My Paper Anniversary

Part of the horror of modern Dressage that led me to start a blog.
Part of the horror of modern Dressage that led me to start a blog.

A year has passed since I started this blog.  At the time, I was one year into a determined attempt to reconnect with my horses and riding.  That first year was plagued with illness, injuries and ill fated decisions.  With little actual riding happening, I turned to the sport I once loved, Dressage, to at least reengage my brain.  What I found there horrified me!  Performances riddled with tension (and pain) were lauded, and given ridiculously high scores.  Some were speaking out, but were largely drowned out by those who loved but misunderstood the sport.   Did I really want to return to this “new” world?

Feeling frustrated, and needing an outlet for those feelings, I turned to a rather public forum for this very introverted human.  Writing had been therapeutic before, but I knew that I needed an excuse to write.

It sounds sad to need an excuse to do something that makes you feel good – but life has a way of steamrolling over the good stuff.  When I lost my Ben, after 28 years together, it was suggested that writing about him would help with my grieving.  But many parts of my life were failing at that time, and somehow writing never happened.  Four years later, when I lost my beloved Brita, I remembered the advice.  I started by writing about my girl’s remarkable life and adventures.  That soon bubbled up amazing story ideas from a lifetime with some amazing animals.

Brita, my writing muse.
Brita, my writing muse.

Each idea brought back happy, and not so happy, memories.  Committing those memories to disk left me feeling happy.  The therapist was right – the writing not only helped with my grief, it made my whole life feel better.  But, as often happens, life began to intervene.  Even when I had the time to write, my brain was drained and the ideas no longer flowed.  So, many stories still simmer, unwritten or unfinished.

When I started having a “crisis of faith” in my riding, my horses and my own commitment, I knew at the core that writing would help me cope.  It would help me find the “truth” in all the conflicting voices raging in my head and on the internet.  There were a few false starts, trying to find empty spaces at work or at night, to start a journal.  But I needed more than just quiet writing time for what was “ailing” me.  It was my earlier experience with Brita’s long term illness that held the key.

Brita had been diagnosed with insulinoma (a tumor, of sorts, that results in over production of insulin), and was given six months to live.  My innate curiosity, and a sense of disbelief at our situation, led me to the internet.  Everything I could find (which was not much at that time), supported the veterinarian’s diagnosis.  There was little information beyond clinical findings.  The reality turned into two years before I had to finally say goodbye to my beautiful girl.  As time went on, I saw more people posting questions about the disease – and later, a few shared their experiences with their dogs.  It was at that time that I realized this is what I had craved – what had other people experienced?  How did they make decisions?  When did they know it was time to give up?  Too late, I realized that the experience of Brita’s last years could have given someone else the comfort I had sought.

So, when faced with the challenges of “reclaiming” Tally, and gaining Noble’s trust, I remembered that lost opportunity.  Perhaps my experiences with my horses would offer comfort, caution or just shared experience to someone facing similar challenges.  Maybe, by expressing my frustrations with the current state of horse sport, others might find the courage to speak up – or just to get off of a bad path.

Charles de Kunffy, one of my inspirations to keep going.
Charles de Kunffy, one of my inspirations to keep going.

The final push to blog came from the symposium I attended in Tucson, last May.  Charles de Kunffy spoke of Dressage as a dying art, with few practitioners left who honored the classical approach and who truly understood the horse.  He said that it was up to those of us who had the training and perspective to try to keep the art alive –  “A living art only survives as long as its practitioners”.  Perhaps I could do my small part by sharing my knowledge, quoting old masters, holding up good examples, and eventually using my own horses as models of what can be accomplished with classical training.

The year has not been as productive, on the horse front, as I had hoped.  Work has picked up significantly, and we have all suffered illness and injury.  Yet, Tally has transformed from a frightened (and frightening) “broken” horse into a soft, sweet partner who is a pleasure to work with every day.  I can finally say that I look forward to furthering our partnership.

Noble is now truly his momma’s boy, following me around wherever he can.  Mom is now riding her lovely little Coffee – and having a blast!  Nash is my living reminder that I do know what I’m doing – even after a few years of no riding, and with us both out of shape, riding him is still like dancing with a partner who can read your mind.

The blog has been everything I’d hoped, and bit more.  It is sometimes a struggle to get the time to write my posts, but I always get back to it.  I have connected with some nice folks, and have enjoyed sharing comments and reading some of your blogs.  I look forward to another year of trading stories with you.

Me and Ben, in our first year together.  Expect to hear more stories of him, and my other past partners.
Me and Ben, in our first year together. Expect to hear more stories of him, and my other past partners.

One reason I started this blog was to honor the lives of our current little herd, and the journeys we’re sharing.  As I work with them, and think of how I gained the skills I’ve needed to resolve their challenges, I realize that there were many before whose stories also need honoring.  Each horse that I have encountered on this journey has taught me something that I still use today.  So, starting this year, I will add occasional stories of the horses who have taught me all that I know.

Thank you all for reading this past year!  Be good to your horses!


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