As most of you know (and if you didn't, you do now!), that I'm a Navy wife. While it's never easy being separated from your loved one for any length of time, going through the majority of 2016 without my husband around has been tough. But I have good, no GREAT, news: we will be ringing in 2017 together as after a L-O-N-G seven-month deployment, my husband is home!
This was our second deployment together and no this was one wasn't 'easier' becasue I'd been there done that. However, there are five things about being an equestrian that helped me through the deployment.
photo credit: Nicole Shultz Photography
No matter the day I had or no matter the shit show that may have just played out at the office or in my personal life, when I get to the barn Wow demands (and deserves) my full attention and holds me accountable for everything both in the saddle and on the ground.
• Didn't have enough leg? We fall through the corner - which probably took away what could have been a great -- ok, decent -- distance.
• Waking up in the middle of the night thinking *hoping* I remembered to take out his ear plugs (this has happened on more than one occasion - each time, yes, I remembered).
• In 'la-la land' while hacking around? "Good, let me spook and flail around at the invisible monster behind the hay bale jump." - Wow (thanks, buddy!)
2. It takes a village
I know I've written about why barn therapy is so helpful, but I can't say enough good things about my barn family. They have truly become family to me and have had such an influence on my life, especially during this deployment. Talks -- about horses, riding, life, boyfriends/husbands, you name it -- girls' nights out, group texts, Satruday afternoons at the barn and so much more have all played an essential role in my life during deployment and without a doubt will continue to do so.
Emotionally, mentally and physically. I bought Wow back in March right before my husband deployed. We started out rough, made some adjustments and things started to look up. We're back in a 're-building' period as I like to call it but I'm still excited about where I think we can go. These ups and downs have increased my mental toughness in the saddle, but getting texts like "Honestly, I think you need to kick yourself in the ass a little bit..." from your trainer really wasn't what I expected as an adult amatuer. This is supposed to be fun and easy, right?! But I quickly realized life just isn't unicorns and rainbows all the time -- yes, pun intended! -- you have to work hard for what you want. So, I pulled up my big girl britches and started working to get myself physically stronger in the saddle so I could ride more effectivley.
Now, more on the personal side, living 'alone' for sustained periods of time, you learn to fend for yourself: no hubby around to ask for help opening that jar out of the refrigerator; no one to help you remember vehicle maintenance and bill payment schedules -- for the condo (mortgage, utlities, etc.), horse expenses (board, farrier, vet, lessons, shows and the list could go on and on), and other bills; you're on your own if you car breaks down (thank God for GM Motor Club). Ok, so no, I wasn't completely on my own, I've had help for certain things from friends and family, but I can't sit and whine "I can't do it" or "Someone help me..." for the length of the deployment. I mean I guess I could have, but that wouldn't get me anywhere close to my goals. My emotional and mental toughness away from riding has grown immensely during these seven months away from my husband. *spoiler - yes, I've broken down and done my fair share of crying and sappy posts about how much I missed my husband, but hey, I'm only human.*
4. Larger comfort zones
To piggy back off #3, with an increase in emotional, mental and physical toughness I've learned that what I thought was my comfort zone is merely a small sum of what I thought I could accomplish. With my increased toughness I've broadended my goals for riding, and my personal and professional life. I've put myself out there for people to see the 'real' me instead of hiding behind what I thought I needed to be, and because of this, I've come to love and be proud of the person I am more than I ever thought I could.
5. Love of learning
I've always loved to learn. I really enjoyed school and have said that if I could go back to college (maybe get paid to be there - hey, after all I gotta pay bills somehow, right?!) and sit in class to just learn, no wriitng papers or taking exams, that I would totally do it.
Because of all I've learned in the saddle, at the barn, from barn family and fellow adult amatuers, I have an increased knowledge base that excites me to learn more and more. There is always something to learn from every situation and I think I just found my New Years Resolution - see the learning experience in every situation be it personally, professionally or as an adult amatuer equestrian.
In many ways I feel like I have conquered 2016, but at the same time been at its mercy for the last 12 months. I am more ready than ever to take on 2017. Thank all of you for joining me on my journey as an adult amatuer in this crazy sport we all love so much, and for sharing your stories, trials, tribulations and successes! You guys have made an impact in my life and I can't thank you enough!
Happy New Year - Cheers to 2017!