BY PUBLISHER PIPER KLEMM
When I’m on some drive that never seems to end, I choose not to get gas in an obvious moment and the sky is clear and then I NEED gas and it’s pouring rain and freezing and I’m not sure if I can make it home. Then I crack and buy an energy drink or Diet Coke, both of which I know are horrible for me and expensive and stupid. I get back in the car and I can’t even. Cold, wet, freezing, overwhelmed, wanting to cry, and I guilt trip my impulses for not taking good care of me.
Back on the road, I blast the heaters, savor every sip of regret, and start to look forward. I think about where we are, who I get to work with, what I saw at the horse show, and give a smile. It’s just a hint at first, just at the corner of my mouth. The more I think, the more it grows. The more it grows, the more I can’t suppress what I actually feel. I love my job. I love to work. And I love to wake up everyday and do it. Soon, I’m laughing. So grateful, the emotion could turn to tears. I think about the many years spent at the barn with all the special horses, with my family, and the trips all over the world. My life is, and always will be, all about the horse.
But, while it’s always been all about the horse for me, I don’t actually get to spend enough time with horses. I work on photo spreads, answer emails, attend meetings, and promote horsemanship, but my daily cuddles are non-existent and I was super proud to, you know, go to the barn more times than I have fingers this year.
As I prepared to teach an entrepreneurship class this fall at St. Lawrence University, I first decided to take a regular fitness class with my new regular schedule. Home every Tuesday and Thursday, I committed to Sculpt & Burn two nights a week. And then it dawned on me: I could take regular lessons too.
I signed up aspiring to learn to keep my riding nerves at bay. Maybe get fitter and gain some confidence. Maybe in 2019, I won’t shake at the in-gate. Maybe I won’t be scared of that single oxer. Or fear that I can’t ride in a straight line. Be self-assured enough to have a canter departure on a straightaway in the under saddle. Those are all goals that time will tell.
What I was not expecting, however, was to fall in love with this sport in a whole new way. I drove to the barn, left my phone in my car, and walked into a moment. Completely focused on the horse, I groomed methodically. I curried without a care in the world. I picked hooves without deadline. Brushing, polo wrapping, staring at an unfamiliar saddle for estimated stirrup length — nothing was interrupted. When I finally got on, I was able to focus on riding and organizing my emotions in the saddle.
After a post-ride hose and tack cleaning, I walked out to my car. Yes, I did have a pile of emails and questions and phone calls. But, no, the moon hadn’t fallen out of the sky. I started addressing them with my headset on the way home. They went quickly, my total focus applied to this context and knocking out hard work. In the midst of addressing my weaknesses – to my surprise – I discovered strength.
The 2019 version of myself… hopefully stronger than 2018, more organized, and still supported by an incredible group of people. I hope to spend more time currying, less time worrying, and maybe, just maybe, I can have a horse show where I smile and feel like I belong in that division. But, if I still shake at the in-gate, fall off in a straight line, or make sure I’m in a corner when called to canter, the moon won’t fall out of the sky and we will all live to tell our favorite horse stories.