cooling off

When Murray first decided I first realized that Murray needed to be retired, I was interested in getting a new horse right away. Interested doesn’t even cover it, really. I was desperate. It was like I didn’t know what I would do without a horsey project to call my own. When I went to see that horse back in December (who ultimately didn’t work out) I had spent plenty of time stalking him online and was already imagining what my life would be like with his fabulous show name. I found all of his old sale videos, watched his current sale videos relentlessly, and when he didn’t work out, I was back to scouring the internet, looking for a good deal.

a certain extremely cute pony’s begging behavior is so firmly ingrained that he even begs for treats in the field

It’s a good thing that horse didn’t work out, because the reality is that I didn’t have the money for another horse just then — not the cash up front, and not the cash flow to pay for all the horsey expenses. And I’m still not in the financial or work position where I’d feel comfortable taking on a full-time horse — owned or otherwise.

In January when I posted about my thoughts on future horsey-dom, I had come to terms with the fact that I didn’t really have the money for a new horse yet, but I was still medium-key bummed about it. Sure, pony lessons were fun, but I couldn’t help but think about how much progress I could be making with my new horse in that time. And also heavily window shopping for said horse in the mean time. If a great deal had fallen into my lap in March, I don’t think I would have turned it down.

Murray was never into selfies pre-retirement

More than six months down the line, I’ve no longer got my-own-horse FOMO and I’m very glad I didn’t rush into anything with a new horse. Completely ignoring the money issue — I think we can all take that limitation to its logical conclusion — there are so many things about my current life that make horse ownership impractical. Especially green horse ownership! The glaring issue is the time. All that time I spent driving back and forth to California would not be doing my new (inevitably green) horse any favors. Even when I’m home, the farm isn’t exactly a low-key and undemanding job. I’ve spent more than a few days sitting in the truck or on the tractor for eight hours at a time, doing water runs, prepping fields, checking trees. And those are absolutely not things that I can just ditch to go riding (unlike constantly skipping out on writing up my thesis, lollll).

Also, if I’d bought a horse right after retiring Murray, you bet I would have rushed into it somewhat. Like, sure. I had a list and all that, but I’m also a sucker for a cute face and even more of a sucker for a good price. Emotionally/mentally compromised Nicole is not necessarily logical Nicole — and who knows how much TrJ would have been able to hold me back. That would very possibly have led to me being in a Murray-like position again because I think horses with a lot of “personality” are super funny and adorable. But it could also have led to a not-so-great fit between me and the horse, and then I’d be in the position of trying to sell a young, green horse. Which I know would suck. It absolutely would have led to me being back in the position of riding a green horse and trying to teach a green horse the basics of connection and dressage and jumping and not in the position to grow my skills where Murray and I left off. If I had my own horse, I wouldn’t have the lease on Timer right now.

me with every cute horse I see on the internet: I love you so much and you will be mine

Ultimately, this cooling off period was really good for me. I would never have asked for it at first, but I am so glad it happened. Time really was what I needed to chill out, but having great horses to ride in the interim certainly helped. At this point, I’m completely willing to wait on horse buying — for 6 more months, for a year, for two years — I’m no longer in a rush at all. My new dream situation is to pick up my second horse while maintaining my lease on Timer, so I can keep building my skills on T while new horse settles into the routine and gets with the program.

A few months ago, I was worried that not having my own horse would expedite losing my identity as a rider and someone who loves to learn about and improve my riding. But I’m not worried about that any more. Clearly I’m able to fit riding into my weird and wacky schedule given enough horsey enough flexibility. And even if riding isn’t my seven-day-a-week-all-day-at-the-barn-whenever-I-can-make-it-work hobby obsession of 2014/2015, that doesn’t make me any less able to work hard and grow in the time I do get to spend there. I’d love to get back to riding every day or even multiple horses a day in the future, but it’s just not in the cards right now. And that’s way more okay than I realised back in December.

more idyllic trail rides in my future, please!

bay ears again

Back in February, one of the ladies at the barn (J, not to be confused with Trainer J/TrJ) floated a really interesting idea to me at TrJ’s birthday party. J and I were talking about her two horses, and she said she needed to find a leaser for her gelding now that he was back in full work, and then said “you should lease him!”

who would not want to play with this adorable snoot

I was just a month into the pony lease at this point, and didn’t want to offend my new trainer further (after the offense of having to deal with Murray while I was gone in Australia) by dumping her pony for a lease that doesn’t really benefit her. Plus, I was deep into being poor and having not very much time, so I wasn’t in a rush to make any changes. I told J as much, and she thought that was totally reasonable.

As the pony and I continued to work together, and I accumulated a bit more money, the full-size-horse bug came back. Sammy is awesome, and he’s a ton of fun. But riding a pony is not the same as riding a horse, and there was always a part of me that felt like I would struggle with showing him even at BN. Maybe it was totally mental — 2’7″ fences do look pretty big from the back of a 13.2 hand pony — but I just felt weird about taking him out and galloping him XC. Plus, my ability to grow my skills at Novice were definitely curtailed with the pony. So when J and I talked one day about my concerns with showing the pony, she asked again if I wanted to lease her gelding. And I was definitely interested.

the forking cutest

We figured out a way to present this idea to TrJ in the most appealing way possible, and luckily for us, she thought it was a good idea too! So in mid May, I got to swing a leg over this adorable brown lug: Timer. (The pony has not been abandoned, he’s enjoying a full lease from the kid who half-leases him during the school year.)

he has the sweetest face

Timer was pulled from the track by TrJ when he was 8, after racing nearly 50 times and winning around $40,000. (Which is actually not a lot of money for a horse who spent so long on the track.) T took a long while to adjust to being off the track — he was strong and opinionated and liked things to be just so. J bought him a few years after he came off the track, and with TrJ did much of his training. Timer and J were competing at training level when he injured his suspensory (about 3 years ago, I think). The tear itself was straightforward, but the vets were not optimistic about his prognosis because Timer hated stall rest and behaved very poorly in there. So J opted to throw him out in pasture and just let him do his own thing. Three years later, he’s healed up and back in full work, but J has a second horse and not enough time for both of them. Which means that I’m lucky enough to get to half lease him!

also cannot wait to tackle our 1200m gallop track with him!

It works out perfectly for both me and J. She’s busy, and I’m flexible. If she can’t make it out, she just lets me know and I’m happy to make the time to ride him. If she wants to show him, it’s not a big deal for me to cancel a couple of rides, and she’s been great about giving me extra time on Timer after a show. If I want to show him, she’s happy to have me get him out! J is really super encouraging and very excited for me to take him out to a show. It’s kinda a half lease dream, honestly. I am SUPER excited.

Timer is quite literally the nicest horse I’ve ever had a chance to ride for more than one or two lessons/pony ride type things. He’s basically a Novice packer, and J is working on getting him back up to Training level this year. He’s particular, but he responds really well to good biomechanics and good riding. And TrJ knows him inside and out — literally all I have to do is what TrJ is telling me, and I can fix any problem on him. T is a quirky fixture at our barn — he’s talented and funny and fast and well known and sweet and sassy and awesome. I can already tell that I’m going to learn SO MUCH from him.

a pasture full of brown horses

I’ve only had the chance to ride a handful of times so far, but I LOVE sitting on this horse. HE GIVES ME SUCH A GOOD FEELING. For real. There are times he’s a bit strong or it’s clear that my cues are not the ones he’s used to, but time and lessons will fix that. And he is a fabulous ride. He’s comfy and feels fancy and despite being particular, is actually pretty easy as long as I don’t do any weird shit or pull on him all the time. I’m sure I’ll be humbled very soon, but for now, he’s perfect.

You know when you’re a kid (or a teenager or a young adult or whatever) in a barn, and someone else gets given the lease/ride on the nicest horse in the barn or your trainer’s favourite horse? (And maybe you’re kinda jealous and butthurt because why wasn’t it you?) I’M FINALLY THE ONE WHO GETS THE RIDE THE FAVOURITE HORSE! And it is awesome.

feeling a titch smug