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The Fringe Eventer Blog post # 9: When Life Hands You Lemons....
When Life Hands You Lemons....
As the old adage goes, you are supposed to make lemonade. I can clearly recall the first time I heard this saying. My first, out of the starting gate response was to change the scenario. That’s just how I roll. I remember thinking that I would trade my lemons for limes, dig around in my kitchen for some tequila, drag out the salt and make margaritas.
You see, sometimes when life gives you lemons making lemonade means just working with what you have. I, on the other hand have always tried to think and live outside of the box. Why settle for lemonade? Why not trade up? Why not improve on the recipe?
Currently broke, I have been madly mixing margaritas by riding horses that do not belong to me in lessons paid for by the owners. Score! It’s a winning situation for both of us. I get to keep my skills fresh (sometimes on fresh horses) and the horses stay on their regular schedule. I call it the Rent a Ride program. Only I’m not the one paying. Okay, maybe I am paying today considering I spent this weekend riding three different horses, which are at very different levels of experience and getting kicked by one of them. I hurt in places I can’t recall having. Yeah, okay I am paying.
Such is the case of the porse – think cute like a pony, but barely a horse – I rode on Saturday. She is young, a mere 4 years of age, but has the wisdom of a horse three times her age, and oh boy is she fun. This weekend I rode her in a lesson with Hilda Donahue. My lesson with Hilda was as usual, spot on and I left her gorgeous Ashmore Equestrian Center feeling as though my riding ‘toolbox’ was full of useful tools. You see, instructors can tell you the same thing over and over again, but unless you are proactive and try to use the tools you have already combined with the tools they give you I’m afraid as a rider you will simply not go anywhere fast. While that might work for some riders, it is not for me. Think margaritas!
As adult amateurs we have most likely taken our share of lessons, some of which have been paid for with our birthday money, cash found in the laundry, or bills removed surreptitiously from the grocery budget so we need to make our lessons count. Most instructors I have met, while they don’t mind helping us and getting paid for it, they often tell me they get a little frustrated saying the same thing to the same horse and rider combination over and over and over and over again. Most reputable instructors want you to succeed. They want you to have tools in your toolbox that you can pull out and use when they are not around. They want you to be able to improvise when they aren’t there to hold your hand so that you will improve.
That being said there is nothing quite like being corrected by an Irish accent perched on a fence wearing pearls and a smile. Some of my lesson was a reminder of the obvious. For example, in her lovely Irish lilt Hilda said, “and when you lift your eyes we can move on.” DUH! I am not getting invitations to join the USET team, but I know that I know that I know not to look down when riding. So does Hilda. We both laughed at the hilarity of me paying her to tell me to do something I know. In this case I clearly left that tool in the toolbox the moment I mounted.
Also, she reminded me that with a young horse that bulges the shoulder out on a circle I can gently lay my whip against the shoulder as a reminder both to me and the horse to mind where the shoulder is placed. It helps to reinforce the outside rein. When done correctly it can be as useful as using a fence, rail or solid object to keep the bulge from – well bulging. This was a tool I had forgotten and I ended up needing it the next day on a squirrelly mare that bulged out in the canter.
I added yet another new tool to my box this weekend. This one from my Hilda lesson was the acronym STAR. As she put it, everyone wants to be a star. Am I right? As a writer I love a 5 star review. Someday I would love to have the nerve, talent and luck to complete a 4 star course (not a 5 thank you!) STAR stands for Stop Thinking And Ride. I love this tool.
So being the over 30 (snicker!) adult amateur how do we go about keeping the tools in our toolbox? How do we keep from losing them? How do we even remember what is in the dang box, especially with everything else going on in our busy, chaotic lives? For me, I tend to write stuff down. I do love to write. Sometimes I’ll even put little notes on the fridge in my tack room so every time I reach for a cold drink I am reminded of just what I am currently working towards. Occasionally after a lesson I will jot them down quickly before I forget. You can also start a notebook and break down your tools under different headings, such as dressage or jumping. Once you use a tool often enough it will become second nature and won’t rust in the box.
However you choose to use or remember your tools, the important thing is to keep an inventory so you know when your husband has stolen your favorite hammer you have the knowledge and can retrieve it for use when necessary.
And as I’ve said before ride, ride as many horses as you can from as many levels as you can. A schoolmaster can teach you things that a green jumper cannot. But, the coin can easily be flipped. Swap horses with a friend for a joint lesson. It will open your eyes. Every horse has something to teach you and they can not only highlight your weaknesses, but also bolster your confidence by allowing you the opportunity to whip out a tool from your box and use it! Oh the joy you will feel when you know just which tool to grab.
Remember, life is short. We do this for fun. You are on your own journey. Don’t let your toolbox sit empty. And best of all, when all else fails you can use a saw to cut through a lime if you get desperate.
Here is a picture of me on the porse, earlier this month, channeling my inner William Fox Pitt. Sorry I don’t have action shots. Either I’m the only one around and there is no one to take pictures or we are just so mesmerizing that everyone forgets to take them for me. I’ll work on that.
Ain’t she just the cutest!
(My friend on the porse and me aboard my aircraft carrier)