A Time to Reflect

Many of us were happy to bid farewell to 2020. I’ve decided to bid farewell by reflecting on my year and giving myself and anyone who reads this some advice for 2021.

I think we can all agree that 2020 was a doozy. Our social media newsfeeds have been comprised of some of the most entertaining memes covering topics such as World War III, COVID-19, Killer Hornets and of course we can’t forget all the election buzz.

Despite all the unusual occurrences that happened in 2020, I’d like to reflect on my year as a rider and horse enthusiast because, while others have been upset with the year they’ve had, mine was quite beneficial for me and my horses.

Funny Bunny B, Sunmans Irish Pay and Unbridled Fame. Photo by Marlee Fritz.

On March 18, 2020, my American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) foal, Unbridled Fame, made her way into the world. Her feisty, “my way or the highway” attitude has been a challenge but I have learned an astonishing amount from her because of it. The biggest thing I’ve learned is to be consistent and clear in my training and to work her for small increments of time, 15-20 minutes at most. These methods have proveb themselves successful as she is more well behaved then the two geldings I have that are older than she.

2020 Foal, Unbridled Fame. Photo by Marcella Gruchalak.

Speaking of geldings, as if a new foal weren’t enough on my plate, on November 13, 2020, I brought home a coming three-year-old, AQHA gelding, Sunmans Irish Pay. So far this guy has been a pleasure to work with. I’ve ridden him lightly twice since having him because I want to give him the winter to grow before he goes off to training in the spring. I have big plans for him to be my 2022 CMSA Futurity Horse. I believe that having him and my weanling gave me an extra boost of motivation because I want to put in the right amount of time with them so they are set up for success to make solid horses.

Sunmans Irish Pay. Photo by Marlee Fritz.

Over the past year, I’ve spent a significant amount of time with my horses, but I have also added a new hobby to accompany my horse obsession. I have spent a numerous amount of time with my nose in books. Before this year, reading wasn’t something I cared to do. I’m not sure if I’m maturing or if the downtime from being quarantined most of the year led me to my interest in reading, but I have been able to take information from books and apply it to my riding and understanding of horses.

One of the most beneficial books that I read this past year was,”The New Anatomy of Rider Connection.” This book really explained the importance of isolating muscle groups to be more clear in cueing while riding. After reading this book, I find myself really listening to my body while I’m riding to become more aware of which body parts and muscle groups are doing what.

While I did a lot of reading this past year, not all my learning came from books. I have been fortunate enough to have some of the best mounted shooting trainers, Penley Horsemanship, coach me. Jared and Cara Penley of Penley Horsemanship have coached me and my off-track Thoroughbred, Funny Bunny B, at multiple competitions in 2020. I was able to take my learning from them one step further and go to their farm and train with them for a few days. I have dedicated a lot of my time to reflecting and practicing techniques and exercises that they have taught me. It has paid off since this year I moved up to a Ladies Level 3 in mounted shooting.

Funny Bunny B at a 2020 Mounted Shooting Competition. Photo by Catching Dreams Photography.

To be completely honest, the stress of being in the house most of the day did get the best of me at one point in the year. I was being really hard on myself and I couldn’t get out of the funk I was in. So for a couple months in the fall, I took a break from competing. I was going to shoots every weekend and I decided that taking a break was the best thing for Buns and me. So we did some serious trail riding, and currently we’re still doing a lot of that.

While many isolated in their houses, I took to the trails. The great outdoors, the fresh air and being on top my trusty steed was just what I needed to get through the rest of the year. We trail rode some state parks and national forests and we enjoyed the beauty of the trails right at the barn. We’ve seen river fronts, creek beds, frozen ponds, mountains and other scenic areas. Trail riding allowed me to destress, think about what was important to me and really allowed me to enjoy life during all the craziness that was going on around me.

Trail Riding on Funny Bunny B. Photo by Shelly Tate.

I’ve had some setbacks throughout 2020, but who hasn’t? I mean, it was 2020. But, I also learned so much about myself — and horses — that I feel I’ve seen the most progress I’ve ever had, this past year.

Starting out 2021, I’d like to give myself — and anyone reading this — some advice. Keep going. Life gets hard, riding gets hard, staying motivated gets hard. Don’t let anything or anyone stop you. It doesn’t matter what you’re passionate about — for me, it’s horses. Whatever you are passionate about, do that and do it a lot. Know that you’re going to have a lot of failures in becoming better but that’s when you get your best lessons. Be the best version of you that you can be, and don’t let anyone take that from you.

May you reach your goals in 2021, Horse Nation. Go riding!