How do you balance planning versus doing with your horse?
As a type A personality, I’m prone to lists and lots of them. I like having neat boxes and a clear understanding of what is expected of me. Try fitting horses into a system like that and it’s a recipe for heartache. For me, that has looked like several years of owning horses but not riding them.
Really? You had horses but you didn’t ride them? You heard correctly. I’ve ridden the horses I have now just a handful of times in the past six years. A combination of factors including leaving a trainer and going it alone plus buying unstarted horses has kept me from riding regularly. I say that but truthfully, the biggest battle has been in my mind. You see, after riding for 17 years, I’m not afraid that the horse will hurt me. I’ve started many horses that belonged to other people. I’m finally able to articulate that for the past several years: I’ve been afraid of hurting my horse.
I wonder if anyone else has struggled with something similar. You analyze and plan to death so much so that you become your own killjoy when it comes to horses, riding or whatever it may be. Without my trainer to guide me (and worse, trying to come up with my own guides), I analyzed everything: being in a stall too long, riding too long, riding in certain tack, riding with contact on the bit, riding with a bit at all, everything.
Don’t get me wrong. Asking questions is a good thing! I am a lifelong learner. I’ll never be done. Instead of riding and addressing my horse and my riding that day, I didn’t get on because I was too busy worrying what would happen once I did. My reaction to being Consciously Incompetent was keeping my feet out of the stirrups. If I didn’t ride, I couldn’t mess up my horse, right?
Writing it now it seems silly but it has taken me all this time to understand how wrong that mentality is. My horse profits nothing if I do not ride. For me, sending Nibbles to a new trainer was a big mental release. This decision will hopefully be the beginning to regaining balance in my riding life – and having one again to begin with. In fact, I’m determined that it will be.
Have you ever experienced something similar? Where you spend all your energy analyzing and suddenly find that you’re making excuses not to throw your leg over your horse? Masters don’t become masters by study alone. Masters become masters by studying and spending thousands of hours in the saddle. And yes, they too made mistakes along the way.
I believe that our horses enjoy having a purpose in life and get enjoyment out of human interaction. For me (hullo Type A), I’m happiest when I’m productive. Not to project human feelings onto animals but I’ve witnessed a similar experience with horses in 17 years. They are bored just hanging out in pastures/stalls. They thrive with a job, a purpose. They benefit from structure with bend (and a strong sense of humor!).
I’d love to know if you’ve ever seen or experienced this. I could use the encouragement as I get my brain wrapped around this new reality. How to you toe the line between analyzing and tacking up? How do you balance wanting to do what’s best for your horse with the reality that exists?