Giving Everything

GA APHA Amateur Equitation

I love to write. It helps me organize my inner-thoughts, which has a calming affect and keeps me from worrying about all the things stuck in my head. Unfortunately, there are also times when my writing inadvertently brings to the surface emotions and thoughts that are not exactly my topic of choice. One such instance occurred as I attempted to write a piece about why I prefer having a halter horse instead of a western pleasure or hunter under saddle horse. 

My article began with solid justifications such as the cost of a halter horse versus a rider. 

It’s ridiculous to me how much money it takes to own and show a riding horse. First, there is the cost of the horse (I prefer a roof over my head). Then, assuming you are into western pleasure, there is the $20,000 saddle, $1,000 plus bridle, and $2,000 outfit you only wear once because who would be caught dead in a $2,000 top twice (please note my sarcasm). That doesn’t even include training and show fees! And, you know you can’t show up to an event without a popular trainer.

Now, I admit, that last statement isn’t just for pleasure horses. There are definitely politics in the halter pen as well. From my experience, politics are in everything. Even when I showed dogs, there was a lot of “who knew whom”. But, I think halter horses are closer to the side of objectivity.  

Of course, there is the argument that it is silly to have a horse you can’t ride. Honestly, I agree. I also think all horse people are blessed with an inherent level of stupid because who in their right mind would get on a 1,200 pound animal and think, “I’m going to tell you what to do.” 

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on perspective), I too possess a high level of stupid associated with horse ownership. After writing the first few paragraphs of this article, I thought to myself, “Why do I have a horse I don’t ride??? I haul for hours to attend shows where I only go in one or two classes. By golly, I’m going to ride my horse!” So, I did. For about 4 minutes.  Continue reading “Giving Everything”

Hauling Nights

Doug Schembri Memorial Show

Summer break is over. I’ve been back in school for a week and a half, and had students all last week. The new batch of 9th graders were so excited to be in high school, and my 10th graders were as glad to see me as I was to see them. The week was great, but I was quickly reminded of the adulthood struggle between real world and weekend fun. 

The annual Doug Schembri Memorial Show was held at the Ocala Horse Park with a sharp 7:30 am start time on Saturday. From my house to Ocala, one can expect four and a half hours on the road. Not a bad drive, but we definitely had to make a Friday afternoon haul. With school in session, there is no way I can leave work before 4 o’clock. So, my dad and I planned to leave the house by 5 for a 9:30 p.m. arrival. That meant I had to have the trailer packed and loaded Thursday night. Got it. Been doing the trailer pack routine since I was 12. 

However, I wasn’t the one driving when I was 12. Now that I’m the responsible adult, I get to load the trailer, haul the trailer, set up the trailer while my dad prepares a stall. We then bathe the horse, band the horse and try to get it all done in time for a decent amount of sleep because I just don’t bounce out of bed in the mornings like I used to. Adulting sucks. 

Fortunately, the Ocala Horse Park is a nice facility with decent stalls and wash racks. The trailer hook ups could use some help, but we got it done. We even made some friends while we were getting Vixie bathed. And, we still made it to bed before 1 a.m. 

There was a very good turn out despite the Florida summer heat. Even though there wasn’t a sweat-free shirt on the grounds, everyone was in good spirits and happy to be at the appy show. That’s what I love about appaloosa shows— everyone is down with having fun. Even the judges did an excellent job of balancing a light-hearted approach with the seriousness of their job. This is how a horse show should be— as an exhibitor, I want to have fun, but I also want a return on the money it takes to attend such an event. 

Since I only show in the halter classes right now, we were done by 11 Saturday morning. Normally, we would stay for a while and enjoy the company of other exhibitors, but my dad needed to get home for an unrelated engagement. So, we packed it all up and headed back north. On, the way out of the park, I was encouraged to see all so many exhibitors working horses, hanging out, and enjoying the weekend. Most of them will be there all weekend, so the club hosted a potluck dinner Saturday evening (I was sort of disappointed we couldn’t stay to attend, but that’s life.) 

It’s probably good I have Sunday to spend as a teacher work day anyway. Even with school just starting, I already have papers to grade and assignments to build. Hopefully, I can get ahead on my lesson plans because we will do it all over again in two weeks when we haul four and a half hours the other direction to Conyers for the Southeastern Classic. 

Opportunity Costs

Appaloosa Nationals with Illegal Vixen

It has been a great summer! For the first time since high school, I have had the freedom to do what I want to do when I want to do it. I’ve been able to play with my horse and I took an entire week (7 days) to attend the 71st National Appaloosa show in Fort Worth, Texas. Life is good, but I think it is important to recognize what we have to give up in order to take advantage of these opportunities. 

As a youth, I knew I wanted to have a corporate job that would allow me to afford horses. I earned a bachelors degree in business marketing and found my niche in the financial industry. To continue my climb up the corporate ladder, I went back to school for my MBA and was rewarded with a corporate title and officer perks. Unfortunately, my role also came with an expansive territory that required me to be in Birmingham, Atlanta, Tupelo and Ocala regularly. Suddenly, I found myself able to afford the monetary cost of my horse, but there wasn’t enough time in my week to actually see my horse (or my husband). It was also impossible for me to take a vacation without spending several hours each day on the phone or answering emails because the bottom line never stops calculating. For my mental and physical well being, something had to give.

At my breaking point, a new opportunity presented itself; one that I would have never sought on my own. A friend asked if I’d be interested in teaching high school. The county I live in was building a college and career academy, which is a program within the public school system designed to teach high school students vocational skills while giving them the opportunity to earn college credits. In addition to drafting, nursing, engineering, and a host of other career path instructors, the school needed a marketing instructor— someone from the corporate sector who could teach from real-world scenarios. Someone like me! 

It was a scary decision. You hear so much negative about what teachers go through and the challenges they face. I also knew I’d be giving up my corporate credit card, stock options and a marketing budget most marketers only dream of having. Oh, and I’d be gaining the public education system pay scale. But, I also knew I would benefit from Christmas and summer vacations, and I would no longer have to travel away from home. I decided to jump in! 

I was literally thrown into a classroom and expected to keep a herd of 14 year olds in line. (Fortunately, teenagers like treats and will do pretty much whatever you ask in exchange for a Jolly Rancher.) I quickly found the classroom to be a perfect environment for someone like me. Much like our equine friends, teenagers desire leadership and understanding. They enjoy positive reinforcement and rarely act out for no reason. And, if you earn their trust, they will work hard for you. 

One of the first lessons I developed for my marketing class revolves around the concept of opportunity costs. Opportunity costs are the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen. For example, when I left my corporate position, I lost the potential for continuing up the corporate ladder, therefore also losing added incentives such as raises that may have come with future promotions. In my classroom scenario we compare growing grapes versus oranges, but I really think this concept can be applied to all aspects of life, especially when life includes horses. 

For me, choosing horses means that I get an entire summer off. It also means that I have lost the opportunity to attend the Appaloosa World show because teachers don’t get to take vacation in October. This give and take is minimal in comparison to some of my horsey friends who have to consider much greater opportunity costs such the gain of having children versus horses (I’ll touch on this in more detail in future posts). 

Ultimately, everyone who attended the Appaloosa Nationals had to give up something in order to be there. I am going to write a follow up on this with the exact costs of my trip to the Nationals. In the meantime, what have you given up to accommodate your horsey life? What were the alternatives? Are you happy with your decision? 


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.