Guest Blogger: Lauren Greenleaf, working student for 2017 Summer, from Hood River, Oregon.
When I started my summer as a working student for Meika, I thought I had two very reasonable expectations: I was expecting to make the big move up to Training level before the season was over, and I assumed I would be riding my pony, Myles, until I went to college. In June, there was no reason for me to think otherwise. But, one month later I had to painfully revamp my expectations. I was told I should move on to a new horse in order to achieve my goals and I needed to make big improvements in my riding. This was especially difficult to hear because I have been told by others that I had perfectly feasible goals to begin with. Myles has been my partner since I was twelve. He has taken me through my C3, countless shows, bareback rides in the snow, pony club camp, and so much more. I grew up with him. I felt crushed to think of that ending.
Realizing, as Meika put it, my ambition is greater than Myles’ has allowed me to seriously consider moving on to a horse who can help me achieve my goals of riding at Training and Preliminary levels. Initially, this decision came with a lot of tears and disbelief. But as I made my pros-and-cons list, I started to realize the pros outweighed the cons significantly. The only con I could actually come up with was the fact that selling my best friend was breaking my heart. But as I looked at the pros, I started to get excited about challenging myself and improving. It makes the pain a little easier knowing you have an exciting new horse to look forward to.
Being told I should get a new horse was the hardest thing about my summer. I was completely unprepared for it. During an early morning XC school before what was supposed to be my move up at Rebecca, we attempted some ditches and I came to two conclusions: 1) My horse isn’t ditchy; I am, and 2) Myles was at the top of his ability level, so if I messed anything up, we were going to have problems. What followed was a lot of self-doubt. If I’m the ditchy one, then why can’t I get my act together and sit up and ride? I think I have been riding him for so long that my bad habits have become my muscle memory. When I was twelve, he was probably too much horse for me and, in many ways, I still ride him today like I’m that little kid.
Meika had been telling me all summer that my riding improved when she put me on a different horses for a lesson. That improvement was because I was riding like I know how to ride, not out of habits with Myles. Honestly, this realization stung a little. It also made me think. If I can’t sit up and ride my own horse, where does that leave me?
I decided to drop down to Novice at Rebecca and maybe make the move up later in the season. With a lot of discussion with Meika, I made the decision to move up at Caber. Going into it, I knew I had to be at the top of my game the entire weekend. Myles is a good boy, but he’s not going to just jump clean for me unless I help him in every way possible. He just doesn’t have the ability to bail me out at that more difficult level (did I mention that he is 14.2 ?).
In short, Caber was a mess. But retrospectively, I was happy I tried Training level because if I hadn’t, I would be sitting in school right now thinking, “What if…?” That weekend made it clear to me that if I wanted to be competing at Training for the majority of next season, I was going to have to move on to a new partnership. Myles is my baby, but there is a competitive side of me that wants more.
Being told to move on was tough to hear, but now, I am ready to get to know a new horse and push myself.