It’s officially crunch time. We are a little more than one month away from the 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover, and I know I speak for everyone when I say I’m feeling the pressure. In the last month, I’ve been busy dealing with last-minute changes, nursing injuries, and posting frantically in the TB Makeover Trainers group. It’s no wonder that I haven’t been able to sit down and write a blog update for a while. As far as I can gather, this is the point in the journey where we all go collectively insane. Everyone is realizing how unprepared they are and stressing out because we have so little time. Some of us are stuck on a roadblock and not progressing, some of us are questioning whether will even be able to pursue the disciplines we planned on going with, and some of us have a lame horse that just won’t heal up. I’ve managed to identify with all three.
In the time I’ve had out of the saddle, about a month in total, I’ve gone through the five stages of grief at least twice. Seeing your horse sitting around in a stall when there’s SO much work to be done is really, really hard. But as much as it sucks, a break in the routine is a perfect way to step back, take a breath, and clear your head. And thats what I had to do. After Rency’s vet told us that he would be out of work for another week with cellulitis after just coming back from a hind end injury the week before, I had stop and think about whether I was being realistic with our goals of competing in Eventing. Once he returned, he would be a month away from the Makeover with a lot of work to do.
So I had this plan all laid out; we’d spend the first few months on dressage so that we could build on that to introduce jumping, and then build on jumping to add cross-country. And then our last couple months would be for getting miles in all three. But it took much longer than I thought it would to get where we were comfortable in jumping, so that pushed our cross-country back. And now, when we’re supposed to be getting comfortable in cross-country, I can’t even ride my horse. I started wondering whether it was fair to expect Rency to take on a whole other discipline for me in so little time. And it’s not like he would be totally lost if we decided against doing Eventing. We’ve already competed both as hunters and jumpers on the local circuit. And to be honest, we still have work to do in both.
The dressage work I’ve done will pay off no matter what I do, so I could just quit while I’m ahead and have some fun with Hunters and Jumpers. That’s what this show is about, right? Having fun and showing off your horses skills? Unsure of myself, I turned to my fellow Makeover trainers for advice on if/how I could make the best of cross-country schooling in so little time. Many responded, and all agreed that while I probably could do it, it wouldn’t be fair to Ren. These last few months are for solidifying the skills we’ve been working on all year, not for cramming tons of information into my horse’s tiny brain. The guidance I received made my path seem clear, and so Rency will be sticking to what he knows; Show Jumpers and Show Hunters.
And hey! With time and proper schooling, I think Rency will love opening up on a cross-country course. I think he’d make a wonderful Event horse. But right now, I’m content with where we are. Am I disappointed? Kind of, but I don’t have any regrets. This was just how our journey turned out. I’m glad that I took my time on our dressage and jumping. If I had rushed through them to get to XC, Rency might not have developed the foundation that he has now. I have a happy horse that loves his job. He’s learning his lead changes and moving up the training pyramid. He’s a confident jumper. And he, like every one of his fellow competitors, is only ten months into his new career. This is enough for now.
I’m going to be honest; we always talk about how hard these ten months are on us, but can you imagine what it’s like for our horses? First, they must transition from the track to intense daily work in a discipline that confuses the heck out of them. And then they are expected to travel long hours to compete in a strange place, all in less than a year. On top of that, they have these crazy, two-legged creatures running around and making them do useless things like bending and jumping over sticks.
It’s easy to get overzealous and push for this huge amazing goal, but is it worth it? We have to remember that the Makeover was specifically designed to be a stepping point; a milestone in both of your careers where you both get to show off the skills you’ve developed while previewing the success that awaits you. It is not the end of the story for you or your horse. There will be other opportunities to show off new skills. This competition will come and go, and you’ll find more goals to set, all while being strengthened by the lessons that these ten months have taught you.
So please, take a moment to stop stressing about when you can get back to work. Stop worrying about whether you’ll be ready for your chosen disciplines. We’re all going to get there. This isn’t the time to be freaking out and overworking yourself or your horse. This is the time to step back, look at the progress you’ve made, and celebrate the fact that you’re still on this journey. So pamper your barrel racer with treats even though they might be lame for the second time this month, laugh with your clumsy dressage horse who still can’t figure out where to put their feet, and forgive your show hunter as you add another pulled shoe to his collection. I hope that these next two months will be full of relaxed, happy days with our horses as we count down the days until we’re all together in Kentucky.