Wylie’s World: Let’s blow this popsicle stand

Winter weather have you feeling stir-crazy? I can relate. This is the story of my most recent nervous breakdown, and how I regained my sanity.

Two Fridays ago, I was NOT okay. I was lying on the bed making little whimpery noises, trying to hold back the tears.

My husband Tommy wanted to know what was wrong. “Nothing,” I said, trying to play it cool, like maybe I’d just stubbed my toe on the nightstand or something.

Tommy frowned, not buying it, and waited patiently for me to come out with the truth. Finally, the words escaped my mouth in an avalanche of panic and distress. “I’ve only ridden my horse once in the past five days! Once! And even that was in the freezing rain!”

I knew I sounded crazy, but in that moment I didn’t care. Horses were my meds, and I was off them.

Here’s a nice picture of my brushes frozen in a block of ice.


“It’s January,” Tommy said reassuringly. “It’s the off season. There’s snow on the ground. You shouldn’t feel bad about not riding every day.”

His argument was sweet but flawed. If I was going to be ready for spring event season, Esprit and I needed to be on a consistent program and soon. Between the holidays and Esprit’s blanket incident and some nasty stretches of weather, though, it had been hard to get any real momentum going. Now it was mid-January, and if we wanted to be competing by March, we couldn’t keep puttering around.

I tried to explain all this to Tommy, who nodded his head sympathetically, either because he understood or because he just wanted me to stop crying.

Then, he said this: “Why don’t you take Esprit and go somewhere where you can ride?”

My eyes widened in disbelief. My last boyfriend always made me feel guilty for jetting off with my horse to train. Was Tommy actually giving me the go-ahead, no begging or pleading or powerpoint presentation required?

“This spring is a big season for you,” he went on. “I want you to feel as prepared as possible.”

Best. Husband. Ever.


By the next afternoon Esprit and I were on the road, heading south. It felt good to be driving through the mountains, just me and my horse, the gray Appalachian landscape unfolding around us like a silent film. We were going somewhere, finally.

Similarly, the next week-and-a-bit–which we ended up splitting between Tryon, NC and Aiken, SC–flew past in a bit of a blur. We got a lot of good training and conditioning in, from a couple sessions on the Aquatread at Stillwater Farm


…to an afternoon of adventuring at Hitchcock Woods


…plus a fun cross-country school at Jumping Branch Farm, a “Hey, we remember how to do this!” jumping lesson with our trainer Amy Barrington, and a gallop up the hill at Foothills Equestrian Nature Center.

And, of course, I made sure to carve time into my (cough-cough) busy schedule for a pint of Thoroughbred Red at Aiken Brewing Co.


Final analysis? We’re not quite as far behind on our fitness and training program as I’d thought. Esprit was clearly thrilled to have something more exciting than soggy trot sets and splashy dressage schools on his plate, and he tackled his work each day with zest.

We drove back to Knoxville with a gameplan and a renewed sense of focus. Between weekly swim/gallop/jump trips to Tryon and another extended trip to Aiken at the end of February, we should be all-systems-go in no time. Especially if the weather keeps cooperating: They’re calling for a high of 67 tomorrow–I got home just in time!

Until then…

Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, Go Riding!


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