by Laura Crum
Recently I read a horse blog that made me smile. One sentence in particular really hit home. I’m probably misquoting this slightly, but the writer, a quite accomplished horsewoman, said that she was learning to enjoy short, quiet rides on her broke horse and just letting her horse graze. Sometimes she even skipped the ride and read a book and had a drink. This made me grin.
This is the lesson I’ve been learning for the past few years. I’m still trying to absorb it. I think I’ve got it, and then I find myself back in the same old guilt-driven mode again. I keep having to re-learn it.
I happen to know that the writer of the above mentioned blog is my age; like me, she has a long history of training and competing. Also, like me, her life is busier now with non-horsey stuff. The horses have to be fit into the little free time that is left over. I think there are a few of us out there, right?
It is suprisingly hard to let go of the intense “have to” mentality that characterized most of my life with horses. I had to train, had to progress, had to get to this or that show or roping, had to ride today (every day). I didn’t question it. This mindset governed my life for many, many years. I didn’t stop to ask if I was enjoying my horses. Sometimes I was, sometimes it was torture. I just did what I “had” to do. Until one day I realized I didn’t like living like this.
I wanted to feel free to stay home and dink around the garden, I wanted to relax. I still wanted to ride and have horses, but I didn’t want to feel that I ‘had’ to do anything with them. This sounds easy, but it hasn’t been easy for me.
I quit competing, yes. But then I took up trail riding with my little boy. And before you know it, I was obsessing about trail riding. I “had” to get out on those trails at least four days a week or I didn’t feel good. I was right back in the same space. I just had a new event.
It has taken the better part of two years, and life throwing me a few curves, for me to realize that what I want is to be is free of guilt when it comes to my horses. I love taking care of my horses—I still love riding. I don’t want to feel that my horses are a burden, something I have to do. It has really been quite a process to wade through all the baggage attached to learning this little lesson. I can enjoy short quiet rides and just letting my horses graze. I can skip the ride and watch my happy horses in the green grass. I don’t have to obsess and worry and be driven by guilt. I can be free of this stuff.
My horses are thriving. They have room to run and play. They are broke—if I ride them once a week, they are well behaved. If I want to wander around the garden, a glass of wine in hand, admiring the roses newly burst into bloom while the horses graze in the spring sunshine, its fine. It’s a lovely thing to do. I need not feel that I am somehow failing at being a good horseman because I’m not in the mood for a long trail ride.
So, yep, I am learning this lesson. I can’t say that I have learned it, even though I understand it intellectually, because I have to keep relearning it, emotionally, anyway. Maybe the day will come when I can say that I am free of that guilt driven mentality. But for now, I’m just grateful that I’m on the path.
How about you? Any insights to share?
And for those who live in central California, I’m doing a booktalk/signing tonight with my friend, author Laurie R King, at Capitola Bookcafe in Capitola, at 7:30. The bookstore has a website or email me for directions firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to meet you.