Time Flies, and Lags, When You’re Eventing

Plantation Field, 2014. Photo by Holly Covey. Plantation Field, 2014. Photo by Holly Covey.

We cannot make more of it. We can’t make it go faster, hurry it up, or find a way to go back or slow it down. And in the horse business, especially the eventing sport, how do we wish we could! Time has its own thing and there isn’t much we can do about it.

Certain things just take time — healing boo-boos, or more serious injuries, waiting for rashes and skin eruptions and bruises to heal. Waiting for broken bones to heal. Waiting for grabs, and sore backs, and scraped hocks, and banged stifles to heal. Waiting for that abscess to dry out.

It’s not just medical concerns. It’s waiting for the moment that your horse says, “ah ha, I get it — that‘s what the half halt is for!” Or figures out that extra stride can help him find the fence with more energy to clear it. Time taken to school and train pays off eventually, but meanwhile, it’s on the clock every day.

In the event world, there’s a lot of time on the back of horse and not always jumping and schooling. A lot of time has to go into conditioning our horses from the low levels right on up to the top horses in the strong. How many minutes and hours a week in the saddle have you spent? Hot or cold, rain or shine, bugs and flies, snowflakes and raindrops, days when your back hurts so much you can barely post the trot, days when you fall asleep in the saddle, days when you just want to get it over with and get back to the barn.

And once in the barn, there’s a huge amount of attention paid to time there. Chores are never done, and some days you walk in early in the morning and don’t sit down until after dark. How many days have you longed for a chair and just five minutes of peace, but the vet just pulled in, he’s an hour late, and you have three horses waiting for him ….

For riders, too, time has to be taken to get organized, not just for the morning that the farrier and the vet are coming and there are two lessons to teach, but for the month ahead and the year’s plan. And if you’re in the rare air of the CCI level, even two or three years planned out. Time flashes by faster than that idiot on the motorcycle that buzzed your truck this morning on the highway.

You look at the clock, and it’s just after morning feed, you’re getting on your first horse, and the next glance you get, it’s after 9 p.m. and your last lesson is done. Where did the time go, where did the day go, what happened to this week?

There’s a lot of science floating around about managing time and advice from professionals about doing a lot of things to make your use of time more effective, and often those things just don’t seem to work well in the horse world. We’re working with an animal, after all. They get hurt, they lose shoes, they scrape and bump and cut themselves, they kick at flies and strain muscles and tendons.

As fall arrives, the daylight shortens and time becomes even more critical if you work a full time job during the day. You start to hurry a bit more to get home faster. Soon you’ll be riding in the dusk, and then the dark. You know this should be the year you put in the arena lights, but it never seems so important when you can ride in the light most of the summer.

Time doesn’t wait for us, and it doesn’t give us any breaks. It takes what it wants from our lives and gives us only what we make out of it.

This is why these big wins at big competitions mean so much. They represent just one small slice of time, a time and a place, where time gave you that piece of life that you have worked for, dreamed about, schemed and planned and arranged and hoped for. You forget all the hard things when they hand you that blue ribbon (or put that medal round your neck) and you get to stand proudly for a picture, on a horse you’ve lived half your life with. Go get time by the ear and pull it with you. It will be worth every second.