The closer I get to the Academy going live the more I ask myself, where do I go from here...I've received some very good feedback from all I shared the drafts of the Programmes with and I'm both anxious and excited at the thought of bringing it all to life and spreading the word. It will take a long time to make it into what I see in my head it could be but I think I'm ready for it.
Should all go according to the plan it would mean I will have my teaching plans and ambitions sorted for the next few years. However, for the next 12 months, it all boils down to one very important issue :
Do I acknowledge it's just too much to try to significantly improve my riding, train & compete AND earn my living in the same time or do I find a way to do both...
You might as well grab a coffee/water/juice or a stronger liquid if you are going to read on - ramble warning.
I'm very aware that my location and the fact I rely on public transport to take me places, work against many opportunities I could otherwise utilise. It would be pointless to complain and moan about it as in many ways it's a choice I've made. Living in London is something of an ongoing dilemma for me: on one hand it lets me feel less of an outsider and I feel happy here, on the other hand it makes many potentially beneficial changes impossible. I'd like to stay and yet I'd love to move...
Although many car drivers keep persuading me I absolutely need a car, the truth is, having one in London is a very expensive alternative to public transport. Not to mention you have to allow for actually buying the machine, paying tax, MOTs, any work done to it, insurance (did I miss something?).
In summary, I'm somewhat trapped in a self-made simple maze.
Up until Kingsley's lameness/unsoundness issues I still believed I can somehow slowly climb towards being able to train properly again. The plan for Kingsley was to sell him on very quickly and buy a slightly better model and so on, educating both me and Kingsley's owner in the process, so at some point we could be ready to share a nice competition horse(s) and have fun with competing them. As some of you who read this blog regularly will know, this is now out of question.
In the last few months I started to realise that for the first time ever I actually subconsciously gave up on trying to keep up my own riding education. Not because I lost the desire to become a better rider, but for I came to sad realisation that perhaps it all happens one dream at a time...
I've spent the last few years focusing on training my eye for riders' problems/issues and on how to help them overcome those.
As I have never had any intention to ride other people's horses for money, the teaching is what pays my bills. Unless you can charge £50+ for lessons and you give them a lot, you have to simply just do the latter - work a lot. This leaves you with very little, or no time, for your own riding. Bills paid or pleasure from improving...not much of a choice.
Perhaps there are riders out there who are managing teaching and competing just fine with no "support team -at-home" (loosely understood as Mum or Dad, horsey partner or a helpful Aunt;) but I find it impossible. I can't see how I could deal by myself with having a horse(s) on a D.I.Y. livery (only type I could potentially afford), have the time to ride it, have lessons on, compete it AND continue with amount of teaching I would need to do to cover the costs...Perhaps there is a solution I overlooked?
If I had my family over here I would go for it but again, it is one of those things one can say to me 'It was your own choice'. As I can't argue with that neither can I complain. Just stating the fact.
I'm not a happy-hacker or joyrider. When talking about riding here I mean everyday training and building a relationship with a horse. This for me is what the whole sport is about. It takes time, determination, commitment and consistency.
Seeing riding this way means that schooling random horses at random occasions doesn't feel like fulfilling any ambitions or having much fun. Of course every horse teaches you something new and in many ways it's enjoyable but it's not the same. The core is missing...
Not to mention I like to train to compete.
Considering the above I see 3 options to chose from but it's any one's guess what would be the best one?!
Option 1: Agree to Disagree and Get On With Life As It Is
It is very unlikely for my situation to change anytime soon which is why I need to come up with a plan that reduces my low feeling due to no training and let's me happily focus on the teaching part of my job.
There will hopefully be some opportunities in time that let me ride properly again but right now I think it's better not to be deluded and cease dwelling on things that just aren't to be.
I think (hope) I'm passionate enough about training others for it to drive me and provide me with overall job satisfaction.
Basically this option would essentially be aimed at improving the financial situation, be more business minded than dreams driven and create better foundations for future plans.
Going with this option would mean to stop wasting time on looking for riding opportunities, focus on saving money to buy some wheels and be more mobile and independent.
Time to focus on developing the Academy and its services.
Be home before 9pm and have energy for life outside the Horse World
I'm better when I can direct my focus on one thing rather than many so potential result could mean more quality to my work.
Arrange for a day off now and then to recharge the batteries.
Being restricted to teaching at the level I teach now as I don't believe in teaching above trainer's own knowledge + experience.
Staying still in terms of my own riding skills.
Temporarily giving up on what is the essence of this sport to me: riding to train/training to compete.
Deal with all the low days (possibly many) when I feel like I'm wasting the time in life when I'm reasonably able and healthy and could be taking my riding up a level instead...
I would see it as defeat no matter how much self-talk I would give to myself...
Terribly missing proper riding??
Option 2: Go For Training
Once the Academy is up and running, I could sort out the logistics of it so I only take certain, small amount of work myself. Focus on promoting Academy's website to be able to sell advertising space and gain a few pennies this way. Find a placement on a dressage or event yard where I could keep a horse (loan?), train, compete. Continue working 7 days a week, 2 days of teaching plus 5 days training with some additional teaching as and when necessary.
Doing what I see as the most important thing in this industry: improving own riding skills so I can teach better
Training whilst my body still copes with it, especially my knee which I am sure has a sell by date on it and it's not a long shelf-life product...
Feeling I am doing what I should be doing to continue to improve as a coach/instructor/rider
Chasing my dream to compete for my country (no, not Olympics mind you but some International competitions would be a dream come true).
Finances - verging on impossible
Working hours - a 7 day a week is a killer as I am experiencing now
Leaving some of my fabulous clients as wouldn't have the time to teach them
Possibly having to stay away from home few days at a time most weeks (big minus!!)
If not staying away then very early and very likely lengthy commute to a training yard (my long commutes are already a killer)
Option 3: Find A Way To Balance It All
As I'm ambitious and believe in things impossible this is My sort of option ;) It comes with plenty of significant buts though...
If I go for this one I will need to rob a bank, buy a car and have enough to run it, find a place for Kingsley to be turned away for a year or so to come back to soundness (or not-difficult to say how his conditions will develop with time), find a horse with potential AND good temperament so Pauline and I can both ride it, find another, more advance horse to loan/ride for someone that I can take for lessons and learn on. Possibly find a place to move to near a yard I can use as a base and try to attract as many riders to that base (as oppose to travelling to yards so much).
Arrange for a day off now and then.
Focus on promoting Academy and developing it both through good quality service and via (hopefully!) decent competition record (own and trained riders).
Best of two worlds, I get to focus on Academy for part of the day while also making time for training.
Working on my own riding skills while doing what I am passionate about i.e. delivering quality rider training
Balancing things out always makes me feel happier and this option would be a dream come true.
Living the life as I would love it to be.
Being able to give my best as could rest now and then plus the thought of doing things my preferred way always inspires and motivates me to get better.
Keeping finances healthy while developing myself as a rider.
Least realistic of the 3 options.
Very difficult to implement into real life. Little idea/limited opportunities as to where to start to make it happen.
Advice and ideas greatly appreciated! What would you do? Are there other potential options out there I fail to see?
P.S. Do you believe in horses experiencing melancholy? If this emotion ever does enter equine state of mind, Kingsley was well and truly melancholic today! It's the only way I could describe his mellow, a bit absent yet very obliging behaviour, cuddly yet distant, listening yet switched off.