Monday, March 11, 2019

Swallowing pride... and asking for help!


Dear Friends,

As you know, the past year has been tough for me on the horse front. In the spring, Swag had finally made it to the preliminary level and was on track for his first CCI* event when he was injured just before our first cross country run of the year. The injury was career ending and was not anything that could have been predicted or prevented. Swag has always had my heart, he’s just a horse with a big personality. He would be that popular kid at school who’s good looking, without being obnoxious. He’d be on the football team, or maybe water polo, class president, homecoming king, while still being everyone's best friend. So while I miss him, I am happy to report that my handsome boy has been sending me updates and is very much loved and is doing well, which is all I ever could have hoped for.

After Swag got hurt, I spent the summer focusing on building my business, promoting the fabulous barn I’m fortunate enough to work from, and really just spending a lot of time helping my student and their horses progress. I always knew I’d get another horse. For months I looked at ads, went to the track, even vetted one that was by the same sire as Swag. But at the end of the day, there was always something not quite right and I found myself holding out for something more. Then one day, the ad for Bert popped up, and his crocked star, stripe and snip were the mirror image of Swag. There was no price on the ad, so my assumption was he was more than I could afford. But with a gut feeling, I made a call and spoke to his trainer at the track. The way she described him was so much like Swag I knew I had to have him. I bit the bullet and bought him sight unseen (at least not seen in person). He arrived about 2 weeks later and he was everything I’d hoped for. A lovely floaty mover, with springs in his legs, bold, brave, and confident, with the sweetest personality to match. And then Bert too, got hurt.

I’d say horse people are in general, superstitious. I for one swear by my lucky socks. I think it’s also in our nature to say things like; “things happen for a reason”, “it wasn’t meant to be” or “when one door closes another one opens”. So in light of the recent events, its only natural to have these thoughts pass through my head and it gets me to thinking what bigger, better, more exciting thing could there be next? Which brings me to my main point. I need help (that’s a loaded statement isn’t it!). Let me clarify, I need help to acquire my “next” horse.

I have an idea in motion to acquire a horse, but what I need now is a person/people who would be willing to help me finance this venture. I don’t necessarily need someone to cover the everyday/monthly expenses, it’s the purchase price I need help with. Asking for help is an uncomfortable feeling, but I’m swallowing my pride and am putting it out there, because if you don’t ask, the answer will always be no. The specifics aren’t something I want to discuss publicly at the moment, so if anyone wants more info on what I’m thinking or what is potentially involved, please don’t hesitate to send me a message and I’ll fill you in. Asking me about it is in no way a commitment (it never hurts to ask!) any help, no matter how small is still genuinely appreciated. In the meantime I’m continuing to teach and bake (bake sale at the next jump clinic?!?) and will keep pushing forward as I always do.

For more info, you can email me: megkfinn@gmail.com


Monday, February 25, 2019

Focus and Fear

I've started to write this post several times but keep getting side tracked, unclear about where my focus really is. So, I'm trying again in hopes that it may help me define that next step, help me focus which path I'm on, even if that path isn't well defined.

My last post was very much about loss and grief. It has been just over a week since I lost Bert, and Swag left for his new home. It has been just over one week since I became "horse-less". The outpouring of support I have received from family, friends, clients, and the horse community has been overwhelming. Thank you doesn't seem adequate enough to express how grateful I am. I've received some of the most beautifully written cards and knowing that I am not alone has helped me keep my sanity. It truly has been invaluable.
One of the amazing cards I received. Created by Rachel Rinaldi
My mom will tell you, I'm a do-er. It's hard for me to sit still and relax. My brain always seems to be thinking about "what's next". As a little kid I'd scream and cry and lock myself in the bathroom just to get out of taking a nap. Of course I'd eventually fall asleep in the bathroom, but I have never really gotten over that feeling of not wanting to stop and rest for fear I'd miss out on something. I have that same feeling now as I try to direct my energy on what is next for me horse-wise.

I missed all of last season when Swag was injured at the first event of the year. Instead of going to competitions, I put my efforts towards building my business and creating a barn full of wonderful students. As Swag rehabbed, I put my efforts into finding a new young Thoroughbred to bring up the levels and after months of searching, I found Bert. I planned it all out, giving Bert a couple of months out in the field to mentally decompress, and in January he came in for training. Everything was right on track for him to be ready for the 2019 show season. And then, as with most things horse related, the plan came to a screeching halt.

I'm left thinking about 2019 and am frantically trying to formulate a plan. Do I look for another horse as to not miss out on another year, or do I wait and save my pennies, and keep the attention focused on my students for another season?  I spent everything I had on Bert and Swag. I'm feeling panicky at the moment, afraid of sitting out another year as I'm not getting any younger. I'm scared of losing my nerve as a rider if I'm not out there actively competing, worried I'll no longer be relevant as a trainer if I'm not out amongst my peers. I'm trying not to let those fears control me. So while I'm trying to brainstorm and come up with some clever fundraising ideas (please send suggestions), I'm focusing on moving forward, putting my energy into the things I can control. Like coming up with new ways to challenge and inspire my students and rediscovering passions I'd forgotten I have (music) and incorporating them into my teaching.

I'm planning another jump clinic as well as another horsemanship class. There have been more barn outings and get togethers, there's been lots of baking, and just last week during a dressage lesson an idea for a musical freestyle was born. My students are all going to create their own miniature musical freestyles. They'll put them together over the next six weeks and then we'll have a little in-barn recital for them to show off their routines. The buzz in the barn is intoxicating and I'm excited to see what they'll come up with. All of these things help me focus, and while my path still isn't well defined, my goals are still the same. While I'd love to get another horse, focusing on the future helps to keep all of my fears at bay.

Fear is Not Rational or Irrational: 
Fear is Relative

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Reflections

Swag and Bert
I'm not exactly sure what the stages of grief are, maybe they are different for all of us. I find myself sitting here thinking about so many different things. I'm still in a bit of a fog as I realize that for the first time in more than 4 years I'm horse-less. Something which has only ever occurred briefly once before in my 30 years as an equestrian. I'm sad, so I turn to the things that comfort me... Baking, writing, and teaching/riding. These are the things I know best.

Yesterday, my sweet, goofy boy, Bert, was put down. Bert was a coming 5yr old Thoroughbred. A beautiful soul with a bright future ahead. He had the biggest eyes, with an expression that was full of curiosity, confidence, and a touch of mischief. He was athletic, bold, and destined to do great things. He was my next up-and-comer, with big shoes to fill. And then he fell.

Bert was playing in his paddock. Not wound up, not running around, but he must have been feeling good and did what horses do, he bucked, or leapt, or something of that sort, and he fell on his knees. Our groom saw him getting up. He went to check him, saw the tiniest of scrapes, and brought him in for me to look at. I was teaching a lesson at the time, so Bert stood in the cross-ties while I finished up. I saw the smallest of scrapes, wiped them off, and put on a bit of ointment. Then I went to put him in his stall and knew it wasn't just a scrape. He was hurting.

There is nothing anyone could have done differently. Our fencing is safe, the horses turned out individually, Bert was attended to immediately. It was just one of those things that makes me shake my head and utter in despair, life just isn't fair. Bert had broken his knee.

Last year I was warming up my horse, Swag, at the first event of the year. We were just about to head out on the cross country course when I felt things go suddenly wrong. We later discovered, via MRI, that Swag had torn his collateral ligament. Those who've followed my career with Swag know how much I adore him. I've had him since he was just a gangly off the track 3yr old. I took him from his first BN to running around Prelim, and had our sights firmly set on the CCI* at Rebecca Farm last year. Then in the blink of an eye, those dream too, were dashed.

Swag has since healed, and while I've known that returning to eventing wasn't in his best interest long-term, I've spent the last few months looking for the perfect place for him to land. Swag is a unicorn. He is kind, smart, talented and joyful. He'd run around a prelim course one day, and teach a beginner the next, with me chasing him around the arena with a whip. Swag has traveled with me from California to Washington and he knows I am his person. I could have kept him and used him as a lesson horse, but ultimately I knew he would never be happy going in circles, he's an 8yr old TB, he loves getting out to explore. So last weekend, Valerie and Gary came to see him, looking for a horse to trail ride and love, and Swag put his head in their pockets and as silly as it sounds, Swag told me, these were his new people.

This morning, I sent Swag off to his new home, to be loved and adored, knowing deeply in my heart it is truly what is best for him. I'm sitting here, with tears streaming down my face looking at pictures of him in his new home, reading the text "Swag" has sent me, reflecting on all that has happened. Emotionally exhausting doesn't even begin to describe the past few days. I'm looking back, and am asking myself, what makes us chose this life as equestrians?

Several years ago I tried to "get out" of horses. Needless to say, it didn't last long, 2 weeks maybe? I remember being at the store and the cashier asking me what I did for a living, and I caught myself saying I was a horse-trainer, before remembering I had "quit" that job. It was in that moment I realized being a trainer was who I was, it was what I was, it defined me. My love of horses drives me. I am fascinated by them and how we interact with them, and even now, while the wounds are still raw (and the vet bills still very real), I'm thinking about how to fundraise for my next, future equine. I haven't given up my dreams of riding at the upper levels again one day. I am an equestrian after all, giving up isn't in my vocabulary.

At the beginning of this year I began a horsemanship class for my students. The idea was just to go over some basic, on the ground, horsemanship that we never seem to have time for in regular lessons. The first session was a success (standing wraps and polo wraps) and today was the second session we had scheduled. I thought it was fitting to go over basic vital signs and vet care, since our majestic creatures are so fragile. We then followed that up with some ground work and ground manner exercises. It is so fascinating to see how these two topics can relate. Having our horses trust and respect us on the ground can help us to help them when it most matters. What I took away from today wasn't necessarily in regards to the lessons, but a reflection of of the amazing people I am surrounded by. My students all watched intently today while I worked with a difficult horse for more than an hour. They asked questions, they watched, they learned. I have the most amazing barn, a group of ladies who support one another, who cheer each other on, who are all committed being the best horsewomen they can be. So when I find myself questioning why I do this, all I have to do is look around. They are why I do this.

When I walked into the barn today there were gifts, chocolates, wine, and thoughtfully written cards waiting for me. There have been so many calls, text, and my facebook filled with condolences. I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from friends near and far over the loss of my sweet Bert. It is in these challenges, and tragedies, that I find strength knowing I am surrounded by this amazing village.

Why have I chosen horses, or why have they chosen me? Maybe it's because I am strong, although I don't feel very strong today. Whatever the reasons, I take these moments to reflect, and then I put my head down, I dig in my heals, and think about what is next, because, as I teach my horses, the only option is forward.

My final moment with Bert

Monday, October 3, 2016

1 Year

1 year has come and gone since I moved to Washington, and it has been quite the year. I have met some amazing people, I have built a wonderful network of friends and clients, and have competed more than I thought I would. Things have not quite gone as planned, but I am continuing to forge ahead and am thankful for all the wonderful people who continue to support and inspire me.

Swaggy has continued to impress me and made the move up to Training level at Aspen Farms in September. We put in a solid and respectable dressage test, but sadly pulled 2 rails in the stadium, both of which were my fault as I reverted to bad habits. But once we were out on the cross country Swag showed me what he can really do as he flew around the biggest course he's ever seen and jumped everything brilliantly. We finished 9th in a large, competitive field.

We finished out our season with one more Training level at E.I. Horse Trials at theWashington State Horse Park. It was not our best dressage, but we made some huge improvements in the show jumping to pull just one rail (the very last fence on course)! Cross country yet again proved to be where Swag shines as he made easy work of the questions, including the drop into water. We finished 6th and to say I am pleased is an understatement. No matter what the results are competitively, this horse brings a smile to my face and keeps me sane. He continues to step up to the challenge and I am looking forward to what 2017 will bring.

I am continuing to teach and am now living out in Oak Harbor, traveling to Bellingham/Blaine about once a week. My wonderful group of students have been busy as well with Kim, Sandy, Hilary, and Amanda all competing at the Whidbey One-Days a few weeks ago. Hilary and her lovely mare, Georgia, joined Swag and I at EI and had a great showing, and we have just finished out the year with Danielle, Amanda, Sandy, Hilary, and Tesha all competing at the Derby this past weekend.

As the weather begins to turn, it's time to regroup, refocus, and reflect and what a wonderful and wild ride this past year has been. Thank you all for being a part of this journey!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Eventing for All Ages Camp Recap & Updates

August is in full swing. The older I get, the quicker time flies and some days it seems hard to keep up. This month is no exception. The month started off with a bang as I was the clinician for the "Eventing for all ages Camp" up at Sunset Park in Blaine. As the title suggests, the camp is open to riders of all ages, and levels, who express and interest in eventing. We had an amazing group of 13 riders!

Next up on the calendar is a derby at Polestar Aug 20th, Aspen Farms HT Sept 9-11, Whidbey One Day Back-to-Back Sept 17-18th, and E.I. HT Sept 24th-25th. I am aiming to move Swag up to Training level at Aspen, with EI as my back up (currently waitlisted for Aspen). I am beyond thrilled with how far Swaggy has come this year and I truly cannot thank everyone enough for all of your support. There is no way I'd be able to campaign his without the generosity shown by my friends and family. While I'm a long way off from my goals, every bit helps. I am still hopeful that I'll manage to earn enough to finish off the season, but need your help.
https://www.gofundme.com/ClassicHarbor

Eventing For All Ages Camp
Sunset Park, Blaine, Wa.

The Eventing for All Ages Camp is an annual fundraiser for the park put on by "Friends of Sunset. Day one consisted of semi-private dressage lessons. This gave me a chance to access the riders and give suggestions on how to improve their flatwork. Many of the comments given on day 1 continued on throughout the weekend. Balance, straightness, and rhythm. We finished the day with a ceremony which opened the newly renovated water complex and a group trail ride.

We started day 2 off with some hands on learning on how to set fences and measure distances. All of the riders helped to set the course before the first group rode. It gave everyone a chance to ask questions and see how you measure a horses stride. There were four groups of jumping lessons in the arena. We worked our way through the different exercises, a line, a bounce, and a combination, as well as several single fences. All of the groups made huge progress as we worked through each exercise and finished with a course to put the pieces together. For the afternoon session riders had a choice between working on their pacing (220mpm, 350mpm, 400mpm, etc) or doing a basic intro to cross country riding. Riders took turn trotting, galloping, and jumping, and everyone had a fantastic time. As we waited for dinner, Swaggy and I gave a demonstration on jumping on the lunge line. Swag proudly showed off his skills and loved all of the attention.

The final day of camp was cross country. We began the morning working with about half of the horses on the lunge line over fences. This allowed riders to see the horses work through some issues without the rider on their back. It was super educational and I think this could a clinic all by itself. It's amazing to see the different types of horses, those that jump quick and tense, and those that need to establish a better "go" button. 

We broke into groups of 3-4 riders for the ridden portion and had a great variety of levels. For some riders this was just about riding in an open space, while some of the more experienced pairs but different elements together such as a coffin, a skinny, and a bank combination. After a bit of practice riders were able to put it all together over a course. Everyone made huge progress over the 3 days it and was wonderful to see the pieces come together. I thoroughly enjoyed each and every rider and am already counting down the days until next year!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Montana!

Rebecca Farm 2016 is a wrap! What an amazing trip, I'm already counting down the days to next year. We arrived late Monday evening a long day of driving (11hrs). Swag traveled well and we settled into our tent at dark.  Tuesday morning arrived quickly and we headed out again for a cross country schooling at nearby Herron Park. I'm pretty sure Swaggy gave me quite the look as I asked him to load back into the trailer! Swag felt great as we schooled a few fences and I gave him a chance to stretch his legs, working on our gallop and schooled him through the water complex. Wednesday was spent walking the cross country, riding, bathing, and doing last minute tack cleaning.


The show began for us on Thursday, with our dressage just after 9am. It was a respectable test, with some tension in the transitions (something we are constantly working on) but I was overall please with the rhythm and consistency. A 31.3 put us in a tie for 9th, out of 25, with all of the scores being very close. After dressage there was not much time to prep as our cross country took place just before noon. My goal for this course was to ride him a bit more forward and this was the perfect course to do that on. The first few fences got him jumping boldly and we settled into stride quickly. Fence 4 was down towards a pond, through a narrow and shadowy opening and Swag gave a look as I am sure he thought we were going swimming. Once he saw the fence we were on our way, up a hill, through the water and onto the half coffin, which rode brilliantly. There were several more galloping fences before the course took us to a brush with a cabin approximately 10 strides away. It was set to ride either as an "L" turn or a bit more direct with the second element jumped at an angle. As I prepare for our move up to Training, I took the more direct route, and was pleased with how easily Swaggy locked on. The final question of the course was a big downhill approach to a water complex which gave you a couple of options. I again took the "harder" more direct route, finishing a good 20 seconds under the optimum time. We moved up to 7th.

Friday was a rest day before show jumping early Saturday morning. It was a fair and inviting course and for the first time, I felt able to ride Swag a bit sharper off the ground, with him maintaining balance. Fence #2 was a pink and white upright vertical and while I gave it the best ride I know how, I got ahead in my shoulder and we sadly had that rail. 4 faults put us in 9th overall.

The rest of Saturday was spent watching cross country and packing us, as we headed out early on Sunday morning. Another memorable Rebecca Farms is over. The courses and facility there are beautiful and I leave feeling like my horse is more than ready to move up this fall.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Thank you

Thank you so much to my amazing friends who have so generously helped me with my “Classic Harbor” fund. I’ve got enough to go to Montana in a few weeks! Excited to be going back to an amazing venue. It truly is one of the biggest and best events in the US, Swaggy is ready. In case anyone missed my original email/plea for help and update, you can find it here… http://thfeventing.blogspot.com/2016/06/asking-for-help-classic-harbor-fund.html 

Danielle and Joules at Thunderbird
I am still working hard teaching as many lessons and clinics as possible. I’ve just returned from the Thunderbird Horse show in Canada where one of my students is competing under the tutelage of Greg Best. THF student Danielle, and her horse Joules, have successfully moved up the the 1.10m division in the jumper ring and we’re so fortunate to be only and hour and a half from this beautiful venue. Next weekend is the Whidbey Horse Trials, Rebecca Farms in Montana, and then an Eventing camp in early August. 

While I’ve been busy, Swaggy is being ridden by 15yr old student, Grace. Grace has only ridden him about a dozen times and they competed together last weekend in Oregon for the first time. Grace gave him a stellar ride, double clear jumping on both days to bring home 6th (out of 19). Grace will be competing Swaggy next weekend at the Whidbey Horse Trials while I am still working on raising funds to compete him myself this fall. Our plans are to head to Montana in 3 weeks, and I then hope to move him up to Training level in either August or September. 

Thank you again to everyone for the kind words, encouragement, and general support. Happy 4th of July!