Thursday, May 6, 2010


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 I’d love to meet you.


Anonymous said...

I'm not quite where you are - my horses, despite their age (early teens), aren't broke enough to just get on and ride, which means I feel the need to work with them on a regular basis if they're not just going to be pasture ornaments, which I haven't been able to do due to our barn set-up, which leads to frustration . . . You get the drift - I may need to do more, in a more structured way, to have the chance to do less - if that makes any sense. Having horses in a you-do-it-all-yourself situation is putting a lot of pressure on me now, and I'm making some changes so my horse time can be less about chores and more about being with, and yes, working with, my horses. I think these balance questions depend a lot on your situation, your age and capabilities, what you like to do, and what sort of horses you have.

I like where you are trying to go with this, though, and hope to get there someday myself.

Laura Crum said...

Kate--I understand what you mean about sometimes needing to do more to be able to do less. And yeah, its just my intention to hold this idea in my mind--there are days when I still "need" to get a particular horse worked--for a variety of reasons. But its nice to be working on this new way of thinking...just as you say.

Laura Crum said...

Kate--also, I so agree with you about the logistics of horse keeping eating up all the time. I purposely planned my horse setup and stream lined my chores down to what I feel is truly needed--to both give my horses the best life possible and give myself the most freedom possible. I think I'll do a post on this subject next.

Promise said...

I always feel guilty if I can't get to the barn to ride or hang out with Promise. And yet, I know she is perfectly happy whether I am there or not.

I am starting to think that maybe because I board her, I am actually more concerned about what the people there think of me, than what my horse thinks of me. This bothers me, because I am not the type of person to worry what others think of, it seems to be a never-ending circle.

Laura Crum said...

Promise--that is an interesting point. I don't board, but I have a boarder who rides his horse a lot and competes every weekend. Even though I know my horses are happy, I, too, sometimes feel guilty when I compare myself to him or when he asks me, "Did you ride today?" He doesn't mean anything by it, he's just interested in what I've been up to, but if my answer is no, I often feel guilty (and start to justify why I didn't ride). Its silly, but I do it. Obviously I've got a ways to go before I'm free of this whole guilt thing.

Thanks for the insight.

Fantastyk Voyager said...

For so many years I have been working full time and raising a family with very little time left for my horses that I often feel guilty for even having them at all. However, my horses are broke well enough for me to just jump on and ride without any issues. I love knowing that at any time I can get a good ride out of them even if it's been a while since I last rode. I usually turn them out for a run in the arena first to get the kinks out and to let them frolic and then I'll brush them and just jump on using a halter and rope, or a bridle. Sometimes, I'll saddle up and ride out around the neighborhoods. Sometimes, I'll hand graze them for a few hours without even riding. I find that just being around them every day makes me feel good without the need to ride although I often alternate between feeling sad or guilty for not riding like I want/should.

Laura Crum said...

Voyager--I'm so often suprised by how much many of us have in common. Your description of your interactions with your horses reminds me very much of myself. Thanks for the insightful comment.

Anonymous said...

IS VERY GOOD..............................