Monday, March 5, 2012

Horse Fair: I love you, I hate you

I have a love/hate relationship with equine fairs, symposiums, gatherings, etc. etc.

I love to go and learn new stuff, see examples of breeds I rarely come in contact with, meet new people and of course, shop!

We spent the entire day and evening Saturday at the Illinois Horse Fair. As usual, it was freaking cold and windy, but a great way to spend the day.

I always leave feeling not only energized and ready to get on with the training thing and eager to try new things, but also very disappointed in where my training has gone so far.

Shouldn't I be able to get my horses to bow, sit, lay down, stand on a "table" and respond to me by doing really cool stuff at liberty by now? Shouldn't I be able to drag a tarp behind my beasts, jump them through flames and walk them into a loud, bright coliseum/arena fully confident they won't bat an eyelash at all the noise and activity?

But I can't. Heck, I can't even get Gabe to walk past an umbrella without him coming unglued. Most of the time he's in my space on the ground and refuses to stay put when I try to "park" him somewhere and walk away from him. He follows me instead of standing still. Very frustrating and I know I should have him at the point where he'll stay where I put him and back away from me on the ground without me having to touch him. He should be at the point where he walks past anything I ask him to, no questions asked, confident that I won't lead him into a dangerous situation. But we're not there yet and some days, I really don't think we ever will be.

The good thing is that I know I am capable of training him to do all the cool "tricks" you always see at those horse fairs. I also know I am fully capable of training him to be the quiet, confident, eager, brave mount I know he can be. My biggest issue is time, especially during the dark months when I have no outdoor lighting and especially right now when my weeks are full with working and going to school every evening. I know the school thing won't last forever (I'll be done this summer, yay!) but I still get frustrated and find myself thinking: Why do I even bother? I should just sell the farm, rent a cheapo apartment and board the horses somewhere with an indoor arena and lighting so I can ride at 11:30 p.m. when class is done during the week, where I can ride and work my horses in all kinds of weather conditions

But I know I wouldn't be happy. Not one bit. You take the ups with the downs when you keep your horses at home. Sure, the winter and fall have really become no-ride seasons for me, but I think that's the way it is for quite a few horse owners who have their horses at home.

I wouldn't trade the convenience of a boarding barn for the pleasure of waking up in the morning and looking out the window to see my horses waiting patiently (or, not so patiently if I'm running late!) at the gate for their breakfast, or the sublime thrill of being able to watch them run like demons around the pasture, bucking and rearing, galloping and playing with each other. That's a thrill like no other and one of my greatest pleasures.

Despite the love/hate relationship I have with horse fairs, the Illinois Horse Fair this past weekend did reap one great big benefit for us. We met a woman who is the director of a riding club INCREDIBLY CLOSE TO US!!!! Membership is comprised of kids and adults and the group puts on "fun shows" twice a month starting in May. They do group events and trail rides and have a lighted arena that's open 24/7 for members to use. They are in the process of adding all-weather footing to the arena, so, even if it isn't an indoor arena, it's still usable all year long. Yay! That alone is worth the $20 annual family membership fee. The woman was fabulous and we just happened to strike up a conversation while eating lunch at the fair and talking about the super cheesy nachos. Very excited about this group, and Kayleigh is too.


  1. Funny how life just gets in the way of our desires. I also love the equine events and get energized too. That is cool about the local riding club. We are looking into opening our place up for trail practice and desensitising weekends. Especially after several big mishaps friends in our riding club have experienced, we realize the need is there. Insurance is what we are working on now. Hang in there, school is almost done!

  2. So - super cheesy nachos are good for something! ;) How great to find out about that cool riding club.

    I agree with you about keeping horses at home - although I may never get another vacation as long as I live - it's totally worth it.

    Sounds like you have a lot going on at the moment. Maybe there will be lots more quality training time for you and Gabe once school is finished - try not to beat yourself up about it.

  3. More reason to lane than hate at that Expo, what a great contact. I do ride in winter, depending on the amount of ice, but nowhere near as much as spring and summer.

  4. I could cut and paste so much of your post into one of my own, it's not funny!
    I'm so excited that you found the club - that will be of great help... and so close!

  5. I can relate on so many levels! We're considering a move to central Oregon where it's a much drier climate, and more rider-friendly during more months of the year. We have so much mud and rain that riding is the last thing I want to do when it takes an hour or more just to scrape mud off the horses, load them in the dark and the rain and haul somewhere to ride...I just haven't the energy after putting in a day's work and having 5 stalls to clean and hungry horses and ourselves to feed. I keep telling myself to relax, be patient and enjoy the time I do get to spend with my horses. Retirement's coming...