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Reflecting : Flay's Return to the Show Ring

I want to preface this post by apologizing for my lack of activity in the recent month. Between my first semester of freshman year coming to a close, the stress that comes with managing school work while traveling to Florida, and the amount of time I’ve been in the saddle, I’ve let Breeches and Sweats slip away from me. For being a blog that promotes healthy balance, I have to admit, I let my commitments overtake me. After juggling what felt like ten different things at once, I’ve fallen into a groove where I feel confident I can manage school, riding, hockey, and Breeches and Sweats at once. Without further adieu, let me begin!

If you aren’t following me on any other platforms (you should!), you wouldn’t be aware that I’ve had quite a fantastic start to my 2024 Florida circuit in Wellington, Florida. Not only did I get to start off WEF with some incredible horses that helped me yield incredible results, but I’ve also gotten to witness and be a part of my horse, Flayders, seamless recovery and return to the show ring post colic surgery. Now, I know I have a post all about this experience and what it has taught me, but as we reach big goals and continue growing our bond, I learn more about myself as a person, and as a horsewoman. Originally I had wanted to make a huge, emotion-packed vlog of Flay’s return, but as soon as my plane landed in Florida, I knew that it was important to focus solely on Flay this weekend. This grueling process of rehab and recovery has put me in a perspective that I didn’t know existed. Sure, I’ve dealt with smaller injuries, I’ve even retired horses, but nothing comes close to the emotional stress and long lasting pain that comes with a traumatic case like colic. As much heartbreak as Flay has brought me in the last year, he has brought me so much love and admiration for the sport, and for the horse. He has taught me a million lessons, but one that I will never forget, and that will stick with me forever is the importance of living in the moment, and being grateful for every little thing that brings me joy.

Someone once told me that if I could bend the world to my will, I would, and that I try so hard to change or make something happen when it’s out of my control. I don’t want to misguide you, because I fully believe in setting goals and chasing them, and I try to chase my goals everyday. But, what I mean by mentioning that quote is that sometimes we can get so fixated on the end result, or the ribbon, that we forget about the process, or the round. When I first got to Florida, I was fortunate to show in the 3 '3 medals on other horses, and put down awesome rounds. Ever since, I’ve been dying to get back into the bigger equitation medals and push myself to be better. After showing, I would be fully content to come home and jump Flay around  2’ 6 courses because I’d gotten my show fix, and I could just focus on Flay. I was enjoying every moment I got to spend with Flay. Even in my first few classes back with him, every second, from the walk up, to the moments in the ring, I felt overjoyed and flooded with emotions to just be with him. I cried the happiest tears. All the hardship my family and barn team had been through to get us here, it didn’t feel real to be back with him. I felt the purest emotions. What I didn’t expect to follow those emotions, a few days after showing, was the pang of feeling behind, and feeling “left out.” All I’ve wanted to do for my whole riding career is show in the upper levels of the equitation. While I was ecstatic to show Flay, now, I couldn’t stop thinking about getting back into the bigger medals. My chasing goals mentality was turning into a more bitter feeling. I would never ever push Flay beyond his limits and putting him in the bigger classes right away wouldn’t be fair to him. And I knew that, and it made me frustrated. For a few days, instead of cherishing just being able to ride, let alone show my horse, I was bummed, and dare I admit, angry, wishing that his rehab was over, wishing that he was back to 100% strength. 

What made me snap out of this mindset was, again, the moment my plane touched the Florida ground. Classes didn’t matter, height didn’t matter, all I cared about was seeing, riding, and spending time with my miracle horse. Any second with that horse is a gift on its own, all other results are secondary. And, with true appreciation for the sport, and for the animal, the wins will naturally follow. It wasn’t that I wasn’t happy with Flay, I was ecstatic, he had done everything right and wowed us all stepping back into the show ring effortlessly. What had happened was I had lost sight of what really mattered, getting Flay back into the ring, and now I can work up from here. My goals are still set, and I'm still itching to be back to my typical classes, but, I’m totally ok with showing at whatever level Flay needs. At the end of the day, the ribbons are pretty, and it feels amazing to qualify for finals, and show in bigger classes. But what feels even better, is the love and connection between horse and rider. 


To ride a horse is a pleasure of its own, to love a horse is a feeling that will stay with you forever. Flay’s colic surgery is arguably one of the hardest things I've had to handle so far in my 15 year old life, but, with all the bad came so much good. Not only am I lucky to have Flay back in action, I’m lucky to be able to take so much good, and learn so much, from one of the scariest situations. Every time I step in the ring, or sit on that horse, I learn so much about myself. He makes me reflect, he makes all the good shine through the bad. After reflecting on myself the last few weeks, I am extra excited to get back into the show ring this weekend with my partner in crime. I could be walking out of the cross rails with that horse, and I’d still have the same giddy look, and loving feeling as if I was walking out of the International Ring. 


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