Although it hasn’t been a year since starting this blog (March), it seems appropriate to reflect on 2016 as a whole. Many friends and fellow bloggers have posted their recaps and I feel obligated to do the same.
I began 2016 with the intention of checking endurance riding off my bucket list with Nakai. While most equestrians have a horsey bucket list, some things are reserved for heart horses. Doing certain items on my list with Nakai is imperative to me, if for no other reason than to share the experience with the closest thing I have to a soul mate.
- April – we attended Foxcatcher at Fairhill and completed the 25 mile LD (limited distance) in rain, snow, sleet, and whoosh wind. It was by far the roughest ride weather-wise I’ve eve done. Nakai completed with A’s and B’s.
- October – we attended Mustang Memorial and completed the 50 mile endurance ride with all A’s.
[The last loop of Foxcatcher]
[Mustang Memorial ride card]
Bridesmaid obligations and Kevin fixin’ took priority this summer and was the main reason I did not attend more rides. I moved in with Ben in early March, and home renovations also took a large chunk of time and money out of the equation. We accomplished so much – finished the kitchen, painted the garage, built a reading nook, replaced both rocker panels and cab corners, and had my truck repainted (to name a few).
Despite all this, I was able to get Nakai fit enough to successfully and safely complete 50 miles, figured out his hydration and have enough training rides for me to feel comfortable attending Mustang. I have never had so much fun and Nakai has never looked or felt as incredible as he has since we began endurance riding.
[So this is what 25 looks like…]
[At Mustang Memorial, rocking the old man roaning face]
Some acquaintances have whispered behind my back whether my decision to endurance ride Nakai is a wise idea. Mostly, concerns stem from his age (25), and I can understand that. For most horses, 25 is old! Conditioning Nakai was a 2 year long process that I took slow and conservatively. The people who have gossip lack two major things: they don’t understand endurance riding (nor the extreme care we take of our horses), and they don’t know Nakai. Endurance riders take all aspects of their horse’s health into consideration – from hydration to metabolism, heart rate, pulse, recovery time, and soundness to name a few, the horse needs to be in incredible health to endurance ride. Nakai sees the vet no less than 3 times during a LD ride (more if at an 50 mile ride). They will not let you start if your horse is not healthy or sound enough to do so. I am also fortunate to have Mechele as a mentor, and she was crucial to helping navigate my first ride season.
In addition, you cannot create an endurance horse out of one that doesn’t want to. I shouldn’t even have to say this, but an endurance horse has to love the trail. They want to go. They love the game, the competition, the challenge of technical terrain, and they absolutely love going to new places. There are all things Nakai loves to do. A horse that is afraid outside of the ring or one you have to nag down the trail will not be a successful endurance horse. There is no point in forcing a horse into this career – it isn’t fun for anyone! Nakai would not endurance ride for me if he didn’t also enjoy it.
These people don’t monitor their own horse’s health half as well as we do, and they consider a 40 minute ride in a perfectly manicured ring a few times of week to be real work. I don’t bash other disciplines (as I have done many) but I do chuckle at their assertions.
Other goals for this past year have been extremely personal and are focused on my internal growth and cultivating a life I love. In that respect I have done well: I have continued to flourish in an interesting career that allows me to pursue my interests and hobbies, and my private life is incandescently happy. Perhaps most importantly, I have the space and respect to be unabashedly me. I am fortunate to have met some incredible people, and I removed irrelevant friendships. The only dark spot of 2016 was losing Jake. After 20 years with him it feels wrong not to have him in my life. I miss him every day, and words cannot describe the hole he has left in my heart.
Plans for 2017 aren’t much different.
- Attend Muckleratz with Nakai
- Work on lightening up all of my cues and Nakai’s responses; the long term goal is to be to successfully ride tack-less
- Continue to simplify my life and chase everything that excites my heart
Material goals are boring – Ben and I want to tackle renovating what will eventually be our master bedroom and update our bathroom, perhaps even adding another. We are toying around with vehicle upgrades and I would eventually like to purchase a trailer.
[My reading nook]
[Our finished kitchen]
These are necessary evils but in no way contribute to my overall happiness. I love that the biggest gripe I have is that Ben and I bicker about whether the butter stays in the fridge or on the counter (I am pro-fridge). The “problems” I have in my life are pathetically minor and self-induced. My biggest success this year has been stepping away from unnecessary competition. I am not interested in competing in the Game of Life with anyone – I hope we all make it. I don’t care where you live, what year car you drive, or the problems in your relationships. I will not feel bad for being the odd one out who has nothing to add to the bitch-fest. I refuse to complain about my career or relationship to make someone else feel better about their choices. I love the life I am building. I love the person I’ve become! I want to continue to find beauty in the smallest things. To sit in silence and listen. To listen to the world and everyone with the intent to understand, not to reply. I am excited to create a life with Ben that we never need a vacation from. This past year has put so much into perspective, and I hope 2017 does the same.