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.