Lessons from Florida

I initially wrote this on February 24, 2014 and am re-posting it here for reference.

Greetings my good friends!

Believe me when I tell you I wanted to write sooner but I was full flown in the heart of Florida and all it had in store for me and decided to wait until after that lengthy adventure so I could sum it up nicely in one swoop. I can look back now and weigh the negative aspects with the positive and spare you the grief I was experiencing at the time. Let me just say, it’s good to be back here at Braeburn.
First, I was thrilled to be home in the Upper Midwest for a week among chilly temperatures and snow, not to mention seeing some familiar, friendly faces if even for a short time! I was growing restless, though, because I live such an active lifestyle and I had nothing to do! I was still getting up at my normal time, 5 am central, which put me wide awake before the rest of my family. So, there I sat with my book and read for a few hours until the rest of the house began stirring.Hmm, maybe I should go for a run? Wait, it’s winter and snow is on every surface turning to ice along the well-trodden roads. Ok, so much for that idea. Oh good, my aunt and uncle are going to take the dog for a walk in knee deep snow, perfect! That, however, proved really difficult on top of exhausting, but I enjoyed getting out and moving nonetheless. I’m starting to really miss the horses now!

Christmas at home

Christmas at home

I flew back to NC for a grand total of one day upon which I proceeded to work a normal schedule with 3 horses to ride and all the chores. Ahh, it feels good to be riding again. Well, Pepper, this is our last ride until I come back mid-February….. That evening was nothing but packing for my trip to Florida. Rising at 3:30 the following morning I turned the nose of my truck southward for a 12 hour, gas-guzzling drive to Wellington. It was rather entertaining to watch the thermometer steadily rise to 80 the farther south I went. Oh this is going to be fun!
That night, wandering around the roads of Wellington trying to find the barn at which I will be working with an address that my gps couldn’t seem to locate, I came to the conclusion that Wellington was nothing but palm trees and $$. I did eventually find it, but not after eyeballing some of these huge, fancy, extravagant stables ($$) in the area each coupled with mansions ($$). Geesh! This place is incredible. And the fanciest ones I couldn’t even get a glimpse of because they were all within gated communities flanked by entrances of waterfalls and stone cupolas across a paved bridge ($$). I can’t even fathom.

The arena from the barn in Florida

The arena from the barn in Florida

Blooming in January? Who knew!

Blooming in January? Who knew!

The barn I worked in was gorgeous and contained 22 horses ($$). The staff consisted of about 5 other full time employees and one who helped in the mornings not to mention the trainer and assistant. This is a lot of people, but I was sure worked to the bone, so maybe it was not enough? The barn was in full frenzy from 7am until about 6pm with nary a break in there. These people didn’t even allow breaks to eat food. Upon several occasions was I reprimanded for eating a sandwich with the reasoning that I was not doing something useful because there were still more horses to ride. “We bust our butts around here, it’s what we do.” Well, I’m sorry, I thought to myself, but you can’t expect me to work upwards of 12 hour days in this heat on my feet with no food replenishment, that’s ridiculous! “Yes, I know in other jobs it’s mandatory you take a lunch break, but not here.” I take it back, it’s not ridiculous, it’s inhumane! I’d rather be a horse at this barn where I only work for 45 mins! So, I would resort to waiting until the hunger feeling past, or sneaking bites of food, or locking myself in the bathroom to eat something where no one could see. How do these people live like this? I did not seem to mesh well with my coworkers, never really doing anything outside of work with them though they were around my age. I also did not completely like what I saw concerning the horse care. But, they did the best they could with the little space provided. Thankfully my resolve in this sport is so passionate that I was able to stick it out for the benefit of learning all I can.
And learn I did! A top notch trainer came to the barn to give lessons ($$) and I was asked if I could take notes for the riders. Heck yeah, this is what I came to do! I was engulfed in the lessons and took tons of notes giving them to the riders afterwards. It was immediately realized that I had a talent for this and became the designated lesson note-taker! Whoohoo! Something positive! Something I can be appreciated for! This allowed me to listen in and watch numerous lessons and clinics with Olympic level riders and trainers. I learned a ton! This is what I came to Wellington to see, and thankfully I got to see a good share of it! I filed all this information away in a notebook of things I need to work on and try when I’m actually riding again. You see, there were no horses there available for me to ride except this old, retired Grand Prix horse who had chronic lameness issues. I averaged one ride a week, twice going two full weeks without being in the saddle. I am going out of my mind! You see, riding is also a psychological thing for me. It lifts my spirits and brightens every day. I was missing that.
After receiving strange looks regarding my request to have Sundays off, it was granted with my clarifying statement of, “I would like to go to church.” The pause in the room was enormous and then finally the silence was broken with, “Yeah, ok.” Apparently, taking Sundays off is a foreign concept to these people. Nonetheless, I used these afternoons well and traveled to parks in the area to immerse myself in the landscape and wildlife and took a great deal of photos! I even got to see and touch the Atlantic ocean! It’s warm! That was a shocker for me! But I do have to say seeing an alligator a few feet from me was a highlight! No worries, I was on a boardwalk, he was in the water beneath. And, when my parents came for a visit we saw some on our air boat ride!

Florida was beautiful!

Florida was beautiful!

This entire way of life and the immense cost of everything in and around Wellington regarding the horses, clinics, lessons, and even a trip to the grocery store, not to mention gas and the price tags hanging on every item in the shops (a belt for $450, I mean seriously, come on) made me think that it is impossible to make it in this industry without $$. Everywhere I looked $$ was needed to get anywhere. I’m never going to be successful if this is what it takes. How could I possibly afford an international quality horse and qualify to be on this level? But you know, at the end of the day, that is not why I’m in this sport. I do it because I love it, because it’s mentally and physically beneficial for the horses, because I want to use my passions and talents to help others achieve a level of connection and harmony with their horses that they have not had a chance to feel yet. I want to finish every day feeling that I have helped in these accomplishments, not stressing that I need to push my horse harder and faster than he can handle so we can go to these shows and qualify for internationals regardless the financial or physical and emotional cost. I’ve got to win the biggest show! I’ve got to get a more expensive horse! No, if I continue to train the classical way with happy horses and students, then success is already there, and someone will notice. Who knows, you might see me at some of these international shows someday along with my partners of humility and a great, sound horse who is happy to be a horse, and allowed to be a horse. That would indeed be a culmination stating that the ends followed naturally from the quality of the means. So I will stay true to my philosophy of horse care and training and see where it takes me.
Sponsors welcome.

It was good to see this little man again!

It was good to see this little man again!

If I wasn’t grateful enough for this situation I’ve found in NC, I’m even more grateful now. And now I’ve got some new tools in my tool belt for riding and training. There was good from this experience, it was just certainly rough and long. I hope you all had a great Christmas and new year. Stay warm, it’s pretty chilly out there.
Until next time.

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