Monday, April 25, 2016

What if I Never Rode Again

Would that be so awful?  I'm not so sure it is.

A few years ago, it would have killed me to give up riding.  And when I mentioned it to Camille, she was appalled.  But Mom, its part of who you are.  It makes you so happy.

And, she's right.  I've been riding since I was ten years old.  To say it has been a passion of mine would not be an exaggeration.

And, maybe, this feeling will pass.

I still love horses.  I love how they smell; their sun warmed skin and their warm hay breath.  I love to groom them and just hang out with them.  How I feel about riding them has a lot to do with my age, my aches and pains, and my need to take my stress level down.  Way down.

Brett's pretty tired of me barking at him. 

Competing is out of the question.  When I'm in competition mode, I get very focused and very intense.  This is a good thing when it is my only area of intense focus but that is no longer the case.  I'm not much into intensity these days.  I'm into calming activities like grooming and gardening.  And acceptance is my word for this year; acceptance of my 56 year old self.

The feeling about riding (or not) varies in intensity between my three horses.

Lucy:  She's my best friend when she wants a massage.  She follows me around her pasture like a dog, begging for a rub here and a rub there.  She's also a hot mess about 50% of the time.  I'm not really interested in riding a hot mess anymore.  She's never dumped me or been naughty, but the feeling of riding a bottle cap about to blow can be... stressful.  When I ride her, I stand on the mounting block and take deep breaths before climbing on board.  I have to ride her with laser sharp focus, ride every step, and manage her desire to race around.   ...I don't enjoy that nearly as much now as I did when I was 16.  Lucy is 14, with pain in her joints, and because of that is sometimes reluctant to canter.  If/when I do ride her again, I expect I will keep it to the trot.  Lucy has a lovely trot -- and she doesn't lose her mind so much at that gait.

Tex:  I am having a blast working with Tex on the ground.  We're building a strong bond and enjoying liberty work.  I'm not following any particular method; we're finding our way together.  I don't know if I'll ever ride him or not.  For now, the liberty work is creating the kind of bond I crave -- and I think Tex likes it too.

Jackson:  Obviously, I can't ride Jackson.  Of the three, he is the one that I miss riding.  When I spend time with him, grooming or just hanging out, my heart cries out in longing for the days when we rode.  I did everything with Jackson  -- trails and dressage and chilling in the sprinklers, bareback, on hot days.

Maybe when things are quieter at work, when my sciatic recedes completely, and when my confidence and energy surge, I will ride again.  In the meantime, I'm just going to hang out with the herd.


25 comments:

  1. I love riding, as you know. But I totally get what you are saying. Today after a really long day at work I simply brought the horses out and hand grazed them on the grass. I found myself relaxing as I did so.

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    1. I had a feeling you would understand. Hand grazing is a great stress reliever.

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  2. I think you sound like you might be very stressed out right now and could use some quiet time hanging out with the herd. Ride when you feel like it or don't, they don't care. Take pressure off yourself and relax in your garden or do whatever makes you happy;)

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  3. Oh Annette! I don't ride very much anymore, but I love it when I do. Fortunately, Berlin is pretty even tempered and is a pleasure 99% of the time. Abbe needs to be started again as she has been sound for quite some time. I have learned that there is something I can do with my horses that is a total pleasure and that is line driving. They catch on quickly and you can do all kinds of patterns and dressage moves with them. When Jackson is sound, I'll bet he would be great too. Have you tried line driving? All 4 of your horses could do it. I never did enjoy showing and a long time again I got rid of any guilt feelings for not working every minute. Do what you are comfortable with and enjoy your ponies! Hope things settle down for you at work. Hey Brett! How about †hat Pistol of yours!!!!

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    1. I haven't done line driving myself but I've watched others do it. If I get the urge to try something new, I'll keep it in mind. Brett is afraid I'll never ride again -- he's still enjoying Pistol. I expect I will ride again, sometime in the future, when life settles down a bit.

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  4. Hanging out and relaxing with them sounds like a good plan for now.

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  5. I don't think anyone ought to feel guilty about whether they ride or not.
    Luckily the horses are right there & likely just as happy to be groomed & loved on as whether you ride or not.
    I really like that picture of Tex, it's a very peaceful scene.

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    1. I think you are right about the horses being happy whether they are ridden or not. They crave interaction and attention, but not necessarily riding. And, they really could care less about showing. I bet most of them hate that part.

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  6. I have two young, human-children now and one is only three months old, so I have very little time for riding. I miss it, but taking care if my horse is enjoyable too. If I do ride it is very intermittently and I sometimes think that I will never have the time to get my horse fit enough for athletic riding again. Plus Harley is 18 now, and like children, horses don't keep. I am happy, but it is a trade-off for sure and I miss my intense riding days.

    I remember reading about your love of riding Jackson. He was the perfect riding partner and probably the luckiest horse on Earth to have his home with you and Brett.

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    1. Another little one -- congratulations!! I took a break from horses when my children were small but came back to it when they were older and independent. My most intense riding years were when they were adolescents -- so I'm sure you will be back at it too. But, probably not with Harley (who is very lucky to have you).

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  7. I love your thought process on things. I think the love of riding can come and go depending on what else is happening in your life. I think commuting to work can really take it's toll, not to mention the pressures of the work place. I would be more worried if you felt you were loosing the connection you have with horses. From reading your blog I do not think losing that connection could EVER happen for you.

    Through college and my first stressful job I used to come home to ride my horse. I live in New England and was so very fortunate to have a great trail system within minutes from my house. I would ride alone in the woods for hours and hours. As much as I loved the trails my favorite part was at the end of the trails I would get off, run up the stirrups, loosen his girth and walk him home with the reins over his neck. We would play games the entire walk home, he would mimic everything I did. It was a special time especially because he was a bit of a hot head.

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    1. I think that it is the bond that draws us to horses; I know it is the part that drew me to dressage. I love the unspoken connection; the ability to read each other's minds almost when you get it all dialed in. Like you said, there are different ways to get that and I can't picture losing it either. Your walks home with your horse sound wonderful.

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  8. I think our needs concerning horses change over time, especially as we get older. And there's nothing at all wrong with that - riding shouldn't be an obligation but a joy, and if it isn't then don't do it - now, for a long time, or never. Horses could care less if they are ridden - anyone who says their horse "needs a job" isn't really right - horses have a job already - being a horse. Some horses enjoy interaction with people and will seek that out, some don't care. But interaction doesn't require riding.

    Also, I've found (personally) that since riding takes us back to our youth (for those of us who rode as children and young adults), we sometimes end up with the horse we want rather than the horse we need. I've always had a bias for hot horses - love the fire and passion - but at my age I'm coming to appreciate the quiet, calm ones. Dawn and Red burn very hot, and Red was a huge project when I got him (that thankfully turned out well although he's still hot and reactive), Pie was a 4 year old when I got him (not sure what I was thinking although now that he's 10 things are better, and Missy is just the horse I need - and the only one I didn't pick! Maybe someone's trying to tell me something . . .

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    1. So much of this rings true. I've always loved hot, sensitive horses and Lucy is just what I would have wanted when I was younger. Brett has the perfect partner in Pistol -- and I envy him her (and you Missy). I still enjoy Lucy, of course, but I'm not always up for an E ride. Jackson was very sensitive but also extremely level headed -- and perfect in my book.

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  9. I enjoy hearing your perspective Annette. We're the same age, and I've ridden less and less often the last several years. I have some guilt over it, but my time is so limited and there's always so much that needs to be done. My mom used to say that we make time for our priorities, and I guess she was right. I think I will always enjoy time spent with my horses, and really can't imagine life without them. I do however, envision the day when we have less than 6 to take care of. The expense of keeping 6 horses is big, and with my husband retired, we have less spare income left over. Ideally, I'd like one horse for each of us that we could ride whenever it felt right, and more money to enjoy the pursuit of other things, like vacations, some travel etc. Life is always about balance, and far too much of my time and energy are spent at my job. There's much less left over than there used to be. Hoping you can find that perfect balance between your health, energy, your horses and other interests to provide you with contentment and satisfaction. You and I are struggling with many of the same things it seems. I wish you well...

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    1. We are in the same place, in so many ways. Brett and I love to travel but between the expense of the animals (how did we end up with five plus the two donkeys) and the expense of keeping up the property we don't have the financial resources to go anywhere. Brett is retired, as is your husband, and it does put a crimp in the pocketbook. We've agreed to not add to our animal collection but they have forever homes with us, so we don't see the herd diminishing anytime soon. I'm trying to find balance between work and home -- not easy as you said.

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  10. You gotta do what makes you happy.

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  11. There is nothing wrong with not riding. I hear you about the stress level. I come home after along day and my horses sit because I'd rather relax than go through the work of riding them. And it IS work.

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    1. Thanks for voicing that Dom. It IS work, for sure. And sometimes we have the energy for it and sometimes we don't. Riding well (and training) takes focus, and sometimes after work I just don't have the energy to focus on anything except solitaire.

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  12. There's nothing wrong with that. I've gone and back and forth between whether horses really like to be ridden after interviewing Stormy May from the documentary, Path of the Horse (You might want to watch--free on YouTube). She went from a competitive rider to an at liberty--no riding--relationship with her horses and loves it. Deep down, I do think our horses are happier with an "at liberty" relationship with us, but at this point in my life, I'm still enjoying riding--partially because my horses are pretty mellow yellow.

    A few seasons ago, I took a big step back from my horses, and blogging about them, because my life was too busy and Cowboy was having head shaking issues. I came to the conclusion they got along just fine--if not better, than when I tinkered a lot with them. At first, I felt guilty, but then, as I saw them thrive, I felt pretty darn good about the choice.

    Eventually, the desire to ride, and be out tinkering, came back to me. So, I think you're right about seasons. You may feel 100 percent different in a few months or years. But you have to be true to yourself and your feelings at each step.

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    1. I will definitely watch that documentary. Brett thinks I will come back to riding and he is probably right. But, I'm sure my competitive days are over -- I just don't want to work that hard and Lucy, who is the only one who I could be competitive with, is much happier in a low-to-no stress environment. If/when I ride again, it will be in a more relaxed and playful way.

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  13. Hanging out with the herd sounds fine to me xxx

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  14. Where I am, where I have been the last ten years. I'm 66 in August. I'm happy on the ground, doesn't mean I don't remember.

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Thanks so much for commenting! I love the conversation.