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February 10, 2017

Amateurs Like Us: Blissfully Happy With Bruises

Echo and I goofing off.

It didn’t fully hit me that I was actually leaving my life/job to go be a working student until about a week before our departure. I will turn 30 years old while I am up at Allison Spivey Dressage and am eight years into my career with my full-time job, so to say that I was anxious about this journey is a bit of an understatement!

At the moment, I am covered in bruises (thanks to running into wheelbarrows constantly and who knows what else), sore in every part of my body, and blissfully happy. The only thing that could make my life better is if my long term boyfriend, Jason, and our dog, Deuce, could be up here with me the whole time.

I have found over the past few years that I function best when I am so busy that I am slightly overwhelmed. Well, I got my wish! I work from 6:45 a.m. to 11 a.m. for Allison, then switch to my desk job until 3:30 p.m., and then work for Allison again until around 5 p.m. Three days per week I come back and do night check on the ponies to throw them fresh hay and make sure everyone is happy. I work Monday through Friday for my desk job and Tuesday through Sunday for Allison, so I actually am working seven days a week. And again—I am so content.


Pulling out of the driveway from Richmond for my new adventures! Photo by McKenzie Ragan

So far I have gotten lessons every day that I am at the barn (Tuesday through Sunday) and with each lesson, Echo is coming out stronger, softer in his body, and feeling totally happy with his life. He has settled in like a champ in his new routine of hard work followed by some turnout time, and nighttime parties with his neighbors. I am so incredibly thrilled with how well he is coming along and how fast he is getting back to where he was prior to his October injury muscle-wise.

 I think the time off due to the injury followed by the careful, slow rehab really helped him both body and mind. He seems to be feeling fresh and ready to tackle the increasingly difficult work.


Echo and I in a lesson. Photo by Dana Ellwanger

I’m not going to pretend that this is all rainbows and sunshine, though. The work is HARD—both in the saddle and barn chores. Back at home, I work off my board by doing stalls three days per week and I had been riding one to three horses per day, but I am quickly realizing how drastically out of shape I actually am. I went from a sedentary 8-5 job to being on my feet for the majority of the day, running around doing chores and riding horses.

My body is screaming and I am feeling every one of my almost 30 years on this earth! I have been using ice therapy, heat therapy, Epsom salt baths, and stretching/yoga at nights to help to ease my muscle aches, and I may as well buy stock in Tylenol at the rate I’m going through it. Luckily enough, despite the difficulty of the job we do, we have a terrific group of people who work here and they have been incredibly welcoming and helpful while I figure out the system.

As I mentioned above, Jason and Deuce are staying at our house in Richmond but they did come up for a visit over the weekend which made this Monday significantly better than last Monday. Last Monday was my first “day off” here  and the time to kill before and after working my desk job really showed how lonely I was and it was a very difficult day for me emotionally and mentally.

While Jason and Deuce were here, we went on a long walk around the beautiful property where my apartment is, ate some great food, watched the Super Bowl, and I completely cried like a baby when it was time for them to head back to Richmond. Luckily enough, the next day was back to the grind and I was too busy during the day to be heartbroken and too tired at night to think straight! I am hoping to see them again in a couple of weeks.


Going for a walk around the property with Deuce. Photo by Samantha Silver

Another thing besides exhaustion that has kept me from being lonely is having my best friend, Michelle (the same Michelle I bought Echo from), 10 minutes from my apartment. I stop by frequently to hang out and spend some quality time with her and her family. It definitely makes things more bearable being close to them! I don’t know how well I would fare emotionally if I didn’t have them nearby, to be completely honest.

Overall, I am really looking forward to the next two months and I know they will fly by! I am trying to be sponge-like and absorb every bit of information that I can. I have taken photos of Echo and will take another set at 30 days and a final set before we leave to show the (hopefully) big transformation in his body and topline.

I am never one to shy away from posting videos that include imperfect moments, and I am happy to share an iMovie that I made from videos of my lesson on Feb. 4.

You can see us working through Echo’s stiffness and us starting to work on counter-canter again. I hope that you all enjoy watching us fumble through things and I will try to get more video in a few weeks, and expectantly there will be marked improvement.

When amateur rider Samantha Silver got the chance to spend three months as a working student for dressage trainer Allison Spivey, she grabbed it. Silver uprooted her life in Richmond, Va., arranged to telecommute for her job and shipped her off-the-track Thoroughbred Jimmie Echo two hours away to Middleburg, Va., for an adventure in learning, work and life. 

Read all of Samantha's COTH blogs.

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