This November marks a strange but special milestone for me: I've now kept daily records of my riding for five continuous years.
(The book itself, recently upgraded this year to a fatter binder because it was overflowing the old one, with an old favorite for a cover: an illustrated feed card I made for Dually back when I left him at a friend's house a few years ago. The artistry is really stunning, right??)
I've never been a diary keeper (well, I guess except for this blog!) so to have a written log of such a long period of time is pretty unprecedented for me. It's weird to look back at those first months back in the late autumn of 2006 and think about how much has changed since then: except for horses, and this record of my time with them, there is very little about my life then that corresponds to my life now. I lived in Massachusetts, was a senior at Middlesex, still entertained (quickly fading) hopes of running competitively after high school, was trying to figure out what colleges to apply to (Stanford being only my wildest dream), had never lived away from home, never done a CCI*, never been to Young Riders, never broken my neck, never met Ringo or Kiki, was only just getting introduced to the subject that I would eventually major in (Art History), and could only speculate as to where I might find myself in a year's time, let alone five.
(My first month: November 2006. Then as now I always have one sheet for my horses (in this case, Dually), and then the reverse is another sheet with all other horses)
Now, I'm as unsure about the future as ever (maybe even more so, without the stable prospect of college ahead), but everything else feels very different. Except the horses. The horses, though the names have changed, the competitions have come and gone, and the disciplines have shifted and come full circle again, have always been the guiding force by which my life has moved forward. There have been some unbelievable highs and some very crushing lows, but not a day passes where I don't feel thankful to have horses and riding in my life.
(July 2011: A great month because it marked getting back in the saddle after six long months in England!!)
(Not all months are as exciting, unfortunately. Here's October 2010, when Ringo was at home rehabbing from his bowed tendon and Kiki was laid up at Stanford with a mystery lameness we never fully diagnosed. It's a bummer when you get more "0 minutes" than rides!)
As college has gone on and many of my friends have slowly grown out of riding and I still jump out of bed every morning between 5:30 and 7 so that I can get to the barn, even if it's just to see the horses on days when I'm not riding, I've realized that being with the horses is one of the only times when I feel completely myself.
(March 2010 was a crappy month for my self-confidence and my relationship with my trainer. But look at the pretty colors!!!)
Now, here are some stats. In the past five years:
-ridden 2,122 horses (an average of 1.16/day)-
-ridden my own horses 1,367 times-
-spent 1,490.5 hours in the saddle (over 62 days!)-
-my most active year for riding was Nov '09-Oct '10, where I rode 541 times-
-I spent the most hours in the saddle in the period from Nov '08-Oct '09, where I logged 401 hours (almost 17 days)-
-this past year (Nov '10 - Oct '11) was my lightest year on record at 328 rides, but all but 25 of those came in the last four months of the period (Jul '11 - Oct '11)-
There is a saying that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to completely master something. If we assumed I had roughly 1,500 hours of practice before I began keeping records, then, at the rate I'm currently going, I would have about 23 years to go to reach that milestone! I guess that's why they call riding a lifetime commitment...
(March 2007: as far as I can tell, the only month that uses the same pen/pencil from start to finish. This was the month I took extra time off on either side of my senior spring break in high school to be a working student for Suzi Gornall in Aiken, my first working student experience ever!)
Over the years the records have run through many different pens, gone through periods of neat handwriting and chicken scratches, and measured more steps forward and steps back than I can count. Here's to five, ten, fifty more years of fun with horses!
(Ringo is getting dapples!! What a handsome Prowler)