There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.-Winston Churchill
My friends say it a lot: we don’t ride as much as we should. Our horses are pets, farm ornaments, and fertilizer machines. It is a common theme for those of us still clinging to our equestrian identities. If you are in a stage where you can live your productive, horsey life, that is awesome and I’m so happy for you. I’m living the endurance and dressage circuits vicariously through my friends who are back in the horse world. I’m telling myself I’ll be back on the trails with my people someday.
So many of us let the rest of our lives get in the way. The job, the kids, the fact that it will really hurt if we hit the ground in these adult bodies…
I was an awkward kid and I tried to hide it with an over-sized personality and confidence I didn’t actually have. Like, I didn’t even understand how socially inept I was until other kids told me. That hurt.
And through all the pain of growing up, I didn’t run to my other half, as much as I loved her, I ran to my horse. I’d sob while laying on his back and he would stand, relaxed, and let me. And they still let me. The last time I sobbed on a horse’s back was over a miscarriage.
My mother was a respected equine judge for 40 years. Despite my being stubborn and sometimes lazy, she taught me to ride. Really well. It is one thing I can still do better and with more grace than anything else. I can’t read music but I can feel the correct diagonal and get a yard mule to extend the trot.
I may still stick like glue but who wants to find out? Who is going to run this place if I am out of commission? So the filly will have to go to a trainer. There was a time that was me but this isn’t that time.
My mare has gotten so herd bound that I can only go as far as she can hear them constantly hollering for her:
“WHERE ARE YOU GOING?!” screams the filly.
“Why are you going without me?!” cries the other mare.
“Have you found greener grass, yet?” inquires the gelding.
OVER and OVER and OVER they yell as we ride away.
I’ve gotten to the point that laying on my mare while she eats counts. (And she smells better than No. 5 could ever smell. Why is the smell of horse of a horse’s skin so perfect? I digress.)
Maybe you can’t relate to any of this but you have your own reasons.
IT IS OKAY.
I’m giving you permission, if you want it, to do this stage of your horse life however you can and not feel guilty about it because you aren’t letting go. This life isn’t about sport. If horses are a business move or calculated strategy for you, you aren’t a horse person. You are a business person, which is fine but best kept in that world, not in the realm of living, sentient souls.
What we have with horses is a relationship. It is 30 years, if we are lucky, with someone as smart as most people and far less judgmental. It is symbiotic. You do not have to justify it any more than you have to justify your family (which is not at all, for you approval junkies out there.)
But, it cost money. Most things, including your family, do. We spend less feeding our horses than most couples spend in restaurants. In fact, we spent far more than this in restaurants before the kids and farm were in the picture. We swapped one life for another.
Who started this idea of mandatory time in a saddle? Our coaches, I think, when we were young and training. But, I, at least, need to acknowledge that the goal has changed to fit my life and my needs right now. Our family wants our kids to grow up with horse knowledge, a working understanding of the life cycle, the responsibility that comes with livestock, the compassion and empathy that is developed by having relationships with animals, and the comfort of having an unconditional friend.
And it is okay to watch FEI videos on your phone at the dentist and choke up. The other people who watch sports do not feel guilt if they do not go out the next day and try to do it themselves. It is okay to live vicariously through those who are doing what you can’t. It is okay to hang on to or let go of those dreams based on what you need, in your horsey soul.
My parents used to say that horses were an incurable disease.
For me, they nourish my being. They make it easier to pass through this world. I may or may not ever chase those dreams of the English Pleasure ring, the endurance ride or the dressage test again. I know that this chapter isn’t closed and I don’t know that it ever will be.
In case you needed a reminder that this is about a communicative relationship, here is some incredible inspiration: Will Rogers and Esmeralda
A canter is the cure for all evil.-Benjamin Disraeli
(Yes, I started and ended this with a quote from a British PM)
Happy eating, Katy