Do I Still Want to Ride?
Earlier this week when I recapped one of my recent lesson meltdowns, a commenter kindly asked if I wanted to keep riding.
I thought about this very large question for about three seconds. Well, yes. Of course.
I love riding. Almost everything about it. How tough it is. How there is always something to learn. The people I meet at the barn. The emotional bond I build with the horse. Being Simon’s person was one of the most defining relationships of my life. Tim joked that he never wanted to ask if I loved him or Simon more. Now I’ll happily set the record straight here that I loved Tim more, but even though he was “just a horse” Simon is right up there.
Riding tells me things about my body and my brain. It’s one of the few moments of my week where everything else melts away and I focus on things like breathing, cadence, muscles and feeling. That’s just one little bit of the magic it brings.
And really, riding to me is more than sitting on the horse. It’s currying away dirt. It’s picking shavings out of my shoes the next morning (you know, the shoes I said I’d never wear to the barn so they stayed ‘nice’). It’s driving out through wide open country, far away from the stress of my job and the city, to go see my horse.
Yes, riding costs a stupid amount of money that I could certainly figure out how to spend in other places. Yes, it hurts my joints and gives me physical challenges. Yes, it takes up so much time. But I can’t imagine my life without it.
After Simon died, I think I lasted three weeks before I wanted to get back on a horse again. Even with a broken heart, I needed it.
So yes, I love riding. I’m not quitting. I don’t want to stop. But I’ve been thinking about my overall happiness with riding right now, and honestly have been much longer than I’ve been blogging again. Though I write a lot here, y’all see a small glimpse of my life and my thoughts. I feel like you need three areas to all be in sync to truly be at the right “happy” with this sport.
- Happiness with your barn/trainer
- Happiness with your discipline
- Happiness with your horse
There are so many things I loved about my old barn, but I am truly happier now riding at my new place. I miss seeing my friends and the people every time I go out to ride (so. much.) but the lessons and training really speaks to my little type A heart. I feel like I’m learning a ton and growing and striving towards something better. I feel like my goals might be accomplished one day. It’s empowering. It’s addicting. I really look forward to going out there and working hard, even though I’m huffing and puffing and sometimes having an emotional breakdown because my ankle doesn’t want to cooperate. I’m happy there.
I’m happy-ish with my discipline. The hunters are kind of like a bad boyfriend I don’t know how to break up with. Realistically, I likely won’t be riding hunter/jumpers forever. I wish I loved the jumpers because it’s the more fair and financially feasible option in my discipline, but I don’t. The hunters are beautiful. The hunters are hard. My perfectionist self loves chasing that perfect trip. I don’t think my joints will hold up to it long term, but we’re not there yet. Even though I recognize the shortcomings and flaws of this discipline, I’m not ready to throw in the towel. I’m still chasing that high.
So, then there’s my horse. And that’s been the subject of a lot of my thought lately. I really like my horse. He is beautiful. He is personable. He has a ton of great qualities. I hate to try and compare him to Simon, because it’s not fair to compare any creature to your true heart horse. But sometimes I wonder if he’s a rebound horse. Sometimes I wonder if Poet and I speak different languages. Some days I am happy with him, but I’m also starting to be honest with myself and admit that some days I’m not.
When I think about life as a working adult amateur rider, I realize that success can’t be measured in the same metrics for all of us. Some ammies view success in dressage scores. Some in breeding their ideal. Some in ribbons. Some in resale value for project horses.
How do I value success? I need to figure that out a little bit more for myself. A lot of it is in the ability to go out to a horse show, try my best, and maybe take home some satin. But the majority of my success is, Am I having fun? Am I happy? There are a lot of great things going for me right now with riding. I feel excited and recharged. But I also recognize that the happiness and fun factor could stand to improve.
Eventually I’ll figure it out, as much as anyone can figure out this whole horseback riding thing at least. Until then, I’ll think (both privately and publicly) on the riding happiness trifecta. But for the base of the question, do I want this? The answer is still, very much, yes.
13 thoughts on “Do I Still Want to Ride?”
Aw I love this. I always always want to ride. I see a future in dressage when I can’t jump. And I see a future teaching when I can’t ride ride anymore. But I never want to not ride.
However. Saying that. It’s taken me years to realize it is ok to not ride “today”. I’m very competitive and think if I’m not working toward my goal, I’ma POS. But I needed to learn to let myself have time off. I always come back, but sometimes I just need to breathe. Sometimes my horses need a break from me too I’m pretty sure.
In the end, I’m happy making my horses and myself better. I don’t fit a discipline, a status, anything. But I know they make me happy and I do my best to be worthy of them. I know you will find your balancing point. You care and you love so hard. Thank you for sharing your struggles and journey.
I like your riding happiness trifecta points — although since I keep my horses at home and don’t currently have a trainer, I feel like something is sort of missing for me but it was definitely true when I was boarding. And the happiness with your horse thing is so key!
I’ve always felt green horses should be a second horse. They take so long to develop and it is so hard to work on your own riding with them. It definitely helps to have something else more made to ride. Is it possible to occasionally lesson on something else? A nice “easy” ride now and then.
My measure of success in the saddle? Would my 12 yr old, horse crazy self, love to live my horsey life? And you know what? She totally would love to be taking a really fun, palomino mare to an event this weekend. So that is success enough for me.
I also always try to keep in mind my younger self when I get down – what would she think? Would she be proud? Happy? Jealous? Excited?
My 12-year-old self was a little overambitious, lol, and definitely would not be amused with me turning into a dressage queen. She would have liked me to jump Gand Prix by 18! Still, she’d be chuffed with the Friesians!
So true! My 12 year old self would love my horsey life.
You summed up so well the reasons why I love riding, too. And horses. Just being around them fills such a big piece of my heart, but I always want to ride them!
Losing a “heart animal” is incredibly tough, and we can’t help comparing the one we have to the “Dear Departed,” which is how I refer to my sweet doggie now. You are doing a great job working with Poet and I think you have good perspective on your relationship with him.
I can report that a change of discipline did wonders for my true enjoyment of the sport, along with the right barn/trainer/horse.
When I thought I’d rather not jump anymore, I decided to try dressage. Good thing my trainer also teaches stock horse Hunters, and Western, though, because pure dressage turned out to NOT be my thing. Instead, I’m indulging my lifelong Hunter Princess interior with dressing up for English and doing Hunter Under Saddle and Equitation pattern classes at local shows. And now I’ve added Western Trail, too!
If you’d told me just a few years ago that this would be horse life, I’d have laughed. It was definitely an adjustment, but I found my way and I love riding again. I think you’re moving in the right direction!
When I think of my younger self I realize how happy she would be just being around the horses. It took me a long time to get my first horse and I still have those moments of ‘I’m sitting on a horse’. I can’t imagine not riding, even though it’s inevitable.
I’m glad you are finding joy in your riding. Whatever path you take with Poet and riding will be the right one because of that.
My 12 year old self? Poor girl her mind would be blown… You’ve had how many horses? You’ve done what with them? All the different breeds? KABOOM! Her head just exploded.
I just had this same discussion with a friend of mine the other day, she is also a trainer. When I started riding all those years ago dressage was a maybe but probably not and driving was not even on the table. My house things have changed!
There has been so much I have learned from each of the different horses and times when I have also thought – is this a rebound horse? Like you said there is no comparing them. They are each different and bring new stuff for us to learn because now we are ready to accept it. Wow many people think you can only have that special connection with one-horse – that is not true. You can have that connection with more than one horse. There have been at least 4 in my horse life sometimes there is a break in between them And sometimes that connection just doesn’t come as easily as the last one.
You have a lot of options right now Lauren. As someone else mentioned further up in the comments e-learning on another horse so that you can work on you is an option. as I mentioned previously, looking into Paralympics and asking for tips and ideas might bring you some answers and ways of dealing with your ankle. There are just so many ways to spin things to make it work out for you. Good luck!
I gave up riding a couple years ago. I sold my horse that I didn’t get along with AT ALL and I decided “you know what, this is so expensive and I am not having fun and I am just DONE!” And I don’t regret it. I still love going visit my friends’ barns and to cheer them on at shows, but I don’t miss the stress and the anxiety and the heartbreak. I do need to find a hobby that doesn’t involve a wine glass, though LOL
I’ve had that rebound horse, and he just wasn’t what I needed when I needed it (no fault of his, and hindsight being 20/20 and all that). In the years since then, I’ve been lucky to have several other really good rides, but I’ve learned that while I can enjoy and love every horse for their individual qualities, I really attach to a certain personality. I’m currently on my third “heart horse,” and gosh I just love him to pieces!
I love how you break down one’s contentment with riding into those three categories. So many good points here! Poet is absolutely beautiful, and you ride him so capably. There’s nothing wrong with deciding to stay with him, but if you want a more “made” horse that clicks with you better, there’s nothing wrong with that either.
We spend far too much money and time on our horses to have the wrong one. Not to say that Po is the wrong one – only you can know that – but as you said and have experienced, riding truly is a wonderful, wonderful thing when you have the perfect horse for you.