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
15 thoughts on “To all of us who don’t ride as much as we “should””
They nourish my soul too, even though I too have joked that they are an incurable disease. Thanks for the passionate and beautiful perspective. Your horse has a lovely eye!
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Thank you for this article. Sometimes I feel so guilty because I don’t rude like I used to so many years ago. This describes my feelings so perfectly. I live my horses and sometimes at 65 I wonder why I bought a baby two years ago but so glad I did. My husband told me when she was at the trainers 2 hours away that when I get near her my my face and everything just lights up. That is enough for me. I live hour I feel when I’m near her or my other two horses. Thank you so much for this article.
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You are not alone. We don’t have to be on their backs to justify our relationship with them😃
This struck me hard. I loved horses from the time I could see, even though growing up in crowded central NJ as the child of a single mother, they were an unattainable goal for me. Yet, somehow, Mom found an instructor who let me muck and pay very little and learn, sort of, to ride. We had to buy a helmet (yes, 40 years ago!) but she gave me an old pair of boots. 20 years later I’d realize they were custom Vogel cubbing boots ;-). I rode for a few years, and it was magic. Eventually, my husband encouraged me to try riding again when we moved to Maryland. I did, and got hooked harder than ever. I leased a horse.
Then, I got one. My own horse! Because I was always competitive, I got into the hunter show circuit. And discovered the heartbreak of a horse that doesn’t want to do the job you want, or that is physically unable, etc. But, for almost 20 years, I HAD A HORSE. Right up until four years ago, when my incredible partner, Asherman, contracted a still unknown neurologic disease, and despite massive care, left this world after three weeks from first signs. We had been together 12 years. I taught him to trot, to jump, and he was magnificent. He was borrowed for the Ariat Medal Finals by a far better rider, and looked every inch like he belonged. Not bad for a cheap OTTB.
But, he took a horse size piece of my soul when he died. I can’t keep horses in my yard; I had to board. I had to sell my truck and trailer to pay his medical bills, and then, well….I’ve never gotten over the hurt. And now my husband, who started this, has admitted he was always afraid when I rode. And the costs to board are so high. And I’m older, and out of shape, with skills that would be rusty at best.
So…that part of life it over. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say I mourn it every day.
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That is touching. Thank you for sharing. I hope someday you get to enjoy some part of it all again. Blessings.
Reblogged this on Write On Target and commented:
When I turned 50, something in my brain changed. I stopped caring what anyone else but me thought. I decided that “should” was a word I didn’t want to say or use again.
And I decided that where and how I get my pleasure with my horse was up to me. In the saddle, on the ground, just hugging his neck, picking his hooves, wiping his eyes and nose and talking, yes always, talking to him.
This beautiful bit of writing from Katy captures, precisely, how I felt and feel about horses.
Enjoy it then go out and hub your horse.
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Good advice. Thank you
I LOVED this. Thank you, Katy.
I’ve been in love with and obsessed with and passionate about horses since before I could walk, when I rode in the saddle in front of my dad. Of course, my favorite smell is my horses’ necks; it doesn’t matter which one, they’re all uniquely and heavenly-perfumed. Of course, my favorite scenery is the view from my porch or kitchen window at my beauties.
As a relatively new vegetarian trying to become a vegan (I can no longer bear the thought of any animal dying so I can eat it), I am becoming more and more attracted to articles, blogs, research, stories, etc that teach me about true veganism. I recently learned that being a true vegan means not exploiting animals. At all. Then I was introduced to a book by Ren Hurst called, “Riding on the Power of Others.” Wow. Okay, I get it, but… this means I can’t take my horse(s) camping, no more trail riding, no more swimming or fun competition obstacle courses? No more parades or mounted security? My very first thought was, I finally could afford my own horses at 50 years old, and now at 62 I don’t get to enjoy them anymore? The guilt almost drove me crazy because I LOVE riding. I don’t think I can live without it. But, because of old but worsening back and ankle injuries, I’m actually riding less and less, which, ironically enough, has become a blessing, because I’ve realized that I LOVE just being with my horses! I get to sit on a stool in the barn and watch while they eat their dinner and mill about munching bites of hay, watching their little herd dynamics. Every few minutes one of them will come over to see me, touch their nose to my shoulder, nuzzle the back of my neck, or breathe my breath.
For years, God blessed me with horses to ride, and now he’s blessed me again with horses to just ENJOY. I don’t begrudge anyone their riding enjoyment; I’m just saying how much I love what I now have.
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Thank you for sharing! I love those shoulder nuzzles:)
Thank you for this. I recently lost my older, Mustang mare and after her death, I felt like I’d missed out on our time in the saddle. But then I reminded myself… during our 8 years together, I’ve been really sick — like cancer sick. She had an injury that took months to heal. Through it all, we continued to be there for each other. She was my reward for surviving and when I finally rested in the saddle looking down at her long chestnut mane I was filled with equal measures of fear and joy. We got our confidence back together and eventually, we rode out in the high desert enjoying the spring wildflowers and an occasional bite of bunch grass. I didn’t ride her as much as I could have, but I rode her and loved her enough to know we brought joy and peace into each other’s lives. Thanks for reminding me of that fact.
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What an absolutely beautiful story! It sounds like a wonderful relationship. That’s what it’s about. Thank you for sharing. I’m choked up. I’m sorry for your loss.
That pretty much sums it up Katie!!! I have love horses as long as I can remember. My parents got me a TWH when I was 10 years old whom I owned till I was pregnant with my 2nd child & felt guilty that I could no longer ride him with 2 young children. I reluctantly sold him to 2 pre-teen girls who loved him prob as much as I did then when they decided to sell him, I bought him back. I had him for a few more years then reluctantly realized that I couldn’t take care of 2 going on 3 children, a husband , a house, and a job so he owner of the farm where he stayed wanted to keep him so I let him stay & he lived out the rest of his life on the farm where he had friends & pastures & food & even was ridden on occasion. Fast forward to 3 grown children, a new husband , an empty nest, & I once again was able to have horses in my life again. Through the years U had several back injuries & thought I would never be able to ride again. I saw an ad in the paper that an elderly man was dispersing his herd of Paso Finos horses. We went to see them that same weekend & when I rode one , my heart just soared. We bought 2 horses that day the my husband bought me another bgoegeous Paso for Christmas & we ended up getting a fourth horse , a Paso mare, the following spring. Each horse so different but each one so beautiful & so fulfilling to my whole being. One of the mares sadly went blind from some unknown case when she was at a trainer’s but we kept her anyway. Took her to NC State for treatment & surgery but dr could not save her sight. We still have her at age 18. My Christmas present gelding contracted EPM & had to be put down when he was 12. Fast forward to the present, I will be 70 in a few months. Like many of you, my head tells me (as well as friends & family) that I should get past this horse stage, that I should sell them, save the money they cost, etc. and slow down from having to take care of them, feed them, keep their in in shed repaired, slow down, enjoy my retirement years. What others don’t realize is that my horses are my life and my almost utmost enjoyment…they give me a reason to get up every day. I could no more get rid of them than I could get rid of one of my children. They are my life. I hope that I will be able to take care of them for the rest of their lives or the rest of mine, whichever comes first. Their smell still gives me a peace of mind like no other . I still ride occasionally. The 2 horses that I still ride are my closest friends. And still seem to understand me like no one else. I can be having a yucky day & go out to the paddock, & one of them will come over to me & make a funny face, or just stand there for a rub or whatever. I can’t umagin my life without them…nor do I want to.
I can see your babies in my mind. Your story resonates with me. My parents are in that stage and when people suggest they get rid of them, I know better. Thank you for sharing. I’m so glad you got your horsey life back:)