Things I’ve Learned While I Am Not Riding

I was at a work lunch recently when the manager asked me, “Why do you have horses?” It was a genuine question and quite wise, perhaps beyond the manager’s intent. They knew I had horses, they knew I didn’t race them, and they knew it was “my thing.” I thought about it quickly and answered, “Fun.” Why do I spend massive (to me) amounts of money on accident prone animals who aren’t going to win me any back? Because there’s so much more you can do with horses.  I listened to a podcast this week which interviewed David Saunders, legendary combined driver, and he said something to the effect that really, you can’t make money with horses but you can make a living. I liked that. What’s more, you can show them, you can share them with family, you can breed them, you can travel with them and everything in between.

You can also lease them to really nice people so they can have babies of their own.

You can also lease them to really nice people so they can have babies of their own.

Since I’m no where near either of my two mares right now, I’ve struggled with what to blog about. After trying to catch up on all your wonderful blogs, I realized I did have something to offer that I think a lot of the community will resonate with.

  1. This is about fun.
    Somewhere along the way,  I lost track of the 8 year old girl who begged her mom for riding lessons. I forgot about the thrill of your mom driving you to a lesson (a lunge lesson no less!) and got caught up in the weeds. Is my horse fancy enough? Are we going to the big shows that really mean something? Did we win?
    All questions of pride.
    A different type of weeds… Is my tack what I should really be using? Is my horse really the one I should have? Am I really riding correctly?
    All questions stemming from guilt.
    Not being able to see my horses has helped remind me that I do this because I love it. I do this because nothing makes me come alive like horses do.

    Cute filly is cute.

  2. There are crazy people outside of horses.
    We complain a lot about the nuts we meet in the horse world. I’ve dealt with my fair share: people lying about using my horse in lessons (a privately owned horse who had no involvement with the trainer in question), people beating my horse, people stealing my tack, people badmouthing anything and everything about me/my horse you can imagine. And that’s not to mention the new breed of crazy I encountered when selling horses or standing my breeding stallion.
    But here’s the thing: crazy is not unique to horse people. Horses just bring it out in particularly terrifying and mind boggling ways.
    But that’s not to say non-horse life doesn’t have looney people. Planning a wedding is an excellent way to come to this realization. Family members not speaking to you for months, some shaming you on a social media, etc. Don’t even get me started on vendor shopping and trying to get them to do their jobs.
    With horses, I’ve gotten bogged down in the past and wondered if the crazy is worth it. It’s taken me a few years but I’ve come to the conclusion that yes, yes it is worth it. Crazy is everywhere in the world. I might as well deal with it while doing what I love.

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    The crazy is made up for by lazy foals who may secretly be really clever. #foodgamesostrong

  3. If I wasn’t spending money on horses, I’d spend it elsewhere.
    Like most of us, I work to not only live but to pay for my horse habit. I work a full-time desk job that has nothing to do with horses. However, I’m extremely grateful that I am able to do that. I make enough (although not a ton of) money to be able to a) live and b) have a horse. How many people can say that?
    What’s more, frankly, if I’m not saving up to put money into my horse, that money is going to go elsewhere. The reality is I doubt I’m going to save substantially more if I ever got out of horses. There’s always that house project: the fridge, the couch, the gutters, whatever it may be. Then there’s our cars. Travel, gifts, you know the list. Sure, I’d have more money to spend on other things but I wouldn’t be saving it. While I can still afford to do this, I’m going to do it.money-meme
  4. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
    So I’ve basically said this in so many words already. But really, having Nibbles be 100% out of my control and then go see her has done wonders for me. When I’m with her now, I’m not analyzing every hair, questioning if I should ride the (perfectly sound) horse because she hasn’t been adjusted by the chiropractor lately, wondering if she needs a new supplement, praying I don’t mess her up. Instead, I’m just glad to see her. I get to smoosh her nose, nod that she’s healthy and sound, then either ride her or watch her be ridden. I haven’t been this content with my horse-life in years.

    my whole heart

    my whole heart

  5. It’s all small stuff.
    This. In the end, we humans are not so different. We all (generally) have two legs, blink and breath. If we’re horse people, we also have the same “virus.” When did we get so caught up in tearing one another down or, perhaps worse, tearing ourselves down?
    Life is short. Your horse may not have perfect conformation: you’re probably not going to be riding at the level where you’d actually need it to remain sound. Your horse may not go to the tippy top levels: I hear they come with a lot of pressure anyway.

Maybe if we spent more time enjoying the horses we have (ride, lease, own, whatever) and less time worrying about other people and what we perceive we need but don’t have, we’d be happier horse people. I venture a guess that our horses would benefit too.

Go hug your horse. Then ride them if you can. Your horse’s life is even shorter than yours.

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Planning vs Doing With Horses

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.

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Nibbles in her new pasture while in training

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.

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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!).

"Get my good side!"

“Get my good side!”

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?