Thursday, March 3, 2016

Modified Adult Eq (aka Your Child is Ugly)

Back in Novemeber, my good friend H moved to upstate NY, leaving me BFF-less and also trainerless again. The trainer situation has always been a little awkward for me. I'm not "in a program" which is great, as it brings the freedom to do whatever I want, but also leaves me on the strugglebus a bit at times.

Freedom to do what we want
I've always tried to have a weekly lesson on the books. I am under no delusion that I have a solid enough foundation to go it on my own, with the occasional clinic or lesson as a tune up. The main discipline of the instructor hasn't been hugely important, as long as the basics are solid. My last 4 instructors have specialized in a variety of disciplines: Hunters, Dressage, Centered Riding and Jumpers. My most recent instructor's focus was the Adult Equitation ring.

Instructor K first came to my farm in late fall, when two of her adult clients moved their horses to board at our facility. K has an impressive resume, having spent many years riding and training at a now defunct barn that once boasted Olympic level trainers and future Olympic level students. K's basics were solid and she was an encouraging and supportive instructor. Although K's primary focus was the Adult Equitation ring, I figured I could take what I needed and apply it to whatever Boca and I decided to do. I knew we needed to work on rhythm, pace and going to the base, not just running and flinging ourselves over fences.

Weekday lesson under the lights

I guess I should back up and talk a little bit about identity. And goals. Some people have a specific discipline they want to pursue. Whether it is 3' Eq, Prelim, 100 Mile LDRs or PSG, some people really want to get there. And sometimes in the pursuit of that, if the mount they have is not a good fit for their goals, they move on. And I am totally ok with that. I don't buy in to the idea that you have to have ONE HORSE FOR ITS ENTIRE LIFESPAN, FOREVER AND EVER, AMEN. It's not a marriage. You don't say your vows as you sign the Bill of Sale.

Having said that, I'm not someone who has a particular burning desire to acheive or pursue a particular level in a particular discipline. I would love to jump around a local unrated show at 2'6" and put in a respectable round. But if I could not also go hunter pacing on a glorious autumn day, if I couldn't put my horse on a trailer and go gallop down a sandy beach, I would not be happy. And I think Boca is that horse. I think he can be, anyway.

Back to Instructor K.... Before my friend H left, she took a lesson from Instructor K's mentor. Part of the lesson included a conversation along the lines of H would go much further on a different (read = better) horse. H warned me to expect that kind of conversation would take place with Instructor K at some point as well. I decided I would be able to disregard that conversation, should it ever come to that.
 
Instructor K's other two clients happened to own giant horses. One was an Irish Sporthorse that came with a pricetag of $15K. The other was an even bigger giant of a WB of some sort, a 3' Eq horse with a pricetag of $40K. In I came with my $1,500 15.3H paint.
 
I've always been sensitive about my size, relative to Boca. To be honest, I don't really feel all that comfortable on giant horses. My favorite size seems to be around 16-16.1h. At 15.3, Boca is just under that. Coupled with being a bit downhill and with a short neck, I've always felt that I look too big for him. It's probably the one thing I feel a little self-concious about.
 
Too Big?
From the perspective of Eq land, where everyone rides 17h+ horses, I was on a midget, and Instructor K zeroed in on it. She was not unkind, but from the first lesson, she let me know that she thought I looked too big on my horse. As we worked, from November through February, comments would slip out about getting me on a fellow student's retired Modified Adult Eq winner. And preparing Boca 'in case' he ever did short-stirrup 'down the road'. I tried to have a conversation with her about working with what I had, but it never seemed to sink in. I told my fellow lesson mate that it felt like being told your child was ugly.
 
Right before the X-Rays were taken, I had pretty much decided that, despite the good basics, I was done with Instructor K. Despite trying to discount the comments and the not so subtle steering me towards another mount, it wasn't fun having your partner being counted out.
 
Having the surgery came at the perfect time and gave me the perfect out with Instructor K. I understand what Boca is. He may not be big or fancy, but he has earned his place in my life.

So, post-rehab, I'll be looking for a new trainer. Who knows, maybe I'll go be an eventer. My new slogan... "Size Doesn't Matter".



17 comments:

  1. I was told by a "friend" that I was too big for my 15.3 TB when I first starting riding him in college. (I'm 5'10.) I owned him for six years until I had to put him down, and he carted my ass over 4' fences and any cross country jump I would point him at with zero problems. The "too big" or "too tall" argument is way overused in my book. If you're a good rider, you can get on anything. There's no way at all you're too big for Boca. Booooogussss.

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  2. Strugglebus?? I love it!!! I had no idea this was a thing. Had I known I would have bought a ticket and we could have sat together. I hope you don't mind if I borrow the term, giving due credit, of course. Anyways, as it pertains to size and horses, my rule of thumb has always been that the horse's ass must be bigger than my own. Seems to be working so far.

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    1. I wish I could take credit for Strugglebus! I definitely picked it up from another blogger - maybe SheMovedtoTexas or SprinklerBandits. I'll save you a seat ;)

      PS - I like your rule of thumb, although sometimes I think my ass may be giving Boca a run for his money.

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  3. You're not too big for him. Big horses are en vogue right now but that doesn't make them a necessity. I have also walked away from an instructor who made polite suggestions that I would do better on a different horse. Sorry, you may have a point but I'm super attached to this one. I can find someone else to help us if your solution is "get a new horse."

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  4. Ahh...I so agree with this. I want an instructor willing to teach me on whatever I want to ride (says the girl with a 14.1hh welsh cob and a 15.1hh quarab).

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    1. A nice horse is a nice horse (or pony), no matter what the size. I'm not sizist.

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  5. Good call. You look completely fine on Boca, he is a super cool horse, and there is no reason to switch horses, especially on such a silly pretext. I also seem to gravitate towards the 16-16.1 range and I'm 5'8" and a lot heavier than you. Horses haven't had a problem.

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  6. I think you look fab on Boca! As someone who is almost 5'8" with a 14.3hh horse I get comments a lot about how great I would look on something bigger so I understand but you guys look great together.

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  7. yea........ i'm pretty sure i would NOT be down with that kind of steady pressure from a trainer, esp given that i ride a *14.3* horse haha. like, i get bringing it up ONCE, mayyyyybe twice, but any more than that and it's kinda crossing a certain line of respect imo.

    and perhaps this is cynical, but that type of uninvited yet steady input makes me suspicious of the trainer's motives. like, what if i get the big fancy horse (and trainer gets their commission), but things still aren't perfect? what will the next solution be?

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  8. You definitely don't look too big on him! I am almost 5'7" and want a pony, so I am sure I will get the too big comment, too! There are too many trainers out there to settle for one that just thinks you need a new horse!

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  9. You know, it's all about fit. How you feel and what you want to do. I appreciate when instructors are realistic about my ability and my horse's ability, but in the end, as long as those two things MATCH UP, then you are golden IMHO!

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  10. I've never thought that you looked too big on him. A good instructor (in my book) takes the rider into account. If you wanted to do PSG on Boca then perhaps a goal discussion would be in order.
    People used to ask me how big Irish was and I always answered 'big enough for me'. :)

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    1. I think you summed up my point (probably more clearly than I did). If I had said "I want to do X" and if Boca wasn't suitable for X, then her input would have been valid. But, I went to her and said "I want us to be the best we can be." THAT was my stated goal.

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  11. If you're to big for your 15.3H horse then I am definitely to big for my 15.3H horse. But following Amy's logic we're both way more then good. LOL. Don't worry what other people think, especially when they have such different priorities. If you're happy and your horse is happy and your doing what you love... that's all that matters. I hope you find a trainer that can respect that.

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  12. For some reason I can take a lot of criticism about myself (and my riding) but if anyone says anything remotely rude about my horses I can't handle it. My aunt told me that Apollo's blue eyes were "offputting" and I have never forgiven her. And will spit on her grave. :O

    I am 6 feet tall and my little mare (who is the freakin bees knees btw) is 15.3hh. ;)

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  13. That's really unfortunate and I am sorry that you had a bad experience with your recent instructor. I've always really liked that my instructor would tell it like it is, but wouldn't require you, expect you, or bully you into getting a different horse. 15.3 is one of my favorite sizes of horses :)

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  14. You are not too big for him! How tall are you? I'm 5'10" and my horse is 15.2hh. I sometimes feel to big for him (16.1hh is my favorite size too), but I know I'm not. Now that I'm used to him and he's finished growing (a.k.a. gotten wider) he's a very comfortable size for me. :)

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