Amateur Decisions

Illegal Vixen showing in Venice, Florida

The Appaloosa National show is just under a week away, which means I’ve spent the past few weeks hustling with my halter mare, Illegal Vixen. Fortunately, I am a teacher and have the whole summer to spend with my horse. But, there are still plenty of days when I wonder if I’m giving Vixie my best by keeping her at home instead of sending her to the trainer. 

Please don’t get me wrong; I love my trainers at JH Performance Horses. The owners, Jonathan and Joanna Himes, have been fantastic since the first day I met them ten years ago. They have helped me navigate some really rough patches and given me the confidence to overcome anxieties I developed showing as a youth. I am forever indebted to them and will always seek their advice and assistance. My internal quandary is not with them, but rather the desire to care for my horse during my off-time while competing in an industry where winning is a full-time career. 

If I were a trail rider, I don’t believe there would even be a question. I’d keep my horses at home in my 10 acre pasture and be okay with only riding a few days a week. However, that’s not the reality with a show horse, especially a halter horse. When I have her at my place, each day begins with a 6 am feeding followed by a drive home at lunch to check and make sure she has hay, water, etc. I’ve ruined many high heels in this lunchtime routine. After work, it’s a rush home to clean stalls, work Vixie, get dinner made, shower and prepare for bed. Then, there’s the late night barn check that every horse owner has to do. I’ve ruined more than a few house slippers during the nightly check, too. 

It was 11 o’clock the other night and I was still at the barn. I probably should have been more concerned, but when I stopped for a second to think about it, I realized I could not have possibly been happier. I was brushing my horse and getting her ready for bed. What could be better?!? 

There inlays the quandry. 

Despite all my efforts— grooming, feeding, working— my beautiful halter mare simply does not have that finished glow she has when she is at the trainer’s. It’s the ‘it’ factor that she’s missing and I can’t seem to grab it on my own. I use the same feed, quality hay, daily work routine— there shouldn’t be a difference. But, there is. There is something about the go, go, go, push, push, push environment of a training barn that keeps the horses in ‘show mode’, if you will. It’s an environment I simply cannot replicate at my quiet farm where Vixie is my sole focus. The difference is the small things, like taking an extra second to walk onto the wash rack, that are intolerable at the trainer’s. As such, the horses there are more in tune and responsive as a show horse should be. 

Or, should they? We ask so much of our show animals. Competition is fierce and I think we sometimes get so caught up in the win that we forget the why. Yes, I want more than anything to win, but I also want to hear my horse nicker at me when I feed her in the morning. The choice is frustrating and disheartening. For the time being, Vixie will reside in my care, and I will continue to prepare for this year’s National show. We’ll see how it goes and I will let you know. 

Let me know your thoughts on this topic. Do you care for your horses, or do you have a trainer who helps you balance life and horses? What’s worked for you?


Showing with family

Welcome to Paper Horse Pastures! My story isn’t anything super unique or unusual. Rather, my story is the same as so many other women who share my passion for horses. As I write about my experiences, thoughts and memories, I hope my work resonates with you and reminds you that you are not alone in the real-world sitcom of life versus horse.

Just like most of my “horsey friends”, I have been infatuated with the equine species since before I can remember. I grew up showing horses and invested every possible moment of my life into my horses. My friends were the other kids at the barn. My Friday nights were spent getting ready for horse shows. And, my days in school dragged on as I dreamed of ways I could spend more time at the stables. Even after college, I continued to invest everything I could into my horses. I would race away from work to catch a quick ride before dark, and I still spent my Saturdays chasing blue ribbons. 

If any of that sounds familiar, this next statement will probably ring true for you as well.

As I moved through my twenties, I also moved up the corporate ladder. My job became more demanding and my husband and family needed any extra time I could find. That left my horses on the back burner and me in a very unfamiliar state of mind. I distinctly remember the first time my frustrated husband told me, “I don’t know what your problem is! You just need to go ride your horse or something!” Little did he realize how correct he was. He has since learned (maybe ‘accepted’ is a better term here) that I need my horse time just like the trash needs to be taken out. You can ignore it for a day or two, but it’s going to get smelly.

Now, I am in my mid-thirties and I have learned to better balance my real life with my horse life. Unfortunately, I still find myself frustrated when I have to choose between the two. It’s almost like asking me which arm I prefer; I need them both! What’s a woman to do?!?  

Thus is the foundation of my blog and the heart of my story. I hope you will share with me as I continue to share with you.