Being an equine professional was always my dream, but as I grew older and had to face the reality of making enough money to eat and live, I had to make some tough choices about what I was going to do. I choose not to support myself solely by profit off horses, boarding and training, because it allows me to be able to make more ethical choices.
When you are living off ramen and working 14 hour days, how easy will it be for you to tell the person trying your sale horse that the horse might be a bit too much for them? Will you be able to tell owners that their horse still isn't ready to compete or move up a level even though you've been working with it for X months (or years)? Will you be able to resist throwing that horse that's just a little too skinny an extra flake of alfalfa even though the owner doesn't want to pay for it? There's very very little money in this business and you will have to ruthlessly nickel and dime your clients in order to be successful. You will need to have the business sense and fortitude to fire bad clients (which includes horses that may be too difficult or destructive, even though they have nice owners). Horses get hurt, colic, die, behave badly, etc. You will have to be able to deal with these situations as well as be strong enough to counsel other people through them. You will always be working, the work will never be done, and you will have to be "on" when other people are off work (after 5pm, all day on weekends, etc). If you live on site, you will never be able to take a sick day, or even veg out at home while clients are on site without them thinking you are lazy/rude/etc. This is just the tip of the iceberg....I have a BA in English and an MBA. I have a small boarding farm w/ 10 horses. My husband and I do all the work on the farm and and also both work a 9-5 jobs. Even though we both end up working 12-14 hr days I thank god for my office job every day. It allows me to have enough money to feed my horses well, continue to improve my farm, compete, take lessons, and even take the occasional vacation!
This season started off at Feather Creek horse trials, where things didn't exactly go as planned (really...do they ever?).
After such a nice run at Champagne Run at the Park, I decided that Stromboli was ready to move back up to the Preliminary Level, so we entered Feather Creek Horse Trials.
I decided to try a new warm-up routine at this event --NO WARMUP AT ALL. Shocking, daring, and controversial. I actually did warm him up a bit at the walk and did a little trot since our test was at 7:37AM and I didn't want him to be stiff. He trotted beautifully around the arena, even allowed me to sit the trot, and I thought for sure I was in for a beautiful test. What a surprise, he entered the ring like a drunken fish, did a mini-rear, and then was resistant and tense for the entire test. But we got through it. And I wasn't disappointed or tired and didn't spend hours preparing for this stressful event. We got a 47, slightly better than the usual Prelim score.
With dressage behind us, we headed to a tough looking stadium course. Luckily I have no idea how tall 3'7" really is, so apparently I've been jumping much higher at home and the course didn't look huge, but was quite complicated. We did exactly what my coach would have told me not to, and came in with not enough energy to the first jump and tapped the rail. He was great through the rest of the course, but I mis-read the last fence horribly and we also tapped that one. Two rails down! Not great, but not horrible!
The cross-country course looked ok, although a few combinations seemed nearly impossible, especially an ABC coffin with a HUGE wide ditch in the middle and a very tight turn to a narrow C element. The water also had a very large duck with a steep drop into the water. I will have to write an entire other post on how big my fear was going into this course, but all of it vanished the second I left the start box. Stromboli absolutely sailed through the course. I don't think he missed one distance, he never once fought me on any turn. The ABC coffin rode perfectly. I felt like I was riding a Rolex horse as he dropped into the water with perfect form. He handled the HUGE square tables by taking off at the perfect place and jumping a good 6" over them. I had to slip my reins to give him his head to get down some very large double drop banks and came upon the right hand turn to the corner with no right rein at all, but he turned off my left leg/left rein and jumped it right out of stride. I stupidly veered off the trail at the wrong place at one point, costing us probably a good 10 time penalties. I am still kicking myself for that air headed move, but he was right on my minute markers until that point and I know we could have come close to making the time if not for that stupid maneuver. We were one of only two people to finish the course without jump penalties!
With the time, rails, and really bad dressage, we ended the weekend in 3rd place. But the placing didn't even matter. I completed another prelim, and did it proficiently. No scary jumps, no near misses, no hanging on and hoping for the best, just a really nice honest ride. There's no better way to say it than to quote Michael Jung, "He gave me a really good feeling out there!"
Adventures eventing as a semi-pro in the mid-south.