Beating the Winter Blues: Making the Most of It, Part 5

Are you an ammy-adult eventer who struggles with motivation during the winter months? Madison Givens feels your pain. She is embarking upon her own winter fitness and accountability journey, and taking EN along for the ride. Check back weekly for updates, encouragement, camaraderie and tips to help you come out swinging this spring! Read previous editions here

Photo by Madison Givens.

Hi everyone and welcome back!

I am going to stop counting weeks, because honestly at this point, I would start looking like a prisoner in a jail cell scrawling tally marks in the wall with a pebble I found behind my bunk-mates bed. And what I mean by that is, as with all horses, the delicately formed plan that I had created for myself this winter has gone painfully awry. I almost have to laugh at the fact that only a few weeks ago, I jokingly wrote an article about how horrible the weather was. Oh how naive I was. If only I would have known what was to come.

Those are my knees, and this image was taken BEFORE two more snow storms that graced us later in the week. Photo by Madison Givens.

As we approach the end of February, I find myself scrambling to piece back together a bit of my sanity. I also feel the need to make a formal apology for all of my optimism at the beginning of January, when I called myself out for trying to stay fit and keep Finn fit. Here’s the deal. I ain’t fit. Finn ain’t fit and my budget sure as hell ain’t fit. Frankly, I am barely coherent. I didn’t really have the opportunity to get to the barn for a combination of reasons, and as a result it has become the hardest two weeks to date.

I also do NOT recommend starting a new diet when the weather is at its worst, and you aren’t getting regular sunlight. Talk about an instantaneous drop into a pit of sadness. You guys. Bread it good. Bread makes you happy. Why would I choose to punish myself by not allowing myself to eat it for just over three weeks. It was the worst 25 days of my life.

So on that note, I decided to try and take some control over my life. I had plenty of time to reflect while I shoveled, over and over and over again. (Think of the Buddhists and their sand art, finishing the task, before destroying it and starting over. You know, patience is a virtue and all that junk.) To follow the note of my last article, I have spent the last two weeks over-evaluating my life and trying to plan as far ahead as I can, in things that I KNOW I can control. (Well, to an extent.)

Iowans are literally running out of places to push snow. I have even seen people loading the snow into dump trucks and hauling it away. Photo by Madison Givens.

Budgeting. (Oh my god, no, please, anything but a budget.)

Guess what people, I know it might not feel like it but show season is only two months away. And with show seasons comes: bills, bills, bills, bills, unnecessary horse-related purchases and MORE BILLS. Our sport is not cheap. It may be cheaper than the hunter/jumpers or even the dressage queens, but it’s not cheap. Especially when I now have the looming weight of trying to qualify for the American Eventing Championships. While I would love to get this done in the first two shows in May and be done, this is not a realistic goal nor should I plan on it.

So I have assessed the opportunities and have eight shows that I can use to qualify myself for the championships.

Please understand that the idea of trying to pay for eight shows this year PLUS the championships makes me want to puke. So if you can’t seem to find any outside motivation to try and qualify for the championships as soon as possible: do it for your wallet. Your poor wallet, whom you are about to squeeze the ever living daylights out of, draining it of all life in the process.

Please understand that I am not trying to go and pay for all these shows, but that they are just the many options and desperate last attempts to get qualified, so I may need to go to quite a few to fall into the running for the AECs.

So here are the things you need to think about when accessing the costs for each show.

  1. Entry & Office Fees: Area IV’s generally average around $270-$370.
  2. Stabling Fees: Sometimes included in your entry fee. Sometimes an extra $130
  3. Heath Certificates: Most shows require you to have one on hand. My vet charges $20.
  4. Extra Bedding: Bring your own, or buy directly from the show, either way add $20
  5. Stall Deposit: $25 — You can get this back at the end of the show if you clean your own stall.
  6. Hotel or Camping Fees and/or Parking Fees: Depending on where you end up and how long you stay, this could be $100-300.
  7. Food & Alcho-….I mean Water: I always give myself a wide range here $75-200. This will depend on what the event provides versus how you choose to fend for yourself.

And lastly, gas…

8. Gas: $70-250. This is a little harder to plan for. But I am going to average out the farthest show and go from there. It is 245 miles from my   house to Wheeler, WI. Home to the Otter Creek Spring, Summer and Fall Horse Trial. Also the one that is the farthest away.

Most truck’s gas/diesel tanks can hold an average of 26 gallons of fuel and get an average of 12 miles per gallon when hauling. Thus from full to empty, average 312 miles per tank. If gas costs an average of $2.70, each time you fill up, it can cost you close to $70 per tank. Yikes. That bites. Now assume that you are driving back and forth across the grounds, to get to dinner, to get to your hotel room. It is your main transportation vehicle. You will soak up the miles faster than you think, especially when you’re hauling several horses in a large steel trailer. Best to plan ahead and assume it will take you one extra tank of gas to get there and back than it might say on paper. DON’T FORGET that you have to come HOME. You don’t want to get yourself all the way there and then have forgotten to budget to get yourself home.

Phew. And this doesn’t even cover all the miscellaneous expenses and equipment that you have hopefully picked up along the way. This just covers the basics, and doesn’t include your costs for having a coach or groom with you, or is you have to pay someone to haul you there. Additionally, you always need to keep miscellaneous expenses in the back of your head, including emergencies like flat tires.

(Quick plug here, is you don’t have US Rider and you are trailering in the United States, seriously look into that. They don’t sponsor me or these articles, but could seriously save your hide if  you are trailering long distances and don’t have anyone else to call. Like AAA, but they will help you find overnight stabling if you should need it. There is a yearly fee, but it’s worth it knowing that you are covered under emergencies.

Which brings me to my next game of choice.

Packing, Planning and Organizing.

Let me first start by asking you: When was the last time you opened your show trunk? Or storage bin, or wherever you keep all your precious equipment that is only to be brought out during the show seasons, and then stored once again during the six months of winter. If you have not opened it recently, and it is stored in a place where critters might get to it, then I suggest you do some checking.

My grand adventure for the week was opening my (what I thought to be an airtight, sealed and waterproof) storage trunk only to be met with the smell of mouse poop and urine. THE ENTIRE TRUNK and all its contents smelled god awful. As I began to pull things out of it to look for any damage, I found remnants of my dressage tests from last year’s shows chewed and shredded. Barely salvageable. Evidence that these creatures can literally survive on anything, including mediocre dressage scores.

I continued to dig, and found myself face to face with two mice sitting on top of one of my extra coolers that I had stored away. They were very much alive and panicked at the fact that they had been unearthed by a giant monster who was screaming and flailing.

The deeper I went into the trunk, trying to pull all of my precious items out, the worse it got. Two became three, then four. Then as I was finally able to empty it of all its contents, I found myself faced with six mice. All having transformed into little jumping beans as they tried to desperately to escape the trunk in which they had been living.

Photo by Madison Givens.

I am not proud to admit that I screamed and cried during this entire process, and eventually had to get help from my barn mates to help remove the creatures. I also tried enlisting the help of our local barn cat, but apparently he was too full that day, and watched the mice as they hurried to safety outside my trunk. Needless to say, no mice were harmed in the process of cleaning out my trunk. However, one very fat barn cat is being put on a diet and administrative leave.

So as I collected myself and moved on to the task at hand, I began putting together a list of what I currently owned, what may need to be replaced before the end of the year, and what I needed to have with me at each show.

There is zero reason for me to reinvent the wheel here, so below I am providing a few resources on lists you can use to help you get started on planning for the first show, and every show after that.

USEA is the first place to start and they have provided a great start-up list. I do not own or use everything on this, but it has some great suggestions on things you may normally not think about. Like chairs, extension cords and other low maintenance things that aren’t directly correlated to your horse and thus easily forgotten.

Next link comes from Sophia Montana with The Horse Network, and has provided some quirkier options and things you wouldn’t grab, but might want to start taking to your next show.

And finally, a versatile checklist that can be used across the board in all disciplines, by Alana Harrison from Horse and Rider.

I know planning ahead is taboo amongst the eventing community, and frankly, if your horse is a psychic I suggest trying to be stealthy about it. However, because I am an over-thinker, over-worrier, AND over-planner and the weather is keeping me cooped up inside, this became the only way to keep me sane. That and I have been watching oh-so-many cross country helmet cams. (Don’t tell my boss or my professors.)

See you guys next week!