Tuesday, November 15, 2011


There comes a time in every equestrian's life where you have to make that crucial decision. That decision on what horse you will ride or own and what disciplines you want to pursue and whether or not riding is a sport that you should continue to participate in. This decision is built on a myriad of factors, your skill level, your background, how much life do you want to have outside of your horse, your comfort level, your economic situation, your family, etc. etc. etc. I feel like I've made this decision more than most.

And each time my decision has remained the same: Continue. The first time I had to face this decision was about 4 years ago when I came off a horse and broke my back. At the time it happened, I was paralyzed from the waist down, no movement, no feeling. Thanks to fantastical medical advances and lots of physcial therapy, I was able to regain a good portion of both feeling and movement, but I have been left disabled. I limp, I have a lot of difficulty controlling my lower leg when riding and I have minimal feeling in my lower leg. I was banned (by the doctor) from riding for 9 months.

Obviously, I was at a point where I didn't even know how well I was going to be able to walk, much less sit on a horse and feel comfortable and actually ride. I don't remember ever questioning my decision to ride again. I cheated and started "riding" at 7 months and by riding I mean I tacked up my 27 year old pony, hauled myself up on her back and sat on her, sometimes we went for a walk. I saved the trotting for the actual 9 month mark....

My biggest decision here was what to do with Bastian. I had only owned him for 2 weeks when I broke my back. He was an untouched 3 year old. He was my event prospect. He was basically the last thing that I needed in my current state, a baby thoroughbred. I wrestled with it, but decided I had a strong enough support system to get him trained. What could I say, I really loved his personality on the ground. And that decision has turned out well, he isn't exactly the dressage horse I would have hoped for, he is made to be an eventer, he loves to jump. He lacks some experience but he love love loves his job.

Anywho, I've been pretty gung-ho about pursuing this whole eventing thing. Bastian has been jumping like a champ and I've been holding my own. The last two weeks have been jumping intensive, leading up a Hunter Schooling Show on Saturday the 12th. Last week got out of hand schedule wise and I ended up only riding on Sunday and the Friday before the show. This frazzled me. I had planned on entering the 2'-2'3" division.

My lesson on Friday started out mostly good. I was still pulling back too much, trying to go too slow up to the fences, but we were working through it. We changed a x-rail up to a vertical and were cantering up to it, Bastian gave it the wonky eye. I committed to it and got a bit aggressive with him and he responded by jumping it HUGE, which wasn't so bad, but then he sorta twisted to the left and when he landed, he took off left while I continued to the right. You don't need a science degree to figure out that I hit the dirt. I had the moment of panic, which ended once I actually hit the ground and all I had was muscle/bruise pain, nothing broken. So I have to say that I was happy, even if I didn't actually look like I was happy. LOL

My fall wasn't anything more than lack of experience and bad luck. Bastian wasn't really being naughty, I actually rode correctly by getting aggressive and saying "yes we are jumping this." It was bad luck. Kristin got on him and schooled him over the fence a few times, then I got back on and I tried to get her to lower it back to a x-rail for my first time back over it, but she refused (and that folks is quality instruction!) and I had to take it as the vertical. We did so and he took it beautifully. So the lesson ended well. I did what I had to do to get through the lesson, I blocked as much of my fall of my could from my mind and tried to ride without fear. Didn't work out super well, but we managed, so therefore it was successful.

But later that night, as I was shopping at Giant Eagle for some yummy alcoholic beverages (because that is always the answer after a fall from a horse provided you are old enough!) I felt like I was at one of those crucial decision making points in my life. Am I making the right decision in continuing to pursue jumping? Yes or no?

Common misconception says yes. Why? Because people believe that jumping is more dangerous than other equine sports. This is not true. Ignorant people make ANY discipline dangerous, not the discipline itself. The three times I have been majorly injured (broken ankle, then my back, then my hip) I was jumping a x-rail, dismounting, and jogging on a trail ride respectively. All three were accidents that really did not have a reason for turning out as badly as they did, it was luck (bad luck at that). The majority of horrible riding accidents happen when equestrians are doing mundane things, not the "supposed" dangerous things. Why? When we are doing the things percieved as dangerous we're being more careful, so we are usually quicker to make corrections and adjustments so we don't get hurt.

Secondly, as equestrians we have to realize that we are dealing with 1200 lb animals that have their own agenda and no matter how much we love them, they are stupid (except Bastian of course, he's super smart...lol!) Falling off, getting some bruises and scrapes is unfortunately part of the business. If you can't accept that, play Tennis, or stick to your super safe Wii. Riding is dangerous, accept it or don't ride.

So after a lot of thinking I decided that I was making the right decision. I'm most likely going to come off over a few more fences as Bastian and I work this out and get to the level I want to show at. Its not gonna be easy, but anything in life worth doing is difficult. I still want to continue to pursue my dressage goals, but I cannot imagine my life without jumping. I love it!

So I put my big girl panties on we went to the Hunter Schooling Show on Saturday. Bastian was a dream. Kristin schooled him over everything first, we didn't want a repeat of me hitting the dirt because he was a little squirrely. We had three great rounds, taking home a 3rd and a 6th place in two of the OF classes out of about 15 entries. Here is a video of my last round, the only one we caught on tape. Not sure what happened with my camera, it came out super grainy/blurry, but oh well, I have evidence of his awesomeness! (Not to mention that I was wearing my lucky Banff Socks)

I rode dressage on Monday, which was awesome, I hadn't sat in my dressage saddle in about 3 weeks :) So lots of happiness there! And I jumped the B-man today, there was a lesson going on so I got in on their jumps and we did a x-rail bounce to a one stride vertical (like 2')and he was AWESOME! He hit his striding perfectly and I really focused on keeping my hands soft and keeping my leg on through the grid. It was wonderful. I felt nervous the first time the vertical was up, but Bastian never questioned it, we were able to stay soft and it was soooooo cool, he was really jumping over the last fence, snapping his knees up and everything :)

Thats been my last couple of weeks. Next show is another Hunter Schooling Show at Chagrin the first weekend in Januaryl, we're aiming for the 2' division....keep your fingers crossed for us!

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