Quitting Is for Winners

I give, Uncle, I quit. Why is eventing Kissa like banging your head on a brick wall? Because it feels so good when you stop. That’s it, we’re done. I’m out of this rut (see my last blog for thoughts on ruts).

I guess I’ve probably known this was coming for years but I’ve finally decided to allow Kissa to be the hunter princess she’s always wanted to be. I totally admit to solving most problems by running away from them, but I think five years of struggle to make eventing work is enough persistence. How did we get here you ask? It involves a few more stories of bad clinics.

She does look pretty in a D bit and her back is oddly less sore with that tiny foam flocked saddle instead of the ones that are fitted to her. 

Photo by Kate Rakowski.

Since things started opening back up again, mom and I have been trying to take advantage of living in the center of all things eventing and go to school and clinic at other places. In late May we did a clinic at Phyllis Dawson’s Windchase Farm (lovely place) and Kissa was an irrational idiot. I guess I could pick more positively spun words but I’m sort of a straight talker and that’s about what happened. She spooked and stopped at the telephone pole on the ground warm-up jump. My little sale mare Pinkie who has jumped about six times would have done it. Kissa spooked and tried to or did stop at about half the other jumps. When I rode hard to get her to go, she essentially bolted and met every jump at a half stride and hung a leg. Feeling a lot like we’re going to have a rotational fall at Beginner Novice height jumps is not a good feeling. She has done this before; I’ve never been a fan. 

We went to school at Red Gate by ourselves. She only stopped at one jump where I didn’t ride perfectly. We went on a hunter pace; she would follow my mom’s mare Puff anywhere but only if she can literally be touching her tail. Also not a wonderful feeling when jumping but it was fine. We kept up with chiropractic visits every six weeks or so. I wasn’t really having fun anymore. 

Then finally we got to go to a Boyd Martin clinic. You know, the Boyd who is how Kissa came to be (see our first blog). The Boyd whom we’ve been waiting to clinic with since she was born. I had high hopes since I had gotten some good ideas from Phyllis, we had schooled, we were ready. She was an ass. There was a HORSE, IN A PADDOCK. Can you believe it? That apparently meant that she was unable to go in that half of the field. Even after we had gone over to see what was happening (nothing). She stopped eight strides away from an ankle high coop as the warm up jump. She barely even got over it with a lead from another horse. She proceeded to try to stop at most of the other jumps. She started balking and refusing to go away from the group. She was in a white lather sweat for an hour and half. She was once again running when she did go and meeting things on half strides and hanging legs. It was awful. Boyd tried to be helpful. His assessment was that I really had to get after her when she balked. But then she does the other things which are terrifying. He is a nice guy and he sweetly appreciated the story of how she came to be and his connection to her. He posted our story on his FB page and it was cute. And I sort of hated my horse. I stopped riding her for a week. 

Photo by my mom, Emily Graeser.

I wrote a three-page set of organized notes reflecting the possibilities of how to proceed: different techniques, different types of riding, more vet work, three layers or ramifications of each option. Yeah, I’m that person — if you’re happy and you know it, overthink. Enter sports psychologist Andrea Waldo to my story (again). I did a phone call consultation/lesson/therapy session with her. She knows me and Kissa and our history and the things I’ve done. She told me that I’m in an abusive relationship with my horse and my sport and she’s totally right. She assured me I have gone above and beyond with vet work, different approaches, etc, etc. She talked me down from every one of my objections. It’s over. She’s right. 

So I hope they welcome me back to the land of postage stamp sized close contact saddles (luckily I still own mine), fluffy pads, standing martingales, laced reins, D-bits, a bajillion tiny flat braids, knee patch breeches (this slightly makes me cry but it’s OK, I can hold on to the neck strap of the martingale), standing around forever waiting for your class (this is hands down the worst part), the slow canter, the long and slightly weak distance, the 12’ stride at all times for everything, the crest release, the automatic flying lead change, and always having a warmup round. My plan is to let her do one thing and one thing only which is the one thing she seems to like most for six months or so. It’s going to take a little while for her to settle back down and trust that that’s the only thing she has to do. We did go to one little hunter/jumper show and she was a little wild but I think she’ll get it soon. And I’ve started to remember why I do love my horse (she is really so very incredibly comfortable and sweet).

Knee patches😢😢😢😢. Photo by Kate Rakowski.

If we get to the end of the year and I’m dying of boredom and she’s happy and settled, I may try to compromise with her on the jumpers. Or maybe my little covid sale horse who’s game, sensible and honest but not particularly naturally talented (you know the exact opposite of Kissa) will become my new eventer. Or she’ll get sold and I’ll find a new eventer. I’ll be back. Just not with this horse. In the meanwhile, you’ll see me out there volunteering. Have fun, go eventing.