Shift in Focus

I recently promised on my instagram to start blogging more, and asked for topic suggestions because I’m truly curious what people are actually interested in reading about. Lindsay M wanted to hear more about the the transition from being a show-focused rider to having Rio at home with me. She’s currently going through a similar process of redefining her horsey identity as well, and this topic really spoke to me.

Our last show before his injury 10/2019, photo credit: Jamie Brogdon

If you are new to my blog, I used to blog really consistently for 2+ years. I wrote about 3-4 times a week about every ride/lesson/horse show. All of this is to say, that progress was really important to me. Rio was a very green 5 yrs old when I got him, and I had goals. Did we have setbacks along the way? Absolutely, but I wasn’t deterred. We bounced back every time and usually made it back into the show ring pretty quickly. I have always enjoyed competing, and it has been a pretty integral part of my riding career.

As a young junior I showed dressage on my Arabian gelding, and then in high school I competed Pal in both dressage and eventing.

palomino paint, cross country, eventing
Pal and I from way back in the day

We kept our horses at home when I was growing up (where Pal still lives and Rio lives now), and horse shows were how I stayed motivated. I always felt like I could define myself as a rider by what we showed in and at what level. Anytime I met someone new in the horse world, we would always do that little exchange where you kind of size each other up. I’d say, “I’m Kelly and I show my palomino paint gelding in 2nd level dressage/training level eventing” etc.

As a grown ass adult I find that I still define myself similarly. If you listen to Amateur Hour podcast you know that our into involves a short description of each host. “Hey y’all I’m Kelly and I show my horse Rio in the adult amateur hunters”. I still define myself as a rider by what I compete in, and I always have. It just seems to be the natural order of things in the equestrian world.

But now that I’m in the non-show zone, things have gotten a bit fuzzy. I’m struggling to re-focus and figure out how to define myself as a rider these days. Rio has always been at some sort of h/j barn in some version of training/show board since I’ve had him. Did I mention I had big goals? Big goals that centered around the show ring. He’s been living at my parents’ house since January 2020 though, and I’ve slowly felt my identity shift.

Lessoning on Cash, summer 2020

In the beginning I was holding on really tight to “show rider Kelly”. I continued to lesson regularly at Bay Yard on their lesson horses, and was just itching to get back into the show ring. When the opportunity presented itself in November with a lease on Loopy I jumped on it. I felt like myself back in the saddle at a show, hanging with my barn mates and competing again. I really missed Rio though, and the feeling of achieving something with MY horse. I have nothing against leasing at all, I think it’s the perfect fit for a lot of people, but I really missed the connection with my own partner. So although I was thrilled to be competing again, it wasn’t quite perfect.

Loopy and I, 11/2020

Then I broke my foot, and the short lived return to normalcy was gone again. As I recovered, and Rio continued to thrive in his recovery, I have (finally) I think gotten into a new routine. We’ve found our rhythm home at my parents’ barn. It is feeling less like a temporary setback, and I’m finding myself to be happier in our new routine. I am no longer obsessed with our return to the show ring, and instead I’m looking around for opportunities to just enjoy my horse. I still love to compete, so that’s not out of the question by any means, but I just don’t see it as the end all goal anymore.

I sort of feel a new sense of freedom. Not being in a dedicated training program means I can do whatever I want without fear of de-railing our progress. I can go trail riding whenever I feel like it. I can go take a dressage lesson if I want. I can go putz around  a cross country course if the mood strikes. I can feed whatever I want, and change it whenever I want. Their is definitely a sense of freedom that I am now getting accustomed to.

Don’t get me wrong- I loved having Rio in a great program with trainers I respect and trust. Like I said, I had goals and they were helping me achieve them. I could absolutely see myself returning someday. But for the time being I am getting used to calling all the shots myself and just doing whatever I enjoy, and that has been really nice too. I think it’s letting me focus on finding my own happiness, and just enjoying our time together.

Jamie Brogdon

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1 comment

  1. I LOVE being a haul in client. I think it’s the best of all worlds. I can keep my horse at home, make all the decisions I want about care, feed, turnout, etc. without compromising on things I think are most important and go take lessons and ride on my time. I’m associated with a program without being fully…invested(?) in the program? So, if my trainer makes a suggestion/comment and I’m not sure it works for me, I just nod, take it in, and then make my own decision based on my own knowledge. That’s the great thing about not keeping your horse in a program–you can take information from so many people and keep the pieces that work for you (at this point in your life) and discard the rest. It’s fine not to agree with everything and still respect a trainer. For me, it took me a long time to realize this (I’m embarassed to admit that!). Now, I just do what works, take what works, try some new things, and let go of the rest.

    I don’t show (at least not right now) and bring up a green horse is hard outside a program, but at the end of the day, it’s working. I love having the horses at home and I’m not compromising on certain things that are non-negotiables in order to be in a training/show barn. I just have to hop in the trailer and drive a few minutes for access. It works for me. And I’ve lost a lot of the stress that I had when I was in a show barn situation years ago. (But, for others, a training barn/show barn IS the perfect environment for them and their horses and I respect this! It’s just not right for me)

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