DISCLAIMER: Written Monday afternoon. :)
I have had the barn to myself for the last five days, and it's given me a good chance to reflect on what I've learned as a rider, barn manager and horseperson in the last year that I've worked here. I have immersed myself in this job and this world since I got here and have felt my knowledge and capabilities have truly increased, especially in the last six months as I've had increased opportunities to ride lots of different horses and started competing again. I've learned SO much about managerial duties, organization in the barn and at shows, doing things in a timely manner but quickly and efficiently, scheduling things such as vet appointments and farrier appointments without conflicts to others' schedules, etc. I've learned to fit a lot of work into an 8 hour work day. I've learned where I can take shortcuts and where I can never cut corners. I've figured out a system that truly works for each individual horse in the barn. I've learned an immense amount about nutrition, and with help from my sister and several experts we've devised a "perfect" diet for each and every horse in the barn that gives them optimal amounts of energy, a glossy coat and good weight for their level of fitness and work. I've learned to judge the quality of hay, how to decipher supplements from necessary to a waste of money, how to put weight on a hard keeper, and how to manage a horse's soundness and ulcers through diet.
I've had ample opportunity to observe some of the top vets in the area at work and have learned a lot about diagonosing a lameness, treating it, rehabbing, and preventing injuries. I've learned about caring for various kinds of wounds and foot problems. I've learned a TON about shoeing from the four different farriers who work on our various horses. I've learned about equipment, tack, blankets, and riding clothes and gotten to try a lot of different brands to see what works and what doesn't.
But most of all, I've learned how to ride. It's obviously a forever work in progress, but when my boss is gone and I have five horses to ride on my own, I finally feel competent to do the job properly. Before I got here, I wouldn't know how to ride on my own, work through problems, etc. I didn't have a clue. Finally, I feel like the ability to school a horse on my own is there...obviously needing more development and lots more experience, but it's there. I can get on my own horse and ride him through his problems, loosen him up in a nice long warm up and then spend quality time working him on the flat, ending with a positive result and a good feeling. I can get on a horse who is rehabbing and make his mundane trot sets more fun for him. I can get on the spooky horse who previously I would just fight with (and lose every time), and work him through his spooking and balking and end up getting some pretty beautiful work out of him. Nine times out of 10 I can get off and feel good about my ride, even if things didn't go as I had planned or if there were lots of bumps throughout. I always feel like I accomplished SOMETHING, even if it was small, when I get off. That feeling was NEVER there before. I was always missing that part of my riding. Now I'm just so excited to keep learning, keep soaking up every piece of information I can, and getting a lot more time in the saddle to continue my education.
My dream of being a professional rider is still sitting in the back of my mind. I know I've gotten a late start compared to most professionals, but what is age but a number, anyway? :)
Now, I have also become aware of some key physical issues that are compromising my effectiveness as a rider.
1. My core is incredibly weak. It's always been that way, but I never truly realized it until I started riding correctly with C and physically was not able to sit up and engage my core. I collapse in my ribcage, I creep forward on my pelvis and therefore my position is ineffective and incorrect. I have to be concious of this every single second and literally tell myself to sit back and try to engage those muscles. So far, I'm up against a brick wall. Suggestions welcome :)
2. My back. I've strained my lower back yet again and today couldn't physically sit up. It feels like a jackhammer going straight up my spine as I absorb concussion from the horse's stride. I plan on icing the crap out of it and continuing to ride through it in the vain hope it'll sort itself out. Chiro is out of the budget right now. I know that a lot of the back pain is related to the lack of core strength as well.
And my half chaps have broken..the bottom snaps fell off on both of them. Frustrating as now the zippers unzip while I ride. I've been eying the Ariat Volant paddock boots and half chaps but am scared, literally, to buy them as I'm fairly certain I'll be kicked out of my barn for wearing them ;)
Time for a lunch break. The gang will be back this afternoon after a super successful weekend at Poplar! Can't wait to see them, although it's been really nice to have the barn to myself and to just *be*.
God Bless and have a great Monday!