Wednesday, April 29, 2009


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.


OldMorgans said...

Oh yeah--that old nemesis guilt. It is always telling us to do better, to do more.
I have to remember that horses are supposed to be fun and if I am too tired, lacking energy, or the weather is adverse for me, then I am not having fun so maybe I should go do something else.
Thanks for your post. It came at a much needed time.

Laura Crum said...

OldMorgans--Well, I may sound like I'm learning not to operate from guilt, but sometimes I wonder. I get sucked back into that trap from time to time and only recognize what's happening when I'm thoroughly mired in it.

mugwump said...

Irony isn't it? I don't feel guilt, I feel drive. Drive pushed me past feeling inadequate and guilty. Drive pushed me into trying again and again even when I wasn't succeeding.
I completely allowed myself to let my horses go when I changed careers. But my drive simply shifted to my writing.
My horses are cared for and enjoying their break. I worked a young futurity prospect at a friends house not to long ago and was horrified to find how my seat had diintigrated. So now I'm working on it. Did I feel guilty? Not a even a little. Mad and frustrated? You bet.
My guilt comes in the neglect of my family and friends because of my never ceasing drive....
I think you're taking care of your family, which makes me feel guilty because I don't.

mugwump said...

I mean disintegrated.

Laura Crum said...

Uhmm, my seat has disintegrated, too, Janet. But since I carefully avoid do anything too challenging with my horses (an easy lope around the arena and casual trail rides being the most stressful stuff I attempt), I am quite successful at ignoring the fact that I can't ride very well any more. It doesn't bother me, actually. I still struggle more with feeling guilty cause I'm not riding the horses regularly enough-my goal is to let go of that nagging guilt.

Jami Davenport said...

Laura, I am soooo there with you. I've released myself from the guilt of thinking I need to show this year. I've been concentrating on riding and learning and enjoying my horse. There's a lot to be said about that.

Beasley the Wonder Horse said...

Hay! I thoroughly enjoyed this post. I sort of had an epiphany a bit ago. Below is a post I posted on COTH in regards to a rider with cold feet.

From my post on COTH:
I do want to point out that this is a hobby. If you were never to ride your horse again and you were to just go to the barn, groom him and then put him away...why that would be totally fine!

I see so many depressed, grim-faced riders heading to the barn to drill the life out of themselves...Reminder, this is a hobby.

I get the feeling you're my age. If you're afraid, take a day off. It's not like you're heading to the Olympics and each day is a count down to the big day.

I had a revelation the other month. I was so angry at myself, my body and my abilities. I used to be a something. I used to be great at dressage and could throw anything put at me in a terrific frame, shoulder in down the long side like nobody's business. I was told I had natural ability.

Now, I have fear issues. Now, I need the three-tiered mounting block. I definitely need my grab strap! I would beat myself up for not having stuck with riding and lessoning all those years until my head exploded. I coulda, shoulda, woulda been a grand prix dressage rider at this point.

But then I had an epiphany. It doesn't matter. So I ride like crap now. I realized this is a hobby. My horse is a fat out of shape PMU reject with conformation problems. We're never going to the Olympics. I'm never going to ride like I did or like I could have if I continued with lessons.

And you know what, it was like the Hallejulah chorus sounded as the skies opened up and a beam of sunlight shown on me. It doesn't matter. Do some fun things on horseback, things that make you happy and if just grooming your horse and picking at scabs is all you want to do that day, SUPER. Let's just have fun and quit the beating each other up because so and so can't ride. Just enjoy your horse and the time spent with him.

Sorry about the back to the regular programming...

Anonymous said...

what a "g-dincidence" as i say that i found this today... I've been struggling whether to do a show or an endurance ride this weekend...
As a former super competitive ultrarunner... i struggle with those "guilt' issues as well.. You guys said such great things.

My heart is saying ;..... the show this weekend and that choice brings me joy... thanx