By Laura Crum
Whenever people post about their goals with their horses, I am always struck by the fact that I don’t seem to have many goals these days. I used to. I used to show cutting horses obsessively, and at another stage, I was equally obsessive about team roping. Last year I obsessed on the trails across the road. I had to be out on them every day or I wasn’t happy. I bought a horse just to ride those trails (See The New Horse-- May 08 and The Trails Along the Ridge-April 08) But somehow or other I’ve lost the need to obsess on my goals, at least for the moment.
I’m not sure why this happened. It may be in part because my son’s horse, Henry, colicked at the end of January (see Colic—Feb 09) and had to go to colic surgery to save his life. The whole process of his rehab took much of my energy and time for the last three months, along with the need to finish my eleventh mystery novel by my deadline. (I’m glad to say the book is finished and we’re riding Henry again.) But somehow, in the process, I lost my need, or even my ability, to focus on goals with my horses. I just had to let go, and realize that a lot of things are out of my control (like whether my horse has a giant stone that needs to be removed from his gut). And the funny thing is that suddenly, I’m happier.
I still ride. I ride when I can, when I feel like it. If I get out on the trails every week or so, that’s fine. I enjoy myself immensely. If I need to spend hours riding Henry at the walk/trot in the riding ring in order to leg him back up, that’s fine, too. I enjoy doing that. If I don’t ride, I enjoy walking down the hill to feed my horses and do the chores. I’m finding it’s a real pleasure to detach from goals.
Its not that goals are bad. While cleaning out my closet the other day, I came upon two trophy buckles that I hadn’t glanced at for years. They reminded me of a time when winning a reined cowhorse class or a cutting meant a lot to me. I’d worked and worked to win those buckles. It still brought a smile to my face to see them.
But as time has passed, I’ve realized that the one thing that means the most to me in my life with horses is freedom. I want to feel free to do what I want with my horses, however much or little that is. What I don’t want is to feel trapped.
I’m not sure if others had or have this problem. Maybe its because I’m a Catholic school girl. Maybe its because I rode with my uncle for years and he was a very driven personality. The horses had to be ridden every day. Maybe its because I rode for a lot of trainers. I don’t know. All I know is that for years I felt guilty if my horses didn’t get ridden at least five or six days a week. I felt guilty if I wasn’t actively competing every weekend. I felt guilty if I didn’t do well at the competitions—obviously I hadn’t worked hard enough. I felt relieved if I won, but then, there was always another competition to worry about. In short, I spent a lot of time feeling that I had to do this or that with my horses…or feeling guilty if I didn’t get it done.
My current goal is just not to go there. If I want to ride, I do. If I don’t feel like riding, I don’t. My horse all live turned out in big spaces, so they can run and buck and play as much as they please. They are well fed, slick, happy. I have totally given myself permission just to feed them and care for them, if that’s what I want to do.
As it turns out, I still ride three days a week or so. Just cause I want to. It’s a completely different feeling. Instead of feeling driven and guilty, I feel free and happy. I enjoy my horses much more than I used to. I worry less. Its been good for me.
I don’t regret all the time I put into competing and training. I had some great experiences then, too. I learned a lot. But I’m glad to be in a space now where I don’t feel so driven. If I’d rather stay home and smell my roses, I can do so, and feel good about it. Letting go of goals is teaching me about freedom. I’m planning on paying attention to what the universe is trying to show me. That’s my goal. Wish me luck with it.