How badly do you want it?

“How bad do you want it?”

“How bad do you want it?”

“HOW BAD DO YOU WANT IT?”

I repeated these words to myself over and over again as I walked across the field in the dark.  It was 4:30 in the morning, and I was bringing the horses in to be fed before I had to leave for work.

(My mother is reading this and internally shuddering at my improper grammar.  It was cold, dark, and 4:30 in the freaking morning.  Sorry Mom.)

It was 2006 and I had just started back to work full-time after a two-year stint working a 20-hours per week flexible schedule with my department.  The part-time shifts were great and allowed me the time to ride and train and show much more often than I had in the past. But it tightened my budget and kept me competing strictly at the local level, on local quality horses.

Then an opportunity fell into my lap.  The trainer I was working with had a fabulous horse for sale that was at a bargain basement price due to the owners’ divorce.  He was a jumper turned hunter with plenty of scope and the experience to walk right into the 3’6″ ring.  He was also gorgeous.

I wanted him.  Bad.

I knew he could help me scratch a big item off my bucket list: competing in the 3’6″ Amateur/Owner division at USEF rated shows.

So I came up with a plan.  I sold or leased all of the horses I then owned, except for Maddie‘s baby Rainy who was just a yearling at the time.  I put in for a full-time position that had just opened up at my work, knowing it would give me the added income I needed to afford showing at the rated level (although still on a limited scale and doing my own braiding, grooming, and hauling).  And I committed to selling the new horse after two seasons, regardless of whether or not I reached my competitive goals.

The plan fell into place.  I named him “Strategic Move” in recognition of the calculation involved in my two-year undertaking.  His barn name “Stash” was in honor of the savings account that went toward his purchase.

And every morning I woke up at 4:00 a.m., fed the horses and the kids, and got to my job at six sharp.  My shift ended at 2 p.m.  I picked up the kids from school on my way home, cleaned stalls, rode, made dinner, helped with homework, and headed to bed early so I could get up the next morning and do it again.

I trailered over to my trainer’s place once a week for lessons and I met him at the horse shows, arranging my leave and vacation schedule around my targeted show dates.

I ate a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

“How badly do you want it?”

I learned so much.

He exceeded my expectations.  At the end of our first season, we won the year-end series Championship at HITS Culpeper in both the Adult Amateur Hunter division and the Adult Equitation division.  We qualified for Zone 3 Finals and won some ribbons there too.  We moved up to 3’6″.

He was such a gentleman.  He was so good at his job that we almost never jumped at home, preferring to trail ride in the fields around the farm.

In our second season we showed consistently in the Amateur/Owner division and won ribbons at The Barracks, Keswick, James River, Rose Mount, and back at HITS Culpeper. At the end of the year, we ended up overall sixth place in the division with the Virginia Horse Shows Association.

But by then, he was already living in someone else’s barn.

I wish I could say that after executing my plan perfectly, I would recommend the same strategy for other riders in similar circumstances.  But the truth is… I have regretted selling Stash every single day.  Despite my years of experience buying and selling horses of all types, I failed to anticipate how much I would miss him.

My partner became my friend.

“How badly do you want it?”