Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Burn Out

So, it’s been over a month since I’ve updated you. My father chided me on the phone Monday night for leaving my readers hanging. I said “but dad, no one wants to hear the bad parts” but he told me you all deserved a run-down of events (and depressing ramblings) regardless.

I figured I would utilize my lunch break today to check-out of work for moment and to take the opportunity to reunite with my blogger-friends.

Through most of June I had been doing a good job of riding about 4 days a week and sometimes even seeing Granite more often than that. Unfortunately, none of my rides had been much fun. Granite is completely distracted by ANYTHING that takes place anywhere on the premises. He was spooking at things he has seen 100 times and at one point when he took off and almost careened into a fence, for the first time I felt scared on board my horse. That is not a feeling that I welcome. I am a self-proclaimed timid rider (you will NOT see me ever riding cross-country…no no no!) and its been so wonderful to have felt confident on my 3 year old during his whole first year under saddle. He may not have been perfect, but he was always level headed and honest. That’s all I ask. But that was the highlight of a downward spiral for us in June.

I like to think Granite hasn’t just jumped into the looney bin. There had to be factors contributing to his behavior. I think I can name a few. He was moved into a solitary pasture and his stall-mate moved into the “big” barn so he literally never got to touch the nose of another horse. He is an extremely social boy and he plays with others to the point of their annoyance. If you get him with another social horse, they play for hours on end. Taking all of that stimulation away from him was a lot and I think when I took him out, he has so much pent up anxiety (herd animals don’t rest well when alone either since no one is there to stand watch while they lay down). It was also very hot and he wasn’t getting to come in much at all. This normally would be fine with me since I prefer him being out 24/7 anyway, but it was HOT and there was no shelter in his pasture/ Some trees that provided an amount of shade, but no shelter from the elements. I don’t think these factors completely resulted in his behavior issues under saddle, but I think they compounded a big, strong 4 year old already trying to test his limits.

I realized that my problems with him undersaddle had not gotten any better in a month and I clearly was hitting a wall and with my confidence waning, I was not going to prevail. So, I called Becky. And I begged. She told me her barn was jam packed, but she would make room for us for a temporary training situation. If she can work through some of his bending, collecting, straightness, suppleness issues, then I can hopefully regain the positive tract we had been on late this winter into early spring.

So, although I felt guilty doing so, I gave the barn manager about 6 hours notice (it was the 1st of the month when I found out Becky could take him and I had no contract… so, who wants to worry about prorates?) and got Granite (and all of our stuff) out and on the road back to Becky’s barn. Her barn is 1 hour away from my office then 25 minutes back to my house which makes it difficult to see my horse much, but I knew it would be worth it for at least a month to let him decompress, get his head on straight, then have some tuning up with his Kindergarten Teacher. My horse was a different horse the day after he arrived at Becky’s. He was my dead-head, easy going, lazy boy again! Its like he kept thanking me. He went back into his huge pasture with 4 friends and he loved every moment.

I’m hoping Becky has some time in the saddle with him in the coming weeks. Now that we are past having lost THREE shoes in one shoeing cycle and the temps in the triple-digits, I think she will be able to concentrate on getting him back on the right track. At least I hope so.

All of the drama and the issues with Granite had really caused me some burn out. I was dreading going to the barn where I was constantly worried about Granite not being happy or safe. He was a terror to ride and I never looked forward to THAT after a long day at work. I was spending money and time right and left on extra farrier and emergency vet farm calls.

The events of late spring/ early summer completely shot my motivation and eagerness to be with my horse, at the barn, or even thinking about equines. It’s happened to me before (after a few years of showing heavily and being disappointed with a 2nd or 3rd place). I don’t know if “normal” horse people get to the point where they question being horse people. I start to think, I could be looking into buying a home (or at least a new car) if I didn’t have the horse. Yes, I could go visit my friend in Denver if I didn’t have the horse. Sure, I could have more time for my friends if I wasn’t juggling my whole life plus the horse. Maybe having a horse, being a public servant who plans to marry a school teacher is unreasonable…maybe its selfish. I know that I will never have the means to compete on any recognized level or with any regularity. Should I even own this lovely, large, talented warmblood… if we will never have the opportunity to really BE anything? These are the thoughts I start to think and when I know I’ve burnt myself out. Maybe they are legitimate thoughts, maybe I’m just in a equine-slump.

I know I would be lost without horses. I know I have committed to Granite. But at this juncture in my life, when I don’t see him I feel guilty and when I do go see him, it’s mostly out of obligation. That’s never fun, and I spent a lot of time and money on that horse because its my passion. It should be a reward for me (for the most part) to get to see my horse or ride or to even have him in my life. I have to take this opportunity to re-evaluate.

So while Granite is at training, I’m trying to take some time away. Yes, I still go see him 3-4 times a week. But I’ve only been on his back 1 time (bareback for about 15min) in the last three weeks. I’m trying to remove the guilt when I don’t make time for him by saying “he’s in training, he doesn’t need me right now.” I’m training for a ½ marathon in November, and while I’ll probably never do another one, I want to make training for this goal a priority. I want to readjust to what it is that I love about my horse and I want him to be able to be a horse and be happy. I hope to road trip with my best friend to a 3-day event in the next couple of months. I know not having any "barn friends" has a lot to do with it. Growing up, I always had my best friend to ride with and I looked forward to the camaraderie as much as I did the horses. Now its just me and G for the most part and I think just talking about horses and goals and riding will help me remember why invigorates me about it all. 

In the meantime, I’m looking for a barn next to my office (so I can see him on my lunch if necessary, or every day for a few minutes at least when I don’t have time to ride). I think I’ve found a place. Its definitely not fancy, but its in my price range, he would have a stall but it opens to the pasture and he can choose when he is in or out. The owner lives on site and she seemed really open to me having my own farrier/trainer/vet if I wanted. She can feed and hold for me. Theres no wash stall or hot water and the “arena” is just an area of the pasture marked off for riding. But I think being able to have a good relationship with the owner and her being willing to work to achieve a situation Granite is happiest in may overcome the physical facilities. Her horses (6 of them) were in good shape and she has a 40 yr old Arabian on site (I like the longevity). I’ve asked if I can put a deposit down to hold the spot until Granite is done with training (a few weeks). I’m awaiting a returned call on that. She is located 4 miles from some awesome trails and she says she likes to go to the occasional local fun show. Maybe for now, maybe even for always I should work toward trail rides and fun shows. Maybe I even look into getting a college student to catch-ride Granite 1-2 times a week so I won’t feel guilty when I need to spend the evening running, or with friends, or with TK. Maybe someone with the time and money for shows (and no horse for whatever reason) takes Granite to the level he deserves to be at, and I support them all the way?? Thoughts. 

Speaking of TK…. He got a JOB J 17 minutes from MY JOB! And 3 miles from the aforementioned barn. When our lease is up in December, we will be moving one county east. I will cease commuting and will begin living, working, and riding in the same area!!! Hopefully not spending hours of every day in the car will help me to relax and enjoy riding again.

Sorry for the depressingness--- see Daddy, I told you they didn’t want to hear my complaints.

Hope everyone out there is well. I AM keeping up with your blogs J


  1. I get to feeling this way sometimes too. Just went through about a month & a half battle with Poppy trying to figure out what the heck kind of bit she needed, enjoyed, and went well in. I was so discouraged over something so small but I got to the point of "what the heck am I doing???" BUT then I found the bit and the riding has resumed and I remember how awesome it feels and how much I enjoy them and how much I love them and how much happiness they truly bring to my life...and I realize its worth every second and every dollar and every other sacrifice! I think we all go through it. Just like every other part of our lives- we are never happy 100% of the times. If down parts didnt happen we wouldn't appreciate the up part as much as we do :)

  2. Ugh. Sorry you've been so down about this.

    I struggle with the whole money issue, too. I could probably find a job that would pay enough to make having Izzy not be a huge stretch like it is right now, but then I wouldn't have time for her, as you're experiencing now. I do not (and cannot foresee) having money to do rated shows any time in the near future. I'm not an overly competitive person, but I love to be able to measure my accomplishments, and being consigned to local shows with uncertain judging is not always my idea of a good time.

    On the other hand, Izzy looks great in western tack, will learn to be an awesome trail and all-around horse (someday, when I can ride again), and I know she doesn't have performance goals to achieve. She gets a massive amount of turnout, so I don't feel guilty if I can't make it out.

    Fingers crossed for you guys finding your happy place.

    And... sometimes baby horses are just that. I hope Becky can help you guys out, but don't give up on him cuz he's being a poop at 4. I hate 4 year olds--I always tell people that if I'd met Izzy when she was 4, we would have never gotten along. Just a thought.

  3. So glad to hear that you are okay. I honestly think most "normal" horse people reach a point where they ask themselves why they have a horse. They do cost a ton of money and added stress...but they can be such a huge blessing too. Don't worry about Granite ever BEING anything. He doesn't care if he is a trail horse or a fancy show horse. :) I also agree that a lot of riding is about companionship and having a friend to ride with. I hope that you will find some to hang with at your new barn.

  4. So much stuff to comment on! First off, a wise person once told me never make a big decision when you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. So when things are down in the dumps, refresh yourself and refrain from tackling this big horse ownership question. Second, my experience with babies (esp my current one) is the good behavior comes and goes. It may be the living sitch, it may just be he's in a phase (they ALL go through them, esp the spooky phase). Mine decided at 5 he was basically afraid of life and no longer broke - this lasted about a month then he was fine, go figure. Third, if you never do more than trail ride G twice a week you still deserve to have a beautiful, talented horse! Who cares if he's not tapping into 150% of his "potential", just because you want to be chill with him doesnt mean you have to give him up and buy some homely ewe-necked, scrubby horse more worthy of an owner who doesnt show at rated events ;) I went through a lot of these issues too with my two over the past 2 years...take your time away...really...dont feel guilty. Create some distance from it all, train for your race and see how you feel. Refresh and then re-evaluate :)

  5. Every month when I write checks that total more than the cost of the mortgage, I imagine what I could do with all that money if I didn't have a horse (so does the BF!). But I am a horse person and I love my horse... I can't imagine life without her.
    The last year and a half has been tough for me, and I'm still hitting walls and trying to get things right with her. All during that time I felt extremely guilty if I didn't go to the barn every single day. If I missed a show that we could have gone to, I felt guilty. I felt guilty a lot, for just about anything, and because of all the money I spend on that horse. You need to remember, though, that owning a horse doesn't have to be about competing or even riding. Some of the best times I've ever had with my horse weren't in the saddle.
    You can enjoy just having Granite, and being able to see him, and spend time with him however you want. And if you can't go visit him because you have other things to do, you don't have to feel guilty about that. You do have a life outside of Granite, and you can balance both of those lives if you just allow yourself the opportunity.
    I've allowed myself some room to breathe here lately and honestly, I'm a little burned out myself. All the rehab, all the time, and all the vet bills got to me after a while, and now that Lilly is relatively healthy, I'm giving myself a break and I'm not allowing myself to feel guilty about it at all.
    I hope you're feeling better about all of this soon.

  6. This is a post we can all definitely relate to (See Rachel's dad -- you were totally right). Horses are a huge commitment of time, energy, and money... and sometimes when there's a lot on your plate it seems crazy to be devoting so much to something that's basically a "hobby." But please let go of the guilt for not seeing him every day, and please let go of the "I'm not worthy of my horse" feelings cause your horse loves you, and you treat him right and make sure he's got a good life, which means you absolutely deserve him. Give yourself a little break for a while, there is no shame in it and in the grand scheme of things not riding for a month or so is no big deal, and will probably be good for both you and your horse. Training for a half marathon is no small feat, so dedicate yourself to it if it's important to you, because if you don't give it your all, you'll regret it. Once you've met that goal, the next steps will probably become clearer. Just remember all the good stuff you have to be thankful for, and try not to be too hard on yourself or your horse (he's just a baby after all). Thanks for the update, and the honest post. For the record, none of us mind hearing about the bad parts too. :)

  7. I think most of us crazy horse lover/owners go thru these phases...but it passes when you get that feeling that you know you would do anything for that 1000+ lb baby.

    Seems esp. sport horse owners go thru times of discouragement - losing shoes, lameness, training issues - but those moments when all is right in the world and you have a fantastic ride - priceless.

    Never think others don't want to hear your struggles. I have found horse blog people to be very supportive - amazing that people you have never met can lift your spirits.