Ireland is Treating Me Well

I’ve been in Ireland now for going on four months, and I can’t say anything except the hackneyed ‘I love it here’.

I’m not 100% sure what it is – though I’ll try to explain it.

Going from Australia to America was a culture shock. Regardless of the language, regardless of the fact that they’re both first world countries, even regardless of the fact that I was changing my entire lifestyle and career so absolutely, America was different.

I may be going too far to say that it was entirely regardless of the fact I was changing careers – because horses in America, at least in my experience (a prestigious competition/boarding barn in the hub of East Coast eventing, Virginia), became a lot more cutthroat and professional. Even in Ireland, the professionalism still strikes me; it makes me realise that I was more a ‘backyard rider’ than anything else in Australia. And I’m not saying that is a bad thing, or that I’m better than that now. It just added to everything else that was changing around me.

I loved my experience in the USA. I made friends that I value and that I never want to lose contact with; I had my first experience with a competition ‘trainer’, and realised the value of having someone who always had your back and wanted nothing more than for you to improve; I learnt a hell of a lot about how a barn runs, how a boarding barn functions, how my years of customer service that I thought were only a means to an end actually provide me with life skills that I can build on and use even in the career I’ve chosen. But at the same time, it was so far removed from home that it felt like a different planet. And even that was awesome. The reason I left home was because I needed something different; America provided that in spades. My lifestyle was different. My interaction with horses was different. My interaction with people was different.

Ireland, though, feels so much like coming home. My family is still a world away – and I’m getting, finally, to the point where I miss the fact that I can’t just drop in and have a coffee with my mum – but the culture, the people, the lifestyle, is so much closer to what I think of as ‘mine’.

The Irish are a lot more laidback than Americans, a lot more like Australians. I can’t discount the fact, I suppose, that I am now working in a sales barn as opposed to a boarding barn – anywhere where there is only a set time for clients to be on the property, and we own all the horses, as opposed to people coming and going to do stuff with their own horses, has to have a different feel. And yet the work politics, that I found difficult to deal with in America at times, are all but nonexistent here. Everybody feels like they’re on the same level; we deal with different parts of the way the yard operates, but nobody is above a good slagging, and nobody really takes offense if they are the victim. It’s just the way things are. And that, that happy-go-lucky, take-it-but-also-dish-it-out mentality, that is just so Australian to me.

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I’ve been invited to many a pub meal since I’ve been over here, and again, hello Australia. Have a drink with dinner. Have a sip of cider with lunch. Have a few pints over a pub meal we’ve ordered just because. Obviously there’s problems with such an alcohol-for-socialisation culture (see Ireland’s suicide/alcoholism rate, or Australia’s TAC drink driving ads), but at the same time, it feels like coming home.

I feel like I’m part of a family here in the yard. In the US, I felt I was a part of my trainer’s family; but the barn was strictly business. Here, my boss asks me about how I’m sleeping (I’ve had issues with getting to sleep in the past). Here, my co-workers ask me how my workouts are going. Here, if I laugh at the fact that a horse reminds me of my brother, I feel I can straight away tell the first person who walks along, not wait until it’s my friend or trainer or someone who is not strictly a client.

Besides all that, Ireland is beautiful. Virginia had its own beauty; I’ll never forget my forays into DC, New York and (especially) Chicago. But Ireland is so green at the moment (I’m assured, constantly, that that will change in the winter months), and it has paddocks full of sheep (go to Virginia and try and find a sheep, I dare you) and cows and barley and wheat. I live right off a main road and every now and again there’ll be a traffic jam because a tractor has to get from point a to point b and the only way to do so is to use the motorway. I can’t say that doesn’t frustrate me at times, but at the same time, the rural feel to it is so much like my hometown, without being my hometown.

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I live within a ten-minute drive of two semi-major towns. I can go into either of them and not be recognised, and if I am, I can simply go to a different supermarket or another town that’s maybe twenty minutes away instead. I didn’t have that luxury back in Australia. I felt so trapped, so known, that this level of anonymity – even if it’s simply because I’m from overseas – makes me feel like I’m home but in a town that has a mindset appropriate for its size, rather than the one that my hometown possesses, in which it seems to think its a town of 500 instead of over 30,000.

There are two things that I think have made me love Ireland a lot, that aren’t actually specific to the country. Number one is having my own car. Technically the car is owned by the business, but it is mine to use; and that freedom, that extra level of independence, makes everything so much easier. I’m sick of seeing my co-workers? That’s fine, this Friday I’ll drive down to a pub I’ve never visited before! Want to see more of the countryside? Okay, last Monday I went for a random hike in a random woods near the town in which I was opening a bank account! Having a car to do whatever I like just makes things so much easier, even if I never did anything different to what I did in the USA; at least here, I have the choice to do so, without having to ask someone else’s permission.

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The number two thing is living next to the sea. The place I lived in Virginia was probably an hour from the closest ocean, and I loved being invited to a good beach place with my boss for a brief vacation, but the four-hour drive to get there was tiring. Ireland has had a good summer this year – and a couple of times, after work, I’ve made the snap decision to throw on my bathers and drive the whole three minutes to the white sand beach at the end of my road. On days when my mind won’t shut up I’ve gone for a swim in the ocean and suddenly realised that everything was alright. On a hot summer day when I feel like I’ve sweated out half my weight in liquid (a feeling which, unfortunately, the scales do not reflect) I can just go and have a ten-minute swim or a three-hour swim. It doesn’t matter, because the drive home is nothing. The drive there is nothing. On any one afternoon I choose, I can just go, and swim, or walk, or watch, and that’s made me realise one thing; the ocean is more important to me than I could have ever imagined possible.

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And, of course, there’s something else that makes Ireland wonderful to me. Something that made America awesome for me, and something that made Australia bearable for me in those last few months. The reason I moved over here. My passion, my love, and I’m proud to be able to say my career.

Horses.

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I am one of the lucky people who are able to say that their job description includes hacking an Irish Sport Horse through the woods. I am able to say that I now know what to look for if I’m buying a three year old, a four year old, a five year. I am able to say that if I had a horse for three months, I’d know what to do in order to give it the best chance and being sold after that time.

I’ve still got a long way to go as far as my riding’s concerned, and that’s my next milestone; but I am loving being around these animals. Still, after eighteen months, I’m convinced I’ve made the correct career choice.

And as far as Ireland’s concerned? I am so, so glad that I made it the next step on my journey.

Dawn.

Occasionally, (because I am vain and prone to bouts of nostalgia), I go to my own Facebook page and just look at my ‘About’ section.

Particularly, lives in Glenealy, Ireland.
From Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia.

I have come so far. I have done so much more than I could have ever imagined.

And, as people keep telling me, I am still so young.

This is only the beginning.

I am so excited for the future.

If You’re Not The One

I love my job. I love that I’m making it my career, I love that I’m getting so much out of it, I love that I can look at it and realise that I may be able to do this for the rest of my life, because it doesn’t really feel like work.

But…

It’s not the usual ‘but’. It’s not ‘but you don’t make a lot of money’ or ‘but it can wreck you physically’ or ‘but it’s really hard to actually make a career’ or ‘but you can only have it as a hobby if you do real work’. It’s something I guess that is unexpected, something completely different.

But I never grew out of dinosaurs.

There’s one scene in Jurassic Park that always gets me; one scene that never fails to give me goosebumps. Sometimes it even makes me tear up. It’s the Welcome to Jurassic Park scene. That moment when Alan Grant is driving through the park not knowing what it is, and he sees something and freezes; he removes his hat, and then his sunglasses, stands up in the jeep, and sees it. Sees a brachiosaurus walking along next to them. Sees more dinosaurs by the edge of the lake; “they’re moving in herds. They do move in herds.”

I’m not whimsical enough to believe that something like that would be possible ever, let alone in my lifetime. But I never grew out of dinosaurs. And there’s a part of me that will always crave the life of a palaeontologist. Part of me that longs to dig up fossils and classify them. Part of me that longs for unpronounceable latin names paired with mere fragments of bone (dongyangosaurus sinensis). Part of me that rereads Jurassic Park for the fifth time, but also buys The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs and The Natural History Museum Book of Dinosaurs and Raptor Red and anything by Jack Horner. Part of me that wants not only to discover, but to classify and write papers and theorise.

I love my job. I love the career that I have chosen. But if I ever had to do it again, and was forced to make different choices; that’s the choice I would make.

One Week In Ireland

  • It’s only rained two days that I’ve been here – I feel privileged! Although everyone keeps warning me that this week will probably be the entire summer, so I haven’t got my hopes up too far. ;)
  • I’m getting used to the vernacular. Restrooms are toilets again; a biscuit of hay is still a flake; a hat is a helmet, although it’s also a beanie or a cap; ‘grand’ is the equivalent to the American ‘super'; driving a stick is driving a manual again; the workplace is neither a barn nor a stable, but a yard; most horses are transported in lorries rather than trailers or floats; a mobile phone is no longer a cell phone (and the structure of the number is back to being very similar to Australia!); tall boots are long boots again; gaiters are still chaps; a halter is a headcollar (although I can’t tell if that’s again or not, because the terminology changes in Australia and is actually variable everywhere); a hot horse is sharp (although he can be hot as well); and there are many others that I will try to memorise! I find this part of changing countries fascinating, and it never fails to amuse me!
  • I have to drive on the left side of the road again, which is actually more terrifying than learning to drive on the right. I think it’s a combination of the fact that I was really focusing on being correct in America, and the fact that the roads around where I’m staying are narrow and twisty and I’m really not used to cars going the other way passing me on the right. 0.o
  • I chased an 8hh teaser stallion down a semi-main road, and then spent about twenty minutes trying to catch the damn thing, ending in something that reminded me of calf roping (when the rider throws themself from the horse onto the calf while it’s running 0.o)
  • I had my first real conversation with a 5yo today. Nailed it. (Although of course I’m living with two young boys that aren’t into dinosaurs – something that I’m sure I could really talk to them about!)
  • Went to my first Irish event, which was apparently not a really fancy or impressive one, but was still fancier than some of the American (and Australian, actually) events I’ve been to. They definitely put in a real effort with dressing the cross-country jumps and making sure everything looked lovely! Although some of the scheduling issues they had were reminiscent of the old Australian PC events. -.-
  • Rode again! Just a horse that’s not as green as most of the babies, bringing him back into work, but it’s a nice one to start on because I don’t feel entirely like I’m really awful at riding.
  • Made a chicken and leek pie, topped of course with extra pastry spelling out YUM on top as a nod to my mother. :D
  • Went to two Irish pubs. Or I guess they’re just pubs because I’m in Ireland? They’re  everything they’re cracked up to be and more. :D
  • Drank my first Irish Guinness – I swear to god they’re not lying when they say it doesn’t travel well! It was definitely better than the one I tried in America.
  • I still really love the Irish; their way of life is much more similar to Australians than Americans. It’s a lot more laidback, although everything still gets done.
  • People questioned my sanity about moving from Australia and/or America to come to Ireland. But then, you don’t appreciate a place until you’ve left it I think; I definitely appreciate Australia a lot more since I’ve left. And Ireland really does have a lot to offer!
  • Patted two foals today.
  • Got a horse ready to be shown for sale from field to presentable in about fifteen minutes. (Go me! :P )
  • Went to a rugby match! Leinster vs Ulster at the RDS Arena. Went in knowing nothing about rubgy and came out cheering for a particular side, so I count that as a win! (Like the last sports match I went to knowing nothing about – baseball – it was blue vs red and I was supposed to be cheering for the blue team.) It was actually a good match to watch for initiation, not too many boring bits. ;) And the crowd was gold. One man was itching for a fight and the way the Irishmen behind us dealt with it brought me nearly to tears of laughter. They literally just took the piss out of him until the whole section was laughing at him and he sat down fuming. I sincerely wish I’d had the presence of mind to tape it; would’ve made YouTube favourites for sure. ;)
  • Drove in a little Irish town and nearly died multiple times. It was a hilly town and I’m still getting used to driving a manual again, and the car is new to me so I’m not sure how wide it is and the streets were very very narrow. Still, I survived to try it another day!

All in all a very successful week. Looking forward to lots more to come!

Dreamin ‘Bout Gettin Gone

“he said ‘Bill I believe this is killing me’
as the smile ran away from his face
‘well I’m sure that I could be [
everything]
if I could get out of this place…’”

I got out.

It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

And now, I’m not only sure that I could be anything

but everything.

Transitions

The end of this week marks twelve months of my being in this amazing country.

To say it’s gone fast would be an understatement. It’s challenging for me to even begin to articulate all that this year has done for me; in a rare turn of events, I’m at a loss for words. Even if I were to try and frame it in only snapshots, I have so many that they’re practically a blur.

In a brief attempt, here are some moments from this twelve months that made an impression:

  • Jan Byyny winning the 3* at Fair Hill, and me being able to say that I know her – maybe not well, but better than a lot
  • Our Really Awesome Stall Guy Juan catching a loose horse that we’d herded into a paddock and chased around for (not an exaggeration) one and a half hours, by jerry-rigging the leadrope around her head and riding her back to the gate
  • Winning a Novice (the highest level I’ve actually competed) on my leased Prix St George gelding
  • Driving to Florida – that moment when the GPS tells you, “drive south for 797 miles”
  • Our first attempt to get the OTTB Gyles over a pole (he was very… earthbound for a while)
  • Gold Cup last year, after I’d only been here a few weeks
  • Loudoun PC Horse Trails last year, after I’d only been here a week; sitting in the RV in the pouring rain watching Rolex Showjumping (the fact that I will be at Rolex this year is still pretty much incomprehensible)
  • Helping to leg up Cody, and almost literally taking my life in my hands throughout that journey
  • My trip to DC and NY in December (what a wonderful time of year to travel)
  • Hacking out on a gorgeous summer day on a little Monster Pony, surrounded by rolling green Virginian hills
  • Christmas Eve drinks at my trainer’s place
  • The moment when you go to take a horse out of the paddock and it literally can’t walk – and that happened to me twice
  • Learning that a ‘three-legged lameness’ is better than a niggle that you can see somewhat consistently but is not 100% there…
  • Being introduced to what will hopefully be my new employers on my next leg in this journey

 

…and I could go on. That list does not even come close to doing this year justice; let’s face it, nothing I write will ever be able to do that. All I know is that I have learned so much over this last year. I have never worked harder. I have had moments when I thought I would not be able to go on, and moments when I thought I could conquer the world. I’ve met horses and people that I will always remember. I’ve learnt an incredible amount about myself, my abilities, my work ethic, my hopes and dreams and aspirations, what I want to do and be both in a professional and personal sense.

It’s a gross understatement to say that this year has gone quickly. But at the same time I feel although this is all I’ve ever known, that this is my place and my past and my home.

They say home is where the heart is, and in a sense, I guess that means that part of me will always call this place home. Hard as it may be, I will make every effort to return one day, because you never truly leave your home. And even as memories fade and a new life unfolds in front of me, this place will always call to a corner of my heart.

***

The next leg of my journey begins in ten days, with a trip to the Rolex Three Day Event, followed by a stay in Chicago, before I return here for a brief soiree before I board a plane to Ireland. There I plan to learn the other half of my chosen profession; here I learnt how a competition barn functions, and with luck I will now learn how a successful sales barn runs its operations.

There’s more stress with visa applications, baggage limits, exorbitant expenses and goodbyes, but the thing is I can’t view this as an end. Even if my desire was to cut off all contact with everyone I ever met here (it isn’t, how could it be), a goodbye doesn’t equal a termination. Instead I choose the word transition; both because that’s what it is in a literal sense, and because of the charming parallel with the horse world – just because you change gaits, doesn’t mean you can let go of anything you had in the one previous. Doing so will damage your performance. Instead, you use the previous gait to influence your next one; to build, to add, and to increase the overall quality of the work you’re doing.

And that is how I view this next step. A transition.

A Selection

of quotes from the diary I have kept
whilst without internet in Florida

11/1/2014

I saw an armadillo in the garden this morning.

13/1

Spent $175 on groceries today.

I’d really love to get back into pole dancing. Seriously one of my favourite types of exercise – excellent for strength and some cardio, and just fun. I looked up places near the barn a few months ago, but unfortunately it’s crazy expensive. Add into that cost of gas and it’s just not feasible. Which is really sad because I’d so  want to do it again.

I hate it when people whose blogs I follow stop blogging because they’ve ‘found a real life’ or ‘need to get back into real life’. Partly it’s a selfish, ‘I’ve lost a form of entertainment’ annoyance; partly it’s some form of ridiculous jealousy. Like… ‘I wish I could have enough of a life to not need the internet’. Ugh.

I’m becoming obsessed with The Real Housewives of Beverley Hills and Vanderpump Rules. It’s a little sad.
Online dating profile: “Currently in a semi-serious relationship with Vanderpump Rules. Willing to sacrifice time spent with Sur staff for the right person.”

Sometimes I think my life is so depressing.

14/1

Will I always be crying alone?

16/1

These people are really fuckin weird about Pine-Sol.

17/1

Quote of the Day: “Remember that time I was at the Fork competitor’s party, sitting next to Boyd, and my mum got really drunk and started hitting on him and asking him if he rode horses?”

18/1

Also, Alison Springer’s new horse she just bought off of WFP for over a million dollars colicked really badly last week and had to be put to sleep today. Like, fuck. What… just what the hell would you do?
It’s the ultimate ‘well, that’s horses!’.

21/1

I don’t think I can actually express in words how happy it makes me to watch an episode of Buffy.

22/1

Hell is bending over a horse’s foot, attempting to pack it with Rebound, but the Rebound is frozen into a near-solid and it’s nearly impossible to dig your fingers into and in doing so you actually pull the flesh off of the underside of your nails.
It made my fucking fingernails bleed.

27/1

Well, mission accomplished. Very hungover. Got kicked out? Don’t remember. Remember dancing. Apartment smells like vomit. My head hurts.
I feel like death.

29/1

I got chills.
They’re multiplying.
I don’t think I’ve ever had a cold this bad. Certainly I’ve never noticed a fever so horrible.

31/1

“Don’t wish
don’t start.
Wishing only wounds the heart…”

2013: A Reflection

I’ve heard it said that smell is the sense most strongly connected to memory.

I’d believe that. The smell of my tinted moisturiser I use as foundation first always made me think of nights out on the town, and then when I started as a waitress and in a jewellery store, of working. The smell of the new moisturiser I got conned into buying at a large mall early on in my stay in America always makes me think of summer. The smell of febreeze will always remind me of my first night in America. Garlic and onions frying in oil conjures up pictures of my mother cooking in the kitchen back home. Coffee makes me think of early Saturday mornings before the rest of the CBD was awake, sitting on a bench in the relative cold waiting for it to be time for work.

It feels like 2013 should be full of memories that specific, that attuned to a certain place in my life, standing out among the 22 years’ worth of other memories I have. After all, 2013 was the year I took all the risks, and followed my dream: I moved out of home, I flew around the world, I embarked upon a job within the career path that I would ideally choose. And certainly the things I have done have created memories, recollections I will never forget, but at the same time the year has been lived at such  a constant, frantic pace that I’ve now been in America for over eight months and I can’t decide whether it feels like two weeks or three years.

The start of 2013 was one filled with anticipation and change. Whilst it hadn’t happened yet, I knew it was going to happen. Applications had been filled in and submitted. Then came the waiting game.

Throughout that, I worked two jobs, earning the most amount of money I’ve ever had in a bank account ever. Oddly, I thoroughly enjoyed the two jobs, too; working in a jewellers (and I thought I liked jewellery before then…) and as a waitress. It was difficult because it meant that I didn’t really get a ‘holiday’ after uni finished – but it was worth it, because I knew that every single dollar I earned was going to go towards me achieving perhaps the biggest thing I’d ever aimed for in my life.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to say that it was strange to think that it was actually happening. I still sometimes think I’m just dreaming.

The hardest part of that first part of the year was selling my horse. Due to my insecurities more or less convincing me that my Plans weren’t actually going to happen, I put off offering him for sale until the last possible minute. This resulted in a lot of stress, both emotional and financial; I did not end up selling him for the price that he was worth, simply because I didn’t have the time. However he did end up going to the perfect home; a girl that loved him and that wouldn’t push him beyond his limits. It was a bittersweet ending. That horse taught me so much, not the least when to accept a horse for what they can offer you and move on. He tried his heart out for me, even if he wasn’t perfectly suited to the life I wanted him to live. He was one of the special ones, not because he gave me rides at the highest level I’d ever ridden at (though he did); but because he convinced me not to give up on horses at a point in my life where I considered it.

Real confirmation of my leaving came in late January or early February, and from then on it was a constant race to organise myself. I packed up my entire life back home, putting most of it into boxes and then into my parents’ garage (I’m still not sure I’ll ever be able to get rid of some of that stuff… maybe one day when I mature! ;)). I researched and researched luggage and what would be best, weight limits on different airlines, airfares on different airlines, and finally made a decision and stuck with it. I went the more expensive suitcase with the much lighter-when-empty weight. Definitely a good decision! Although I didn’t pack many winter clothes (as I was flying in for an American summer), having to include a lot of horse stuff meant that weight and space limits were quickly used up.

I flew out on the 17th of April, landing in America (due to having to wait until my visa was confirmed to book a flight) in the evening of the 19th. (For those of you playing at home; what happened was that I flew the long way around the world, with a layover in Abu Dhabi, making the approximately 36 hour flight actually take approximately 36 hours. The advantage of this was that I experienced almost no jetlag – as I hadn’t technically lost a day. The disadvantage was, you know; 36 hour flight.) Saying goodbye to my family was one of the weirder experiences I’ve had. I think because I’d been so keen to leave home for so long, I wasn’t particularly emotional. With the technology we have these days, I knew I’d be able to stay in touch with them. And for me, I was embarking on an adventure, a real life, away from the small-minded town I’d grown up in and away from the painful memories. I didn’t want to seem like I didn’t care – I did – but at the same time, no tears were shed.

Arriving in America was nerve-racking, but I was quickly comforted when the first thing my new American family did was offer me a glass of wine. That definitely set the trend and I’ve really felt I fit in well with them, at the very least. The first competition I went to over here, about a week after I started work, Rolex 3DE was on and it was raining; we ended up in my Boss’s dad’s RV, watching Rolex on an iPhone and drinking wine and gin and tonics. I had to glance around to make sure my mother and aunty weren’t there. They would’ve fit right in!

So in some aspects I feel that I’ve fitted right in, over here in America. There’s definitely aspects where I don’t feel that way. Living on the farm, isolated from even nearby towns, with only certain workmates to deal with; my social life has suffered, and mentally that’s hit me hard on and off. The politics – those which you get in any workplace, it’s true, but see above re: isolation and lack of other social life – have been extremely hard for me to deal with. I’ve gotten to know myself better and to recognise the parts of me that I’d like to work on changing, and the parts I’d like to maintain and nurture, and why. Parts of this experience have been challenging, but I also think they’re largely the parts which have taught me the most.

And then there’s the horses. Oh, the horses.

I’ve certainly developed exponentially as a rider and a horse professional since coming over here. I’ve recognised a passion for groundwork that I didn’t realise existed within me. I’ve learned basic stable management and the day-to-day care of horses in a professional barn environment that you don’t get from just caring for your own horse on a private property. I’ve been privileged enough to ride horses trained up to the Prix St George level and horses literally claimed straight off a racetrack. I’ve developed enough of myself to feel although I could take a horse at almost any level of greenness and train them up to be comfortably competing at the lower levels. My upper-level work is still a work in progress, but that will come; I’m much more excited about my ability with the greenies. I’ve sat bucks that feel like you’re literally six feet above the ground and bailed off of a rearer. I’ve been thrown around on the end of a leadrope, the only thought going through my head being ‘if you let go of this horse your Boss is going to literally kill you’. I’ve been out at the stable til 9pm with a colic case. I’ve gotten to the point where three-legged lameness is less of a concern to me than is a slight niggle at the trot. I’ve rehabbed multiple horses and I’ve watched a particular horse with a particular amount of talent make his way from an injury to walking, to trotting, to cantering, to jumping. I’ve learnt so much about these animals and so much about the professional business involved with them.

And, insanely, I still want to be involved in that business.

That’s not a knowledge that I wake up and say to myself every day. Some days I drag myself out of bed at 6.35am and struggle to be out at the barn by 7am. Some days I don’t want to talk to anybody and I don’t want to touch a horse. Some days I have to wait five minutes before I can get on because if I got on feeling like I did, the ride would never be productive at all. It’s a knowledge that is more intrinsic, even innate. It’s a knowledge that springs to mind whenever I think about doing something else with my life. It’s a knowledge that appears with operatic solos and rainbows whenever I have a particularly good ride. And it’s a knowledge that creeps up on me when I walk out to the barn at 7.03am and flick the aisle lights on, and big grey heads blink sleepy eyes at me, and I smile.

After seven months – seven crazy months of learning how the barn runs, how to groom at big shows, how to deal with clients, how to ride – I planned and schemed for a week off. A week off to finally get into Washington DC (sadly a 40 minute trip from the barn, but no rest for the wicked) and perhaps elsewhere, depending on funds and timing and what my heart thought at that moment.

It’s a week that I’ll endeavour to always remember. Travelling by yourself can be intimidating, but for me it’s more exhilarating, and it increases the people you meet tenfold. I stayed in a hostel in DC and at a friend’s place in NYC – and I realised, speaking in the hostel to other travellers, just how much of a nomadic heart I have. I’m certainly not ready to settle. I haven’t found a place that calls to me and that I don’t want to leave. So far, all I’ve found is more places I want to explore, more people I want to meet, more experiences I want to have. Long-term, horses may not be the best business for doing that. But short-term, while I’m developing my resume and trying to find my niche, it’s perfect.

And even long-term, competing horses provides an opportunity to at least see other places – even if you’re surrounded by the same old people. I’ve travelled up and down the East Coast going to competitions. I’ve covered Virginia and Maryland, and been lucky enough to go to the prestigious 3* at Fair Hill – perhaps even luckier because the Boss was competing in the Young Horse, so I got to see more of the 3* competition than I might otherwise have. I’ve watched Boyd Martin, Buck and Bruce Davidson, Phillip Dutton, Sinead Halpin, Jan Byyny, Sharon White, and so many others over courses varying from Novice to 3*. I’ve been exposed to so much, more than I could ever have imagined when coming over here.

And who can forget William Fox-Pitt teaching a clinic at my barn? Or Karen O’Connor randomly walking down the aisle one day?

2013 was jam-packed, full of experiences, so many that I’m sure I’m missing some key ones. And what does that mean for 2014?

For me, it’s a continuation of what began in 2013. 2014 starts with a trip to Florida – seeing more of the sights America has to offer, another culture-within-a-culture, another barn albeit with the same people. We return to Virginia in mid-February, and as the weather warms the competitions start to heat up. I may be able to hit a few of the early Spring events, depending on what the horses (and riders) are doing.

Then comes April, and the end of my American working visa. I have thirty days to travel before my visa officially expires – and I’m going to make the most of those thirty days. So far I’m throwing around names like Rolex 3DE, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Las Vegas. Realistically (read: financially) I’m not sure exactly what I’ll be able to do. Chicago will happen, regardless of all else. And I’m sure I’ll make the most of whatever I can.

Come the end of May, and I’ll be heading to Europe. Any luck I will have a job lined up there… there’s a few options on the horizon already, and I think they will only increase as I start to really knuckle down and make it happen. I’m not yet sure whether it will be an eventing barn, or a dressage barn, a young horse barn or a showjumping barn. I’m not yet sure what will be best to benefit my career or how I would make it work. I’m not yet sure even which country to really start looking at, or how the visas work.

So 2014 will bring a lot more of that research I did in 2012, as well.

The idea of packing to leave for Florida scares me, as it seems like a dry-run for packing to leave in April/May. It’s going to be difficult to pack my life away, to choose what to bring and what to leave. To leave the place that I’ve made my own and strike out again. I know I’ll be able to do it; but to say I’ll do it without fear would be a lie.

I’m not yet sure when I will get back to Australia to see my family. June 2016 is my deadline; I have to make it back then. What happens before then is up to fate, and (primarily, as ever) finances.

After I (*fingers crossed*) land and start a job in Europe, who knows what 2014 will bring. There will still be seven months left in the year and I’m sure they will bring so many new faces and experiences that I’ll have the same trouble this time next year, remembering everybody and everything that made the year unforgettable but still somehow unfathomable.

People have a tendency at this time of year to make resolutions. I rarely do, and even if the fancy strikes me I’m one of those people to have forgotten it by mid-February. And, y’know, I could do all of the typical ones; moving to America saw me gain 10 kilos (!). I’m probably drinking too much. I could eat healthier, and probably less. I could move more. But, the thing is, saying I’m going to start doing that tomorrow seems ridiculous. I will; I know I’ll work on getting healthier, physically and mentally, at some point next year. It kind of has to happen, and I know that. Making a resolution about it just seems hackneyed, to me.

I prefer goals, to resolutions. And I have small, and medium, and even some large goals which I’m working towards. But as far as yearlong goals go, I’m kind of forced into achieving them:

  • Find a job in Europe (inc. research visas etc)
  • Experience as much of America as I can before leaving
  • Ride as many horses as I can, both before I leave America and while I’m in Europe
  • Be proactive in working on my mental and physical health

So then, 2014. It will be another year of change and another year of travel. Another year for me to work on finding myself and what and where I want to be. A full twelve months without seeing my family (in all probability). Another year where I have to forge my own support network in the place I currently find myself.

Another year full of opportunities, another year full of challenges.

And all I can say; bring it on.

I Am Thankful For… (obligatory Thanksgiving post)

My parents, without whose support I would never have been able to do all that I have.

My American ‘family’, for doing everything in their power to make me feel like I have a full support base over here as well.

The horses that I’ve met over here, specifically (although I can’t pick favourites!) Brady and Gyles; Brady for letting me compete at a higher level and teaching me how to ride a trained horse, and Gyles for reaffirming my love and passion for ex-racehorses.

Having the opportunity to work outside, instead of in a cubicle, or even just a building. Seeing nature firsthand every day. Watching the seasons change.

Being able to have a job that encapsulates my passion.

Having taught myself to cook before I came over here. And having a housemate who doesn’t mind that I don’t do the dishes as often as I should.

The internet and other means of communication. I’m not sure I could’ve lasted this well for this long if I wasn’t able to contact my family, especially my mum, as easily as I can. That definitely makes it easier!

Of course, I’m thankful for my health, my happiness, my freedom. The fact that I made the decision to come over here and I could.

My inner strength, something that I didn’t really believe I had until it was tested. Now I know it’s there and it’s growing with every challenge.

There are many other things I’m thankful for. But these probably best encapsulate the things that keep me going and that I’m grateful for every day. Life is not without challenges; but somehow, I’m getting through. And I’m happy.

I’m Not Dead

I so want to write more on here.

Inspirational things. Things about my day. The differences and similarities I notice. Records of things that happen. Ordinary things, extraordinary things. My opinions on eventing and the current news and what’s making headlines. A comment on the way the bare trees stretch skeletally into the frozen sky. Comments on politics, comments on the weather.

It’s just so hard, to find the time, and the motivation. If I have the time, I just want to sleep, or read, or go grocery shopping. If I have the motivation – like now – I simply don’t have the time. I’m writing this in my twenty-minute lunch break. It’s probably going to make me late.

I think there’s a balance to be found. I think it’s probably a writing thing; make the time, every day. Make it a priority.

I’m going to try. Even if I just start things and draft them and take three weeks to finish them.

I so want to write more on here. So I will.

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