Year End Reflections and New Beginnings

Almost anyone who has been present in my life this year knows what a roller coaster it has been. Despite best efforts, my clientele and horse numbers were halved close to the beginning of the year. My little jumper who had been doing so well ended up being laid up for the entire year from a turn out accident. Various other events left me feeling very defeated before summer. My entire plan for 2015 was picked up in a tornado, torn apart, and distributed all over the place.

As horse trainers, we often equate success with numbers: the number of horses in the barn, the number of ribbons on the wall, the number of people knocking at the door. It’s really the only quantitative device we have in the industry. Customer and horse satisfaction are much more subjective and difficult to put on a piece of paper. So being in this position really knocked my confidence and made me question my career choices.

I’ve never been one to give up. I’m stubborn. I like to think tenacity and stubbornness are two sides of the same coin. After having a particularly tough month in April, I turned my attention towards the remaining students and horses and tried to come up with a new plan for the year.

The upside to downsizing is the ability to really focus on my students and horses. While the bank account may take a hit, the breathing room allowed for more insightful lessons and time spent with the horses.

On a wild whim, I entered an event for the first time ever and completed a Beginner Novice Three Day Event on my mare who usually does the hunters. It was terrifying, stressful, and I hate to admit it, rewarding. It’s something I would have never done if my main mare had been sound. Slowing down gave me a chance to make room for new adventures. This winter I plan to focus more on dressage with her and see where we can get.

We focused on Kingston. His owner spent the show season on the sidelines while she was pregnant so Kathryn S and Madeline took over the ride. With some tack adjustments and training, he blossomed. He showed at Almaden and Menlo, Paso Robles, Murieta, and LA. With me, we started in the 1.0m and ended in the 1.25m. We learned a lot and best of all, had a great time. Kathryn S had a great summer and ended with super ribbons at Almaden and Menlo. We got to do the Horse & Hound Class with Kathryn B at Menlo and had so much fun.

As for the others: I had a chance to focus on finding Amy and her mom a new horse. Thanks to Katie King we brought Frenchie home and he’s been a great match so far. We’ve gotten Ana and Kathryn B back into full work with new and exciting goals. Aspie has really settled into his training and is ready for his new career. Melanie won a medal final at the JK Presents final show on Fiora and has made considerable progress on her all year. Comedy grew up this year and has turned into the horse I always knew he would eventually be. My jumper mare, Kiva, is starting back to work. The riders who lease horses through Webb all made huge strides as well and met some of their goals.

And as for next year…

I hesitate to make any solid plans or goals but I'd love to continue with Kingston and hopefully Kiva in the jumper arenas. I'm hoping to show Fiora in some dressage shows and possibly attempt another event. One of the hardest things, I think, with horses is having goals but remaining incredibly flexible. I try to remind myself that any positive experience with horses, no matter the discipline or direction, makes anyone a better and more rounded horse person. Flexibility, positivity, and persistence are better measures of success than ribbons on the wall or the number of horses in the stalls.

I’m incredibly grateful to my barn family for the trust they bestow upon me and the incredible sportsmanship and horsemanship they always demonstrate. They are always so unbelievably supportive of one another even in their own time of difficulties. I could not ask for a better group of students, parents, and horses with whom to spend my days. Thank you a thousand times over!

Onward and Upward to 2016!

Stephanie's Kingston in the 1.25m Jumpers

Stephanie's Kingston in the 1.25m Jumpers