What Do You Do With Your Horses?

FYI: I’ve decided to start a new section on my blog.  I call it Monthly Musings–it’s basically just me writing whatever the heck I want to write about!  Yes, you’ll find more personal stories and plenty of opinions in these posts, but hopefully some insight as well.  

 

There’s a very basic question most of us have probably been asked at one time or another: What do you do with your horses?  And it seems we are certainly going to be judged by our answer.  Suddenly, all the horse-related goals you’d once set for yourself pop into your mind and you wish you could say  something like,  I’m training for Olympic dressage, or I just finished a 50 mile endurance ride last weekend.  

Or maybe you’ve met some of your goals and you do have a really great answer. . .

For many years, I was proud of the answer I could give to those who asked this question.  I barrel race.  I had the trophy buckles, a trophy saddle, and even a trophy horse trailer at one time to back it up.  Being a barrel racer was my a huge part of my identity.

 

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But that’s all in the past now. In fact, I quit barrel racing after my son was born, eight years ago.  Not because I wanted to, mind you, but because Hershey had become mysteriously hurt.

Of course, I spared no expense trying to find the problem and ‘fix’ him, but it soon became apparent that this just wasn’t going to happen. In time, I bought another horse, Bob, but things just didn’t seem to go the way they once had for me.  I also didn’t have the energy, the time, or the courage I’d once possessed.

I beat myself up for a long time because I wasn’t riding like I used to.  Because my horses no longer had a purpose.  They just sat in the pasture for the most part, and boy, did I feel guilty.  Even though I’d begun a new horse-related journey by this point–one that eventually led to starting this blog–I still felt like I should be riding more.  After I gave birth to my daughter five years ago, I had even less time and often less desire to ride.

And then Bob passed away nearly two years ago.  I wondered if I would ever get another horse. I still had Hershey and Lee Lee (also a former barrel horse) and my kids had Kady, but I honestly wasn’t sure if I should get another one.  My life was evolving.  I was beginning to think of myself as more of a writer than a rider now.

But one day last fall, a picture of an adorable little bay mare for sale popped up on my Facebook feed.  I can’t explain why, but I felt drawn to her.  Just a few weeks later I brought McCoy home.

 

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With McCoy (who’d had both reining and barrel training), I began to see the possibility of competing again.  But every time, I attempted to work with her on the barrel pattern, something just felt off.  It seemed that neither she nor I really had the ‘want-to’ factor.

It wasn’t long before visions of returning to competition began to fade away.  I would still ride McCoy in the pasture or out on our trails, but sometimes, I would go for a month or more of not riding at all.   And the weird thing was that I was beginning to feel less and less guilty about it.

One day, it dawned on me: I didn’t necessarily have to do anything with my horses at all.  I could just ride when I felt like it and enjoy spending time with them in other ways.  What an eye-opening realization!  For most of my life, I’d felt like my horses needed a purpose in order to justify the expense of keeping them.  But I realized this was just my own self-imposed view.

Somewhere along the way, I also became aware of another truth: even if I wasn’t riding all that much, my horses did still had a very vital purpose to me (aside from being wonderful companions).  They were my inspiration for just about everything I wrote.  From the magazine articles, to all these blog posts, and even my young adult book.  It all centered around horses.

Who knows what the future has in store, but it no longer bothers me when someone asks, What do you do with your horses? 

Here is my answer: I love them.  I learn from them.  I take care of them.  And. . .  sometimes, I even ride them.  That’s what I do with my horses.

 

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Ta-ta,

Casie

Casie

Hi! My name is Casie Bazay. I'm a mom, a freelance writer, and a certified equine acupressure practitioner.

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26 Responses

  1. Vicki Pinner says:

    I wanted horses ALL of my life, but I never got them until I retired from teaching after 31 years. I was a novice in all ways, but I joined an equine rescue at age 56. The next thing I know, I had adopted a wild mustang (or rather she adopted me), and then ended up with 3 more. I also have 2 donkeys. My husband and I bought them a farm which leads me to “So what do I do with them?” I play with them! I do not ride (at age 63 with only a few lessons under my belt, no core and no balance, I can’t really afford to), but I teach them things. Right now, I am training my first mustang Annie to pull a cart. Whether she ever will remains to be seen, but we are both working at it. All of the formerly wild mustangs are now spoiled and anything but wild. I love brushing them and simply playing and making their lives as wonderful as I can. My husband helps and we do this together. It is a perfect world for us, and we do not feel guilty at all.

  2. Kelly says:

    Just what I needed to read at just the right time! Well said and how validating!

  3. Cathy says:

    THANK YOU!! I wrestle with that exact issue. Used to ride dressage daily…schooled, worked to climb the levels, struggled with physical issues and so forth. Then my life changed and I got married. No longer owned my dream dressage horse but two trail horses for pleasure. Slowly I got horses more oriented towards dressage but it hasn’t felt ‘right’. I am learning naturopath and studying for my doctorate all because of my horses. One had EPM, one has a paralyzed trachea, one is lame and so forth. These horses come to me for a reason, not a goal. I still wrestle with wanting to ride Grand Prix one day and perhaps that day will come or not. Until then, yes, I love them but mostly my horses teach me.

  4. tess in sw mo says:

    I totally agree – riding is not necessary to a rich ponyhorse relationship. I have a bomb-proof 12yo mare I very occasionally ride bareback and a 6yo gelding I pony. I do not use a bit nor shoes. Many is the day I just stroke them, enjoy their company even if some days they want nothing to do with me. Other days they come galloping. I hope no one feels guilty about having ‘pet’ ponyhorses in their pastures. I also make sure to make them walk as much as possible to the water tank when I rotate the fencing –
    wild ponies walk 15+ miles aday, so with rotational grazing it’s very doable. I hope that makes sense.

  5. Jill Mora says:

    I started riding at age 10, trail riding, fox hunting, jumping, barrel racing, a little bit of everything. I got out of horses for about 10 years and at age 55, fell in love with a pretty grey gelding. He required several years of hoof rehab and was lame more than sound during that time. He’s doing really great now, but I still just ride him lightly, a mix of hand walking and riding bareback. Sometimes I feel sad that I’m not riding to my old skill level, ah. . . to go flying through a course of jumps, but I never feel guilty about it. I would never trade our horsey friendship, for those old riding skills.

  6. Vicki L Ciepiela says:

    THANK YOU THANK YOU for this article!!!!!!!!!!! I too used to ride a lot more than I do now, and did feel quite guilty about it, until right this minute. My horses make me feel “whole” (and I know you know what I mean). I love them and they love me unconditionally and the time I spend with them gives me a peace that only they can give. So again thank you!!

  7. Summer says:

    I love this article. You know I think if horses are a passion of yours you do not always have to define WHAT you do with them, it really should be more what THEY do to you. There have been times in my life that I didn’t own horses, times I have competed (the arenas have changed drastically over the years) and times when I had them out in the pasture just to be able to go out and bury my face in their manes and breath deep. But in all those life situations I have loved horses. They have made me feel something that nothing else in this world has ever been able to touch, nor ever will I don’t think. Thank you for putting that feeling into such elegant words. I look forward to your “Monthly Musings” 🙂

  8. Thank you, Kelly!!! I have wrestled with this since my daughter was born 8 yrs ago. I went from riding daily to not at all. All the time cleaning, feeding, fixing fences, and so on, why if I don’t ride?! I thought for a while that maybe I just wasn’t into horses anymore. After 30+ years, it doesn’t just go away, does it? However I realize that I just enjoy being around them, just being. Cleaning up manure is my meditation, feeding is my daily mantra, fixing fences and other farm chores are my motivation to move and not become a slug in front of a screen. Horse time is petting, hugging, hanging out time while I listen to a barred owl call as it heads out for the hunt, or watching the horses munching hay on a crisp fall morning, or leaning against a fuzzy, warm neck to watch the full moon on a frigid January night. These moments are more precious to me than riding. They quiet my mind, feed my soul, and make me strong. This is why I have and always will love horses.

  9. Jessica Lynn says:

    you have said much for the many, thank you so much!

  10. Mary says:

    All my life all I ever wanted to do is ride. I competed in Hunters, Dressage, 3 Day eventing. I was a freelance instructor and then got my Riding Master and Instructor Certificate in 1993. Opened my own boarding/training facility in 1998. I loved to teach, ride and show… then slowly I lost my interest. It just wasn’t fun anymore. I was enjoying trail riding more than anything else. About 2010, I thought I just needed a sabbatical from it for a year, so I quit teaching and competing, just caring for the horses and continued boarding them. Went back to teaching and showing, but it was not as fun, my interest was waning severely. I just wanted to do the care and trail riding. Then 2 years ago I started to dread giving lessons. I finally quit and it was a big relief. I just enjoy the horses without the guilt to “do something” with them in a competitive way. They are just fine and happy in their pastures, nicker when they see me and like to just get scratched all over or groomed. They enjoy the trail rides as much as I do. I have a yearling colt (recently gelded) who I don’t care if I break him at 3, 4, or 5. I can’t wait to ride him cause he is very special, I love him to death, but there is no hurry to break him. He’s got all the proper ground manners and ground training, he’ll be a breeze to break when I decide to do it. But for now, all my “broke” horses are there if I do want to ride. I just want to enjoy them with no feeling I’m “pushed” to do something. Thanks for the article, I guess I’m not the only one…

  11. Penny says:

    So happy to read this! I am at the same place in life. Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves? I have 4 horses,and have always ridden several times a week. Lately,it has only been a couple of times a month,and it is OK! 🙂

  12. Kathy says:

    Great post, Casie! Riding is the icing on the cake, not the cake. The relationship is more important (especially if you DO ride!). I’ve never needed to justify why I have a horse or live very frugally to be able to keep them, though non-horse friends/family think I’m nuts. I don’t go on vacations, to movies, out to eat, etc. The horses are my recreation, exercise, therapy, and joy all rolled into one. Lost my riding horse over 2 years ago (tragic accident) and my other horse earlier this year. Just got a new horse this summer. She’s old enough to ride, but I have no plans to ride her til next summer. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying getting to know her and doing lots of ground work. Barn time is the best time of the day.

  13. Kylie says:

    OMG Kelly You are my angel right now thank you from the bottom of my heart!! I haven’t ridden in many years, children, husband, life all contributing factors yet for as long as I can remember horses have been that magic in my life, my greatest teachers, my trusted companions and that really special soul warming thing that keeps my heart and soul pumping. I have been struggling with the fact that I have a field of aging horses with varying degrees of health and wellbeing issues and the purpose to it all, the financial commitment is certainly overwhelming at times but we get by. They all found me and I welcomed them with open heart. Yet it is when asked that question “what do you do with your horses?” I didn’t have what I considered a satisfactory answer that did not bring a “oh dear really?” “what a waste of money etc” type of remark which really hurts. BUT now thanks to you I feel like I can with conviction stand and reply authentically that we are family and family care for and love one another in which ever way serves that family unit the best. Thank you again Kelly… loads of love and respect to you and yours from me and mine. 🙂

  14. Laurie Grann says:

    Oh my, what a timely article for me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I get it 🙂

  15. sj says:

    The best thing I’ve ever done with a horse is NOTHING.
    No “doing” at all.
    Just BEING.
    Stood all afternoon in the rain.
    Stretched out and lounged in the sun.
    Listened to him much grass while I serenaded him with “Blue Bayou.” (To be fair, he DID come in on the chorus once or twice…)
    As it says in the Book of Luke, “Sometimes nothin’ can be a real cool hand.”

  16. Julia says:

    Great you got to see this side of the relation with animals… they are not with us to compete or work… just to share life

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