Saturday, December 31, 2011


I've been trying for the past few days to sit down and write a post that looks forward eagerly to the new year, with goals and dreams and potential plans of attack. It's been a happy tradition of the past few years, and has brought me into the new year feeling bright and hopeful. Even last year when faced with a long six months ahead with no horses at all, I still doodled some goals and set them aside for the second half of the year. (though I never put them on the blog).

(In unrelated news, we made it to the beach yesterday! Enjoy as these very happy photos decorate what is otherwise a kind of depressing post)

But this year, I'm having some trouble. Honestly, I feel like I'm in a big funk. It mostly has to do with Kiki and what I want to do with her, but Ringo is tied in too. I've been enjoying the dressage, but is it a direction I really want to move in more seriously? I'm excited to be showing Ringo again but it's hard to get as excited for pure dressage shows as I used to for events. I'd like to think that this means I'm still an eventer at heart... right?

(Me and Mom)

But the problem is, I didn't really enjoy eventing this fall either. Granted, I only went to two shows, and both had some highlights, but I found the whole process more stressful and an opportunity to beat myself up than I'm happy with.

It was this feeling that led me to think that I should sell Kiki this fall. On paper, this still seems like the best idea. But part of me has also come to realize that the things that were making me so stressed out and unhappy didn't really have much to do directly with Kiki. Over the past break I've done some reflecting, and have been able put together a timeline in place that explains a very different explanation of my current feelings.

Basically, I started riding Kiki right at a time when my own confidence and my confidence in/ability to trust my trainer was severely shaken. Even though I stopped riding with that instructor, my misgivings and low self-esteem remained (not that it was particularly great to start!). I felt like I improved Kiki very significantly pretty much on my own over the spring and summer of 2010, and then left her in the care of a trainer I trusted very much and departed for my six month leave with high, high hopes of her continued improvement.

I came back in March to check on her and was shocked to have her feel as bad as when I first got her, unable to pick up both leads or canter over a pile of poles on the ground. The explanation I was given was that I was riding her too poorly, which left me feeling rather unconfident and mistrustful of my (different) trainer. Again. For the second time in a year. When I got her back she was basically unrideable for the first week I had her, and generally felt awful. Added with some other information I learned, I now felt VERY mistrustful of my trainer (again), and gritted my teeth to try to get Kiki looking and going better again.

With this 'vendetta'-style approach (which was completely subconscious at the time; it's only looking back that I realize that was what was going on), every slight against Kiki felt like a slight against me and my attempts to improve her. And since she wasn't going that well, there were a lot of slights. They built up and built up, and suddenly I reached the end of the fall and realized, when I almost went to pieces jumping a school horse over an 18" vertical, that my confidence was totally gone basically without me even realizing.

I had self-sabotaged myself into misery by making everything to do with Kiki into a me-versus-trainer/me-versus-the-world type ultimatum. I am already such a perfectionist that this was a pretty deadly set up. Mistakes are already almost the end of the world for me (and I normally work very hard to make them not a big deal), and now they couldn't be anything but the end of the world, because they implied not only that I'd made a mistake at that given moment but had also ruined my horse, completely devalued myself as a rider/trainer, and 'lost' this stupid conflict I'd set up for myself.

I also felt hard done by because I honestly felt (and feel) that the reason she was going so badly was because of the program she'd been in while I was away and I was just doing everything in my power to right the ship, and not getting any acknowledgement of that. How I expected people to know that when they just met me for the first time in August or September, I couldn't tell you. I was completely to blame for these feelings, and the ensuing bitterness merely contributed to the mistrustful me-versus-trainer ultimatum stated above.

Sigh. A real recipe for success, right??

So now that I've pieced this all together, I'm at a real loss as to what I should do moving forward. It doesn't seem like Kiki herself is the problem. It's just the completely toxic tangle I've gotten myself into surrounding Kiki and my progress together. I don't know a good way out. She needs more training and I don't really have time for her and Ringo and my 80 million other commitments at Stanford, but I am honestly terrified of entering into another professional training nightmare the likes of 2010 and 2011.

I feel like if I could just take a deep breath, get some positive juices flowing, and get into a positive groove, everything would be fine again. New Years Wish, anyone??

(Ma, Pa, Acorn, and Duck all enjoying an awesome day at Cranes Beach)


PonyNut said...

What about turning Kiki out for the rest of the year while you finish school? That will be one less thing to worry about, and you know she will be safe at home. That way you can get your confidence back with Ringo and look forward to starting over with Kiki after giving it a break. Best of luck! Happy New Year.

Speedy G said...

My experience with trainers is fairly limited, but I know what I know. I would never work with someone who did not have my best interests at heart. I have "quit" three trainers because of this. My current trainer acknowledges what I don't know and is helping me to get there. She recognizes my goals and is doing what she can to help me realize them. She NEVER EVER makes me feel bad. I NEVER EVER mistrust her.

Find a trainer who supports your goals and dreams. Riding should be fun and should make you feel good!

Karen from

starrynights said...

You sound a lot like me. LOL. I am a perfectionist too. And it sounds like generally assume the best of people, which is something that I do too. I am much older than you, however, so I can tell you from experience that you can never assume anything. Be your own advocate. Be your own horse's advocate. You know more than you think. So be confident and do what you know and do it to the best of your ability.

PonyNut's suggestion might be a good one. Taking a break and getting your head in the right place can be invaluable.

I've also learned over the years that it's almost never the horse. Horses are such simple straight forward creatures in so many ways. And they are a perfect mirror to our own imperfections. So if you were experiencing emotional or mental issues, then it's not surprising that it was showing up in Kiki.

You always have a sh*t eating grin in every one of your pics of you on her. If you think you ever want to event again, I wouldn't sell her. She clearly has the talent to be the kind of horse you want her to be.

If/when you decide to put her in training, make it some one close by so you can check on her regularly. Or ride regularly with the trainer so you can be sure you are both on target. It's up to you to make sure that the people handling Kiki are doing what YOU want them to do.

Anyway. Just my two cents. Take it or leave it. :-)

STB Eventer said...

I have no real answers, but I can certainly relate to your perfectionist tendencies. I am the same way, but I am also an adult amateur with a real job (HS teacher) and just ride/compete for "fun." My horses will never be anything other than low level dressage and event horses, but that's OK with me.

I have thought from the get-go that it was a shame you wanted to sell Kiki. I think you make a nice pair.

Here is what I always tell myself... I would recommend putting less pressure on yourself (easier said than done, I know!!), enjoying your horses, focusing less on showing/scores/moving up, and just remember why you love horses in the first place. Take lessons, keep learning, do a show/event when you can. But maybe 2012 is a year to just have FUN. I have told myself that when it is no longer fun, I won't do it. It has helped me keep my goals and expectations realistic and ultimately I end up doing well in competition because I have removed some of that stress and pressure I put on myself.

I wish you the best! Maybe turning Kiki out at your folks' farm until May is not a bad plan. ??

Mikaela Coston said...

Get out of California! The people are only interested in themselves and their interests. Trust yourself. You didn't get this far with your riding by listening to everyone and their opinions and sometimes it's best to know when enough is enough and stand for what you believe is right. Don't be afraid to walk away from someone who says your the problem.

Would it be so bad if you just continued to train Kiki? Your a great rider- don't underestimate your skills and over estimate someone else's.

Suzanne said...

I just read this post. The reason I kept sending people to you to look at Kiki is that I think she's a good horse.

People brought up perfectionism which I won't say too much about... except, this is the key to alot of things... alot. You do very well with her but perfectionism never makes it good enough.

And, there is much to be said about good trainers... I've moved on with more than one because of my needs at the time.

There are many that can take care of you well and still help you get back on track.

And I love your temporary rider... She rocks!

Dom said...

This is such a terrible thing to happen and it seems like it happens to SO many people. I agree that Kiki is probably not the problem and like the above advice of turning her out for a year while you finish school. Whatever you decide, I hope the days of frustration and self-doubt are soon behind you.

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