Sandy: My Two (Competing) Loves

My husband called me at work in a slight panic Friday afternoon. We were planning to take our 2-year-old daughter, Aveline, to the National Zoo in Washington, DC, Saturday, and I’d invited our 12-year-old neighbor, Samantha, whom my daughter adores. Friday afternoon Samantha asked if she could sleep over that night because both her parents were going to be working Saturday morning, and she was worried she wouldn’t be up in time to leave. My husband and I decided it would be better if I came home and supervised the impromptu sleepover. What does all of this have to do with horses? Friday night is one of the two times a week I have to ride. My husband works Monday-Thursday nights, and I’m on solo parenting duty then. My other riding day is usually Sunday. For a long time, I struggled to think of ways to fit in at least one more ride a week. If I added some barn time Saturday?which my husband is all for?I found I never got any laundry, grocery shopping or other miscellaneous errands done. I also tried riding one weekday morning, but that meant getting up at 4 a.m., and even then, I’d be at least 30 minutes late for work. A bigger part of the problem with adding a third ride a week is?and I’m embarrassed to admit this?my waning energy level. One thing about parenthood I never “got” before is that while it’s rewarding, it’s draining. Aveline is generally happy and easygoing, but she is 2 years old. That means when I get home from work, many things are a challenge. For example, just getting her to brush her teeth can be an adventure: Sometimes I can’t get her to brush her teeth at all; sometimes I can’t get her to stop brushing her teeth. Sometimes, if I’m not paying attention, she’ll try to brush her hair with the toothbrush, or worse, the cat. Once I caught her cleaning the sink with her toothbrush, then she happily popped it back into her mouth before I could stop her. That’s just about how every task is. My situation is probably cosmic justice: I used to be one of those riders who rode a minimum of five days a week, and wondered (a little smugly) about those horse owners, usually parents, who came out only once a week. “How can they not spend more time with their horse? I’d never do that,” I thought. When I do actually ride now, I feel as if all I’m really fit to do is work on 20-meter circles as I struggle to maintain my leg position. (I know where my leg should be, but it just won’t stay put!) On top of all of this, I also feel guilty about two things: 1) When I ride Friday nights, I often don’t get to see Aveline because I leave for work before she gets up and return after she’s in bed. (Bad mothering?) 2) I feel if I were just a little more organized, I’d be able to fit in more barn time. (What’s wrong with me?) As with most things in life, I can (and sometimes do) look at this glass as half empty, but I know it’s really half full. First, I wouldn’t trade being a mother for the world, so I know I’ve made the right choice putting more serious riding goals on hold. Next, my horse, Merlot, has always had a sweet nature, but he also can become unglued if I put too much pressure on him. This almost-retired lifestyle suits him just fine. Finally, I’ve always enjoyed riding, but I’ve almost always had some kind of training goal. These days my goals are to make sure I have fun and really appreciate whatever time I can spend with Merlot. That might mean working on those 20-meter circles, getting up in two-point and galloping around or just dropping the reins and letting Merlot take me on a trail ride of his choosing. Now that I think of all this, what more could I ask for?

Aveline pretends she’s a horse and gallops toward me.
Gabrielle Baker IHSA
Reflections on Competing at IHSA Nationals
IHSA Rider
Favorite Memories from the 2017 IHSA Nationals
IHSA Day 1
IHSA Nationals Through the Lens
My Life: A Dressage Queen Breaks Out promo image
My Life: A Dressage Queen Breaks Out