Monday, August 22, 2011

On Being a Horsewoman

By Linda Benson

Can you still call yourself a horsewoman if you don’t own a horse? Or if you don’t ride anymore? On social media sites, there is usually room for just a short description and usually I’ve used something like Horsewoman, author, animal lover, book worm, chocolate addict, etc.

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought lately, whether I can still call myself a Horsewoman, since my herd has dropped down to merely two donkeys. Previously, my equine career consisted of owning horses for 45 years, owning a successful saddle shop, competing in sports from barrel racing to cow penning, jumping to endurance riding, and logging literally hundreds of miles horseback up mountains, across streams, and through some of the most gorgeous country imaginable. Just remembering those moments makes my heart glad.

But what about now? I’m in my early sixties, and although I always imagined myself a galloping granny well into my seventies, in the last couple of years I’ve had some health problems which caused me to pretty much quit riding.  I sold my nice paint horse because he wasn’t the kind who could take time off – he needed riding. I adopted another old horse and rode him a bit, but we ended up having to put him down last year.  I had an empty barn for a few short months, and now my little donkey herd (Mr. Chocolate and Mr. Big) satisfies my need to feed, brush, and bond with a four-legged critter with hooves.

But we have acres of green pasture available, tons of woods and riding trails behind us, and the urge to get another horse is still ridiculously strong. The age-old dilemma of whether to listen to the head or the heart (just like in Natalie Keller Reinert’s new novella by that name) plays on and on inside me every. single. day.

My head says:
We live in an area where it rains for nine months out of the year, sometimes more.
The expense and trouble of keeping a horse for maybe 2-3 months good trail riding weather is enormous.

I have no good riding buddies to ride out in the woods with anymore, and it’s foolish to take a horse out alone (at my age.)

It’s rare to find the type of horse that can sit for months at a time, and still be a good solid citizen when you do decide to ride him.

Although I do have friends older than me that still ride, another older friend just ended up in the hospital when her green mare acted up, and let’s face it, we don’t bounce like we used to.

My heart says:
The longing for a horse never ever goes away, and in fact, I’m sure I’ll go to the grave with that longing intact.
I started crying (yes, real big-time tears) when I walked through the horse barn at our county fair last week.
I’m crying as I write this because I just miss riding so darn much.

Horses have been a passion and defining force in my life of from the earliest age I can remember. I miss riding more than I can say in words, but I am happy I can still write about horses, and in fact I have a new book out on submission, about a time in the future when people have largely forgotten about the horse-human bond, except for one girl, who remembers. You’ll be among the first to know when I have good news on that one (which I hope is soon.)

I stay active in the horse world - keeping up with horseracing, the horse slaughter debate, the barefoot/shoes argument, the mustang removal/BLM controversy, and of course the world of equine fiction.

So my question to you is what actually defines being a horsewoman? Should I call myself a horsewoman, an ex-horsewoman (but that sounds so final LOL) or an armchair horsewoman? *grin*

And also, for those of you who are getting older, at what point do you foresee giving up riding? Know anyone like me, who has had to quit and misses it like crazy? How did they cope?


Unknown said...

I hope to ride for the rest of my life. I waited too long as it is.

I think there's only one question. Will you look back at this time and regret listening so faithfully to your head? That's what I realized when I considered letting go. I can live with a great deal - but not with regret.

Stilllearning said...

Of course you're still a horsewoman, with or without riding. Being a horse person is so much more than owning a horse.

But...isn't there a middle ground here? Could you find a way to ride without owning, if you think out of the box? Just wondering.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

You're absolutely still a horsewoman - there are lots of people out there who own horses who don't qualify for that title.

I'm almost 60 myself and had a bad fall in June involving a head injury, broken bones and hospitalization and 6 weeks of no riding, but I'm back riding again - I can't help myself.

Yes it's an expensive, time-consuming lifestyle with horses, but I wouldn't stop for the world.

What if you were to buy/adopt an older horse who could be ridden a bit for a few years and also would benefit from a lot of TLC - maybe from a rescue or a riding school horse who needs a forever home? I like the caring for parts of horse life almost as much as the riding, and when I get really old that's what I'd like to do - take care of and love on an old horse.

And maybe you could get the riding fix some other way - lessons or riding a friend's horse?

Laura Crum said...

Linda--Yes, you are still a horsewoman. I have owned horses non-stop since I was 15 and was first allowed to buy a horse and I hope always to do so. Like Kate, I like living with/caring/for horses as much as I do riding them. In your shoes I might not ride much, but I would still hope to own a horse. I totally think you should go find an older, solid horse like my Sunny and Henry and just enjoy them in every way. I find that even climbing aboard to walk around for five minutes can be fun and make you happy, if you haven't time for more (or your back won't take more). And these horses tolerate weeks off (which happens) and are just as reliable. And there are so many who need a good home. I am actually doing a post tomorrow on what makes/how to find just such a horse.

And, of course, whatever choice you make, your love of horses and many years of experience make you a horsewoman forever.

Linda Benson said...

Breathe - Your words ring so true. No one wants to live with regret. ;-)

Stilllearning and Kate - Thanks for your kind words. Yes, I am keeping my options open, and I've had lots of long discussions about other possibilites. I do have a friend who I can ride with whenever I want, but it's not exactly the same as having your own horse that you bond with and know. Kate - I'm so glad you are riding again, that's great!

One of the main things for me is some severe back problems that limit lifting a saddle or even cleaning feet. But one thing I have learned about life is to never say never. *grin* Meanwhile, I'll keep writing!

Linda Benson said...

And Laura - I appreciate your words more than you can know.

We'll just wait and see what happens.

wilsonc said...

Yes, you are still a horsewoman because there is a difference between owning a horse and being a horsewoman or horseperson...and because you ARE a horsewoman I know that you know what that difference is. I try not to think about not being able to ride anymore and when that day might come. I guess I'll know when it does and until then I'll keep on keeping on.

dunslidin said...

Wish you lived closer and I would bless you with my grulla 28 year old qh mare who is so awesome and sound. I have moved on to a reiner and she is just our backyard queen that we use when people come over wanting to ride. I showed her to 2nd level dressage, evented her to training and trailrode this horse over hundreds if not thousands of miles. Not once was she dangerous or bad (opinionated but not bad) and saved my big can too many times to count, she also is super if you ride her everyday or 3 times a year. She misses having her own full time person but people get so turned off at her age or want her for a kids speed horse or something inappropriate. She had gotten multiple middle aged women back into riding after a fall, since you get so much confidence riding her, you just know if you stay on her back you will be safe. Look for a treasure like her and enjoy her for as long as you can. I'm getting close to 60 and my reiner is 12 this year and I'm already thinking the next one may be my last since it may take me to 85. Go look for a oldie but goodie that is just hangin around doing nothing and you will both be happier.

HorsesAndTurbos said...

I vote for filling that space with a horse in need...I also plan on riding forever, hence taking on a 8 year old greenie at my not-so-old anymore age of 54. My mare is I don't plan on getting any more horses, plan on keeping these two, hopefully into their 30s', which will make me in my 80's - maybe I'll be ready to quit then :) But who knows!


HorsesAndTurbos said...

But if I could not ride, I'd take on a horse that just needs my love....

Linda Benson said...

wilsonc - thanks for your input. It is true - I've known people who owned horses that had no business doing so, and were so NOT horsepeople. Guess I'll just keep calling myself a horsewoman, in spirit and in my head at least, huh?

dunslidin - yes, your grulla mare sounds just right (and one of my very favorite colors!) Anything might happen, so I'm keeping my options open (always a good idea in life.) *grin*

horsegenes said...

On another blog today the topic from a young writer was her love and obsession with horses. As I wrote there... We don't pick to be horsewomen, we are born to it. Our love for horses is as natural as breathing for most of us. No matter what you do, you are always going to be a horse woman - even if you didn't want to be, it is who you are and that is never going to change.

Linda Benson said...

HorsesandTurbos - I hope you can still ride into your 80's, too.

Kel - your words made me cry.

Thank you. The horse community is wonderful because we just "get" it -the need, the desire, the ridiculous obsession some of us have for all things equine. Thanks so much for understanding.

Alison said...

Greart blog, Linda! I, too, am in my early sixties and still riding (if you can call it that--more like puttering on a horse) but had a terrible fall when I was sixteen, so it can happen at any age. I second and third it on the older/quiet horse--getting one from someone your trust. Do they have light weight saddles these days? My western saddle weighs a ton, too, so I know what you mean. And I confess--I never pick out my horse's back feet--it's too hard on my own back--and yet they stay incredibly healthy (might be our drier weather.) So just sayin . . .
but no matter what--you are STILL a horsewoman!

Laura Crum said...

Okay--here is something I should not confess--I don't pick feet at all --unless I have a problem. And guess what? I have no foot problems to speak of. Just saying.

Jen said...

As long as you have a heart full of horses you are a horse woman! Although I'm younger (45) cancer, followed by a muscle disease blew a hole right through the middle of my life a few years ago. I may not ride as well as I used to, but it matters to me so much more than it did (cancer is a great motivator for personal introspection and "importance" inventory ;o)

I'm pretty much a medical disaster area these days (Fibromyalgia, Raynauds Phenomenon and Arthritis being my most recent accomplishments *rolls eyes*) but I am still working with the horses and riding; I hope I never have to stop. Wintec has a great looking Austrailian saddle with a changeable gullet that is lightweight and offers better security to someone with an unstable seat (that would be me!). It's at the top of my wish list right now; have you thought about trying one? Life is short and God is awesome, so do what you love and love what you do. It's not like we get a second chance at it, right?

Linda Benson said...

Alison and Laura - what? you don't pick feet? (dirty little secrets revealed LOL) Now that I've got that problem solved, if I could just find my own personal groom to have my horse brushed, saddled, and ready, I'd be all set! hee hee

But seriously, Jen, you are an inspiration. It's true that where there's a will there's a way, and I'm so glad you are still active with your horses! Kudos, dear!! and I'll investigate that Wintec saddle.

Francesca Prescott said...

The passion in your words proves you're a horsewoman.

I understand your dilemna, but it sounds to me as though your heart is craving its horsey fix, so why frustrate it? We only live once as far as we know...and there's got to be a nice gentle solid reliable horse who needs a...galloping granny (I loved that!!).

By the way, I had a Wintec saddle years ago - it was probably one of the first ones they produced - and remember it being incredibly light. No wonder you can't lift your saddle; those American saddles are insanely heavy! I'd look into the one Jen suggested.

Good luck, and lots of love.

RiderWriter said...

Your post and Kel's response both made me cry. Of COURSE you are a horsewoman, just like I have been my whole, entire life, and you will go to your grave being a horsewoman. It's a mindset, it's a thought process, and if you're lucky, it's a way of life, whether or not your own equine is standing in the barn waiting for you. I simply could not feel more strongly about this (in fact, I feel a blog post of my own coming on). I've never even owned my own horse but by golly, do I ever identify myself as a horsewoman!

You said you have a friend you can ride with whenever you want. That's my situation right now, and while it's not ideal, it's pretty much the only way financially I can get in riding time. Right now I'm on forced hiatus due to her being short on time, which is hard, but you do what what you have to do. If you are better fixed money-wise have you thought about leasing? That might be a great setup.

In the meantime, enjoy those donks, and I hope we all have given you positive thoughts. :-)

Linda Benson said...

Francesca and RiderWriter - thanks so much for you words and thoughts. The support of the horse community is amazing - and I'll keep you all posted on my further riding and/or writing adventures! *grin*