Well, my work spring from hell is over. It ended well, work-wise. Not so much, personally. Until Sunday, I basically did nothing but work and sleep. Everything else went by the wayside, including horse time. I went out once or twice to pet him on the nose. Once late at night to groom him, so exhausted it felt like I was doing so through molasses, but it felt so good in the briefly-spring warm weather to do something as simple as work on him with a shedding comb.
So on Sunday, part of resetting my brain was spending as long as I wanted at the barn. That meant a good long thirty minute grooming session, piles and piles of hair on the floor of the barn aisle. It meant a bareback pad and a line of poles, for about 40 minutes of walking and a very little bit of trotting. Asking for softness. He was so happy that he offered a trot and then a flying leap over the first pole. I effed up the rest of the line, I was laughing so hard I was crying.
Then Monday, another long grooming session and proper tack for a 40 minute dressage school. Nothing fancy, just seeing what I had. Not much bending or lateral work, but he was willing to have a conversation about softness, and I got a taste of the good canter I had before this all started. The one that’s not perfect – he’s a bit heavy and tipped on his forehand – but he’s trying so hard that he forgets he can do anything but canter, charging forward into the bridle, the one that floats down seamlessly to the biiiiiig trot when I just shift my weight.
I’m caught between two conflicting feelings right now.
On the one hand, I’m starting over. Again. Tristan hasn’t been touched in six weeks. Any semblance of fitness I fought for over the winter – and I grant you, it was not much, it was a hellish winter – is gone. Melted away. He has a hay belly and looks homeless. The training is not gone – at 23, he’s long past “forgetting” how thing should go. But I can’t exactly pick up the reins and dig back in. I have to do short dressage schools and loads of conditioning.
I feel like I’ve been in this cycle for years now. I get a good head of steam, I’m enthusiastic, happy with how he’s going, he starts to feel sharp and keen, and something happens. He’s injured. Work blows up. I’m out of town. I can’t afford training board, so he sits. (Happily so! He really thinks he should be retired.) Then I get back to it, and start all over again. That’s a really frustrating place to be, over and over. I feel like I make progress in the most agonizing, incremental baby steps that it’s absurd. It feels like there’s no point.
On the other hand, I’m excited and re-energized. While I was working my endless hours, I had a lot of time in my head to think about what I wanted my life to look like once I was able to claim it again. I missed Tristan, desperately, and I missed riding. I also thought a lot about how much I missed being in a program, and how scheduling regular lessons again would help keep me feeling like I was making progress.
So it was almost meditative to get back to things on Sunday. I didn’t feel the need to decompress at all – I had an extremely long and busy day on Saturday – just eager to get back at it. I have a lesson scheduled for next week, and I have a plan going forward for lessons every two weeks.
Back at the beginning again, but I’m good at it by now. I’ve got this.