Monday, November 3, 2014

Stones Left Unturned

I turned 39 years old this past weekend... My parents always said that as you get older, the days and years pick up speed. I wasn't pleased about turning another year older.  Crap.. I am almost 40 now!! I remember my parents 40th birthday and thinking how old that sounded then... and here I am.  But my sour birthday mood wasn't really about that. It was  realizing that I had expected to have  accomplished more by now. Travel, compete in more distance rides, become a more accomplished rider over fences as an adult, start my own business, etc.

Of all the things on that list, there is one that stands out, never far from my mind. One that keeps moving just out of my reach for one reason or another.

It was only recently ( two springs ago) I took up jumping lessons again after a very long hiatus. I made pretty good progress.  Last winter I was back to jumping a course of 2'3 and even  2'6 a couple of times. Unfortunately the trainers lesson horse , who really wasn't ever a suitable  lesson horse , started giving me some issues.  Most of it,  I was able to handle, but when your still relearning all those things about jumping, like ( and this is nowhere near a complete list!)

  • getting your strides between fences, (seeing the line)
  • Keeping your center of gravity in the right place as the horse leaves the ground 
  • adjusting your aids mid air so when you land you can pick up the correct lead to come into the next fence correctly
  • Riding your corners
  • staying balanced while riding into the corner 
  • and ofcourse,  not getting launched

There is a lot going on all at once and its all happening quickly when your in the saddle. The last thing you want to deal with is a horse that gets chargey. I wasn't ready for that added issue.
Unfortunately, the bigger the trainer put the  fences,  the worse the horse got. He was already a  big scopey jumper , even over small fences , so it really started creating confidence issues for me.
The horse was way more horse than I was ready to handle at that point.

As the student, I wanted to take a step back and work on stabilizing my position, fix the little things because they were about to become big things, before moving forward. The trainer thought I just needed to be doing a lesson more than once a week, that I just needed to jump more to get more comfortable. I didn't agree.

My answer ? I stopped taking lessons last spring because I became discouraged. I didn't feel like I was getting what I needed and there was no sense in continuing because it wasn't fun anymore.


My hope is that next spring, I will pick up again with either another trainer (if I can find one) or just start practicing at home on my own and figure it out. At the very least, I think (hope)I was able to grease the old jumping wheels  enough  through those lessons to be able to do it at home and feel like I generally know what I am doing. I have an pretty nice set of jumps and standards that a dear friend gave me that have been collecting dust in the hay barn.  While Otto grows, my best option is Brego. He has talent but he is inexperienced. If you recall I started him over fences last late winter/early spring but he wasn't ready. This  past summer he was worked steadily and came a long ways in his training. I think he will be much more prepared than he was. Only way to know is to give it a try and go at my own pace.

So what does all that have to do with anything about being 39? Well , nothing really but there is more to the story about this jumping thing for me. A page in my history , if you will.

Jumping is and always will be near and dear to my heart. I was a  young impressionable girl heavily involved in the local pony club but I was ready to move on from the Pony Club scene. I had gotten to my C-1 rating and wanted to advance but my horse was too old. I could only ride him lightly and jumping was out. I didn't have a horse that I could continue in competition with and my parents weren't interested in buying me another horse. There were also political things happening with the pony club that were making it difficult for members. About that same time, a horse trainer lady from Virginia blew into town. She was a very accomplished rider. I honestly don't even remember how I met her.  She happened to have a couple of horses and she gave lessons. Ofcourse, I latched onto her and my parents agreed to pay for me begin taking lessons with her. She was in her mid 20's and I was in middle school. I wanted to learn everything I possibly could from her. In my eyes, she pretty much walked on water. It seemed like there wasn't anything she couldn't do. She could work on cars, built houses, throw herself into  multiple back handsprings like a gymnast , but best of all, she rode like no one I had ever seen in my life.
One of my favorite photos of her that she sent me years ago
We rode in a Pairs class together.
She grew up on the fox hunting scene in Virginia from the time she was a small child and had already been able to train with some of the finest in the heart of Hunt Country. She could even jump ridiculously huge fences in sidesaddle. When I started training with her, it was such a high point for me. That was the beginning of a 3 year period. She pushed me and helped me gain confidence to jump bigger and ride better. She put me on green TB's that I probably had no business riding but somehow I managed to stay on most of the time and gradually improved. There were tough days, days when I hit the dirt hard , and  then there were days when it all came together. She wanted me to go back to VA for one summer to compete with her  but my parents weren't about to  agree to that.   Nonetheless, I kept riding with her and another year passed and we grew very close. She even lived with us for a short period of time .She became very much like a big sister to me.

And then,one day, she was gone. Like a thief in the night. I was crushed. It was like everything I had built my 13 year old world around had vanished.

We all have those people that show up in our lives that leave a lasting impression on us. She was one of those for me. Sometimes, those people come into our lives for a short period of time and then they are gone for reasons we don't always understand. At 14 years old, I couldn't  understand any of it. I just knew I felt a huge sense of loss.

She went back to VA and disappeared just as quickly as she had appeared 3 years before,  But life went on of course. We ended up keeping in touch through letters and about 6 months later she sent me photos of her new baby.

AND  there it was..

The reason she had left so suddenly. She had become pregnant.

After she left, I had stopped jumping or getting any official training for that matter.  I was now in highschool and went to work for an Arabian breeding farm where I was a groom, exercise rider, stall cleaner, evening chore person and whatever else needed doing around the farm. I did a little  jumping with one Arabian that was there but  he didn't seem to enjoy the jumping.  Besides, there was only jumps I could make with miscellaneous stuff laying around the place like haybales, logs, barrels.. etc. It  wasn't a really the focus of the facility so it didn't work out. I had my older gelding boarded there and I passed the days cleaning stalls, taking him for easy trail rides and learning  a whole new world of horses but it seemed my formal jumping training had come to an end.

Then came college. I decided to attend college out west, in Montana. A major life change was about to ensue. My family picked up and moved from Connecticut to Montana with me when I left for school. My trainer and I still traded letters once every so often.  She would send me photos of whatever horse shows she was competing at up and down the east coast circuit.  My heart ached when those photos came because I wanted to be riding and showing with her.

Then things went completely quiet for a long time and I didn't hear from her.  I was riding on the college Equestrian team (mostly Western) and pretty busy with college life. Then out of the blue, about a year later, I got another letter. I was already halfway through my sophmore year.

The photos came with more news. She sent pictures of her new husband . She had gotten married and was moving . She gave me her new name and address so we could continue to keep in touch. When I sent the next letter, a few weeks later, the letter got returned to me for incorrect address. I tried to call her, look her up , everything  I knew to do , but I could not find her. She was gone yet again..We lost touch completely at that point.

Pony Club annual fall horseshow..The last show I was ever in with my horse Lad. Yikes, look at that dropped right shoulder I had. We obviously didn't come into the fence very straight . 
Keeping in touch her eventually faded into the background of priorities as life trotted along and it seemed that it was the same for her as well. But I often thought about her.

 Over the years, I would occasionally try to do search for her,  but always came up short. It was like she just disappeared off the face of the earth or didn't want to be found.  I resigned to the fact that maybe she didn't want to remain in contact with me anymore, for whatever reason. She had my address so she could have reached out, if she wanted to. Atleast that is how I looked at it.

 I never heard from her anymore after the wedding photos.

When social media hit the scene several years ago, I thought I would try one last time. Everyone was on facebook, I was sure I would find her.... but once again no luck. I honestly wondered if maybe she had passed away or something. It just seemed like she was gone.  It wasn't until last year I tried a different approach. I remembered her daughters name. On a whim one day, I did a search for the daughter on Facebook.. I hesitantly entered into facebook stalk mode , thinking this was absolutely crazy. Well,  I found the daughter AND..her daughter had her mother on as a friend. And it was in fact my trainer. Right there, all along.

I think my heart did a back flip, maybe several. I didn't reach out right away.All those years and there she was. I was actually really mad about it for a while. I debated for weeks on whether I should bother because it seemed like she pretty much wrote me off years ago. Besides, I figured, the past was the past.. and maybe, it just didn't matter anymore. We were both different people now. It had been 20 years since I last heard from her.. that 's a long time. But I could not help but wonder.

Several weeks later, I did send a friend request. A day later, she accepted.  We have been corresponding on and off ever since.

At first I wasn't sure she even remembered who I was. She seemed pretty nonchalant about getting back in touch, like we had been in touch all along. It was not the reaction I expected and I definitely got the sense it was more important to me to be back in touch than it was to for her. I reminded myself it had been over 20 years since we last spoke.  A lifetime of events have happened.

 Until all of this happened, I honestly didn't realize the impact she had made on me so many years ago. I mean, I knew she was a key person in my life and I missed her over the years, but it was like I realized now that part of my psyche pressed the pause button at that 13 years old, and I was still waiting for her to miraculously show up, and pick up where we left off.  I know it sounds a little crazy.  Now that I am in contact with her again, its all so different. There is no going back. It's like now I have to release that pause button, but I already know that  the tape won't pick up where we left off because , lets face it, that would require a time machine..

Instead, it just fast forwarded to present day. Two people who once knew each other but no longer do. From a connection that felt like sisters to me 20 years ago is now just a connection that is no more than acquaintances.
Lad and I at WhiteTail Farm Horse Show 2"3 class.  In typical fashion, I am having to hold him in.. He was about 22 years old here. 
I get the impression that my memory of our relationship is very different than what hers was. I  guess it's natural , as humans that when we experience something good in life, we want it to stay that way, but nothing ever stays the same.  I think I expected more and maybe that isn't fair.

Recently, she asked me about doing a clinic here in  Montana next summer.  I am not involved in the local group so I would be an outsider trying to plan a clinic for another outsider.. not sure how that would work!  I know she could definitely bring something different  to the table.  The problem comes in with getting enough interest to pay for her  plane ticket and her daily rate to make it worth her time.
While I would love nothing more than to  have the opportunity to not just ride with her again but to get to know her again, as adults... more than 20 years later, I am not sure I can realistically make it happen.  At the same time, seeing her in person again would be scary as hell. On one level a huge part of me would expect that the connection we once had would still be there.  But what if it wasn't?  For her or me?  Or worse, if it is for me but not her?  As an adult, I might see her in a totally different light. Part of me wants her to know me for who I am today.  The reality is, I am not that little girl anymore. Many years have passed. My window of opportunity to show and make it to the top  closed a long time ago and that is okay. That isn't what I have been chasing all these years. In all honesty, I am not sure what I have been chasing.

Just maybe she was one of those people that came into my life at a certain time , for a certain reason and that time has been served.. end of story...

Just maybe the lesson here is that I should  accept that the time I did have was good enough, that I should be grateful for the opportunity I had so many years ago...

And maybe some stones really are better left unturned.



Funder said...

Happy birthday, near-Halloween-buddy :)

What a strange story, elegantly told. Obviously you should do what feels right with your old trainer, but that's not very helpful.

Sometimes I've had those long-lost relationships go really weird the second time around, and sometimes they turn out to be cool people. The only thing I can think is that it works out much better when you don't overthink the past. After so long, you're both going to have such divergent memories of, what, the late 80s/early 90s? You're not the same kid you were, and she's probably not what you remember either. So just start over, if you want to. Pretend she's a new person that you're inclined to like and be friends with, and see how it goes. Just be Facebook friends with her, and if you click there, maybe think about a clinic a couple years out. That's what I'd do anyway.

Jonna said...

thanks Funder.. I kinda thought it was dumb post after I wrote it and was going to take it back down . Seems dumb now after I wrote it anyways..oh well.. I like the photos.. good times good memorie.
Yes, I agree, enjoy it for what it is.. and see what happens.. not have too many expectations of myself or her..

She is I think in your neck of the woods now training, in Pacifica, CA somewhere..