrian was too hard.  Laugh all you want, but it was a bad week.  I got sucker punched hard in my personal, and professional worlds.  And instead of handling it like an adult, I curled up on my couch and went to sleep.  Horses fell off my radar entirely.

In fact, when I started pulling myself back to normal life, I was doubting my sanity for even wanting to be involved with horses! Who in their right mind would take on giant injury prone animals who eat money on top of all the other stuff I’m supposed to be doing.  I started to think about all the ways that I could cut ties, and how I would get rid of my stuff.  I thought about the money I could be saving.  I wonder about all the grey hairs and anxiety I am bestowing upon myself.  In short, ladies and gents, it was just too hard.  Every instinct in me flared up and told me to jump ship.

Now that it’s a new week.  And I’m feeling less like a worthless piece of poo…I understand that last week was a breakthrough in some ways.  Now I know how easy giving up would be, yet here I am, still pushing on.  That has to account for something.

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I need to remember that some days, it just isn’t going to work.  Does it mean I should scrap the past 15 years?  Probably not.  I don’t have my own horse.  And while I’m hoping Dee continues to be a great ride for me, it’s really a month by month commitment.  So I can go ahead and calm the frack down over that too.

So cheers to realizing once again that I’m not superwoman (dammit); that none of us are, but we are doing the very best we can.  Even if that means it’s too hard to horse some weeks!  It’s not always rainbows and sunshine.

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Getting to Know You…

…getting to know all about you!  Or rather Deedee.

In the first month of my lease I’ve learned quite a bit about this little mare, and had a really good first few weeks as a pair.  Like awesome actually.

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Fatty mare can fancy prance

Having something nice to ride, enjoy and who doesn’t give a rats about what we do everyday is great.  Want to walk around the property and play in puddles.  Dee says sure.  Want to work on upward transitions?  Dee says sure.  Let’s jump today!?  Dee says, which one is first?!   She just does her job, and is happy about it.

Some fun facts:

  • She’s still got a little too much junk in the trunk, the saddle slips badly.  I had to get off twice to reset my saddle in my last lesson.
  • She hates the wash stall.  As a horse whose owner tormented her with roughly 1000 beauty sessions, I have no idea how this mare still hates baths. Or maybe I just answered my own question?
  • Deedee is barefoot and I love it!
  • Because she’s on a fat pony program she had to switch turnouts.  She is not taking it well, and still screams for her friends almost 2 weeks later.

 

  • She gives zero rats about the baby stroller  or my squealing, screaming occasionally slapping infant.

 

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Horse on one side, baby on the other.

  • She jumps a bit like O did.  Very round. So at least that part feels old hat!
  • She goes around like a much, much larger horse.
  • She drools ALL THE TIME.  Oh my gosh.  Such a mess everywhere we go….Drools.
  • Thanks to an idea from her owner, she has her own hashtag.  #DoubleDee.  Ha!

So the first month is in the books.  Cheers to month two!

Where Are We At?

First thing-thank you to everyone who left such kind words on my last post.  This community is one of a kind!

Anyway, I realized today that while I finally have rides to report on, I suddenly have no time to actually write them.  Kind of ironic eh?  Better planning is on my to do list.

So where are we at?  I’m still basking in the fact I have nice horse to hop on and enjoy.  Demelia has been nothing if not sweet, and good natured as I figure her out.  We had our first lesson, a mostly flat ride with lots of critique on my riding.  As I mentioned before, she’s very broke and the biggest issue is keeping her going.  Which means my bad habits have no place to hide.  Yikes.

Spent most of the ride trying to straighten my inside shoulder (and look less like a hunchback at the canter) and allow my wrists to give without opening my fingers.  The struggle is real.  Also, who knew cantering over 4 poles on the ground could be so hard?

As for my other rides, it’s just been a matter of getting into a groove again.  Figuring out what actually needs to stay at my locker at the barn, or what treat might lure DeeDee into coming to me in the field.  The little sausage comes when her Momma calls her–not so much luck for me as of yet.

The best things so far regarding this half lease, is the fact that one night I had to go out late due to things like a baby, and work, and laundry, and life.  I hopped on Dee and we took a perfect stroll around the property.  Just enjoying the fabulous weather and being able to ride.  We are so lucky to have these types of moments!

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And basically the rest of my life was consumed with binge watching the Olympics.  I’m still dealing with the withdrawals.

The Tailored Sportsman Challenge

This post won’t be filled with riding details and pretty ponies posing for the camera (I guess it hasn’t for awhile?) so feel free to get out while you can, if lamenting over body image issues isn’t your thing.  Really this post has been an ongoing journal and personal journey for myself in the months following my daughter being born.  It is entirely too many selfies in my opinion, sharing these images makes me very nervous, but I want to remember.

When I got pregnant one of the first things I thought about was “oh no-my poor body!”.  Because like it or not, growing a baby is hard on you.  And apparently I’m vain.  While I was pregnant I experienced lava-like heartburn, swollen hands (and feet), and the usual body aches.  Still, I was active as I could be, riding in my 6th month, and eating well.  After everything was said and done, and for transparency’s sake, I gained over 40lbs.  Like maybe 50.  Or so.

That’s a significant amount of weight in my book.  Big baby (over 9lbs+) or no big baby, I had a long ways to go post-partem.  Pre-baby I was an easy size 30L in almost everything, including my favorite pair of tan Tailored Sportsmans.  What I know about myself is that I have to be held accountable, so my goal has always been to be able to fit back into the riding clothes I already had.  Hence, my TS Challenge was born.  I was always told it takes 9 months to grow the baby, it takes 9 months for your body to go back to normal.

Exhibit A: 9+ months pregnant (100% cooked-100% done with the whole thing)

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Please ignore toothbrush and bathroom clutter.

I went into labor a day or so after this picture?  The joke was that it was my last work appropriate outfit that fit around the bump.  Hence, I was determined to have baby before the next work week.

Exhibit B:One week post-partem. (always brushing my teeth)

I spent the first few weeks looking at my baby, and then looking at myself…and trying to figure out how I still looked so pregnant!  At this point I was excited to choke down some food between cuddle sessions with baby girl.  Activity  was switching from one pair of sweat pants to another.

Exhibit C: 2 Months post-partem.

Actually feeling like a human again, and seeing bits of my body filtering back into place!  I was surprised that I actually even gained weight in my legs somehow?  While still a bit body sore, I was finally figuring out how to sleep and function on a baby’s schedule.  Better food and more activity are finally coming back into the life order.

Exhibit D: 3 Months Post-Partemimg_1890

I was more comfortable in loose clothing usually, as my body was still shrinking and was making me feel soft!  This picture was super scary for me to post at the time, but now I look back and realize that it’s the time frame I feel I started to feel like myself physically. Thank god for the awesome Noble Outfitters tights for giving me some support/confidence.  My face was finally less swollen too.

Between months 4-7 I really didn’t feel like there was a lot of change.  My body felt better but didn’t look much different.

Exhibit E: 7 months post-partem (in Romhf size 30)

While I could squeeze into these Romhf size 30’s, it required some dance moves to get them buttoned and it really felt tight across the tummy still.  But yes-they went on.  Small successes!

And finally, exhibit F:  8 months post-partem.

No, I don’t feel the same. I have a hate/hate relationship with my “new” bust line, but I do feel like I have made a huge transformation in 9 months.  I really tried hard to not stress; letting the weight letting come off naturally with good food, and being active.  I think more saddle time lately has really helped.  Overall though, I feel strong, fit and it translates well into my riding.  Plus there is a certain pride in making that change in yourself!

Goal to fit into my old size 30L tailored sportsmans?

Exhibit G: 9 months post-partem

Success. And that feels so good!

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Half a Horse

There are things that I’ve kept off blog because:

1. It’s personal

2. It’s not set in stone, and things change fast

I’ve been playing with my budget and really toying with what I want long term.  A new horse is a huge commitment, and to a certain degree my life is too crazy to think of bringing in my next dream horse home right this second.

But.

You know I couldn’t just sit around right?

So thanks to some amazing friends, my great trainer and the husband of the year, I now have a half lease in place.

Half of this horse to be precise.

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Shhhh….A wild Deedee in her natural habitat.

Demelia and I have gotten to know each other a bit over the past few months, and like I mentioned before, I had a big ole crush on the little sausage warmblood.  When the situation worked out that she needed another consistent rider, and I was dying to find something to ride…well it’s a match!  The lease just kicked off, and both of us are going to be cardio-ing up for the first few weeks to get as fit as possible.  The mare is by far the most broke, and trained I’ve ridden consistently since high school, so I’m really excited to see what this partnership will bring.  And really?  Just look at that sweet face!

 

Blog Hop: F*%K Yeah!

I love seeing this fantastic blog hop going around, and wanted to share even if I’m a bit late to the gate!  From Beckz of I Will Jump Sweet Jumps…”there have definitely been times when you were like omg I am such a gangster at this. And I wanna see those pictures. The ones were you looked at them and went f%*k yea I am a bad ass horse rider.”

Showing up the day after the worst show ever, and riding my ass off. F*%k yeah!

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Riding on the ranch with the hubs with my favorite spotty boy.

Learning to turn and burn with the best bay boy in high school.

 

Because we were so cute together and survived her first show away from home.

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About 6 months pregnant, still riding this lovely warmblood.

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Back in the saddle 2-3months post-baby. Didn’t die=f*%k yeah!

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Oh and another from the olden days…holding on for dear life.Erv training

Cheers to many more moments like these!