Well, it's really winter! In fact, tomorrow is the Winter Solstice, when we'll begin our long ascent out of darkness. A hopeful thought, especially on a night like tonight...It was fully dark by 5 PM, and the icy wind was rattling the barn like crazy during Abby and Calypso's lesson (but not one single spook or indication of nervousness on Calypso's part. So much for "wild and crazy Thoroughbred"!) Even though it is the deepest, darkest part of winter, the Solstice is a transition I look forward to every year...We have a lot of winter ahead of us still, up here in the frozen tundra of Northern Wisconsin, but the Solstice is a promise of light and of spring returning. It gets better from here on out. 

Another transition...It was Abby's last ride on the sweet mare she has leased for the past year. Her lease is ending, and she is taking a working student position at another great barn. They have learned so much together and were a super match. We did a fun gymnastic jumping exercise for their last ride together...a challenging one that showed just how much confidence and skill Abby has gained in the past year on this horse. She is ready for the next step in her journey, and I am excited for what she will gain from this opportunity at the other barn. I think this girl is hooked for life! 

Clay was also a focused, grown-up pony during our ride, despite the wind and the cold temps. I guess when you throw everything at your horse on a regular basis (loudly-mooing cows stalled next to the arena, rabbits running in and out of the arena, three huge German Shepherds chasing said bunnies around the barn while your horse is in the cross-ties, wind making it sound like the arena is about to fall down, snow sliding off the roof every time the sun comes out, etc.) they end up being pretty dang bombproof. 😜 

I have only been able to ride once a week this winter, despite my very best efforts to make it happen more often. But soon that will be changing and I will have much more time for my own riding.....Yet another transition. As I have mentioned before, I vastly reduced the number of students I had when my daughter was born (almost two years ago now, can ya believe it?? I can't!), to accommodate the fact that I would have to bring her with me to the barn for every lesson. It was a difficult but necessary decision, and as a result I ended up with a small but very dedicated group of students who were SO much fun to teach. I loved every minute of our time together, because they were so into it. 

But now, one is leaving (Abby), and another is going to keep her horse at home for the winter, and the other two don't usually lesson consistently in the winter months because of the cold (one is 65 and the other is 7...I don't blame them at all!) So I find myself without any lessons on the schedule for the first time in about five years.

It's going to be strange and a little sad to not be actively teaching (at least for the next few months), but I am really grateful for the time I've had with each and every student that has come through Sioux River while I've been the instructor there. I learned so much from each of them, and from the experience of being in a teaching role. It was an honor to see each person have fun, work hard, achieve goals, and in some cases solidify a lifelong love of horses and riding. I would do this job for free because I love doing it so much, but that is not to say it is an easy one...

There's nothing easy about standing in a dusty, hot arena for hours every day. Nothing easy about standing in a FREEZING one all winter, either. Nothing easy about asking your spouse to practically be a single parent most nights, after they've worked a full day as well, because you have after-school lessons to give. Nothing easy about giving up summer weekends and missing family events for shows. Nothing easy about sacrificing your own time to ride, and subsequently not reaching goals in the timeline you'd hoped (or at all). And certainly nothing easy about doing it all with a 25 lb wiggly toddler strapped to your back!! Ha! 

Instructors give up a lot to do what they do, and while they wouldn't trade their lives for any other, most of the real sacrifices they make go completely unseen by their clients and most certainly aren't reflected in that $30 lesson fee they get paid–half of which they typically give to the barn owner. Having taught lessons myself now, I have nothing but the deepest respect and appreciation for everyone I have ever (and will ever) lessoned with. I know that even though you love teaching, it's anything but easy. Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

So, yes, I am looking forward to the slower schedule this winter, and having time to focus on my own riding. I am looking forward to evenings at home with my family. I have some personal goals I really want to reach and I am grateful to have this little window of time to focus on doing so. In fact, Clay and I are attending a clinic with Martin Kuhn next month (so excited!), and we have some work to do before then (not to overuse the "transitions" theme, but, in fact, we will be schooling a lot of them. Namely, walk-canter, canter-walk, and trot-halt-trot. They help balance us and they keep Clay nice and hot off the aids. I've made them a super big part of our rides these days.) Stay tuned! :)