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.
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.
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.