Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Confessions of a Lazy Horseman

by Laura Crum

So every once awhile I get to wondering about why I’m such a lazy horseman these days. In my younger years I trained and competed and progressed in various ways—I worked hard. I rode my horses on multi-day pack trips in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and my friends and I did the packing ourselves. These were true horseback adventures—though not as adventurous as Terri’s recent horseback expedition in Africa (!) Nowadays, as I commented on Francesca’s charming post about riding like Carl Hester, I don’t strive to learn and improve. And, as I explained in my last post, “Trail Ride Drama”, my current goal is “adventureless” trail rides. I am enjoying riding my relaxed little horses on very relaxed ambles through our local hills—mostly at the walk.

I’m happy, the horses are happy, my son is happy, but progressing and learning, we’re not. And since so many other folks, some as old and older than I am, make no secret of their goal—to always be becoming better horsemen—I sometimes wonder if there is a small flaw in my character.

Am I just lazy? Or is it something worse. Complacent? Indifferent? Am I neglecting my son’s well being by not urging him to compete? Or at least urging him to learn more new, challenging things all the time? Cause nope, I don’t do that. If he’s happy to chase cattle and go on trail rides, that works for me. When he states a desire to learn something with his horse, which he does from time to time, I help him with it. But I don’t push him. Many mothers I know would want their kids to progress from chasing cattle to actual roping at eleven years old. Me, I don’t care if he never decides to rope. I’m just glad he’s enjoying his horse.

But I do sometimes wonder why I’m so unmotivated. I wonder if this attitude is rubbing off on my son—to his possible detriment. When I was his age I took formal riding lessons—and competed in horseshows. I think my son rides as well as I did at eleven—in the most basic, important senses. He has a good seat and he knows how to get along with his horse. He can make lazy Henry mind him—very effectively. But unlike me at the same age, he really has no idea of what sort of things he would be judged on in a show ring. He frequently sits in a “cutter’s slump”—which you cowhorse people will know is an effective and comfortable way to sit a horse—but it would give a dressage rider palpitations of horror. Yes, he’s having lots of fun. No, he would not win any blue ribbons—in any event I can think of. I haven’t taught him those skills.

So I wonder. Am I a lousy horseman?

I sometimes think maybe I should get a horse I could do more with—Sunny is a good trail horse, but a very clunky mover in the ring. Sure I can make him lope decent circles—but its no fun. It’s work. In fact, it hurts my back. I could borrow my friend’s black horse--who is a pretty mover, well broke, and very smooth--and probably not just lope decent circles, but do flying changes and all sorts of cool stuff, cause hey, I used to know how to do that. But the thought does not fill me with enthusiasm.

And then I read a blog post about a horse that has to be put down because of terrible injuries—sometimes sustained competing—sometimes just in turnout. Horses being horses, they get hurt. And I read about people who’ve been hurt themselves or badly scared in riding accidents. And I start to think that all of us being healthy and happy (people and horses) and enjoying our lives is really the bottom line. Instead of worrying that my horse life is boring, I should be giving endless thanks that my horse life is (right now—knocking on wood) peaceful and uneventful. I remember the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times,” and I think—nope—I want to live in dull, boring times.

Peaceful/boring—its all in the way you look at it. And yesterday, drinking my cup of tea on the porch and watching my horses happily munch their lunch, I knew that I was happy to be a boring, do-nothing horseman. I like my uneventful trail rides. I like not “working” with my horses, just enjoying them. I like it that I don’t ride unless I really feel like it. I like that my horses are solid and that they have enough room to run if they feel like it, so I don’t feel guilty if I don’t ride them. I like all of this. And if my son learns this way of being with horses from me, I’m not sure I haven’t done him a favor.

I know I’ve said this before, but I’m going to repeat it, mostly for my own sake. The joy in horses, for me these days, comes in the simple, little things. I’ll give you some examples, illustrated, no less. Feeding my horses at sunrise—below you see Sunny having breakfast.

Strolling down the trail on a sunny day with my son.

Taking in the Monterey Bay from our favorite spot.

Watching my boy’s happy face as he brings up the cattle.

The simple pleasure of looking past my horse’s ears.

These are the little things that give me joy. I don’t find joy any more in pushing myself to learn/achieve more. I don’t find joy in pushing my horses to become “better.” I don’t find joy in working hard at some aspect of horsemanship, though I do understand the joy that is possible in working hard to achieve a goal, and have experienced this in the past. It may be a flaw in my character that I no longer want to work like that. But if so, I am just going to accept it. Because if my life with horses is peaceful and happy, that’s a good thing, right? Perhaps there’s no need to worry about the things I’m not doing. Perhaps I should just be content with what I’ve got—and the relaxed mindset that goes with it.

The truth is that having written this post, I have no idea if I’m confessing to being a lazy/lousy horseman, or claiming some minor form of enlightenment—hopefully something in between. I also have no idea where the future will take me—perhaps back to something more adventurous horsewise—who knows? I only know where I’m at right now. And I don’t know if this is a good thing or a negative thing—it just is. Does anyone else feel like this? Any insights?


Anonymous said...

You're not unmotivated or a lousy horsewoman - you sound to me like someone who's content, and what's wrong with that - absolutely nothing! I also like it that you don't push your son to do more than he's interested in doing - the fastest way to take the joy out of something for a child is for a parent to push since things become the parent's rather than the child's agenda - I've seen it happen many times in the horse world.

You're to be congratulated on reaching the place you're in for now. I agree, by the way, on how wonderful the little things are around horses - I love morning feeding time too, and caring for them, and grooming and just hanging out with them as much or more than the riding.

Dreaming said...

I think Kate nailed it... it's contentment and I see nothing wrong with that! After all, if it ain't broke, don't fix it! Besides, you live the other side of riding vicariously through the characters you create in your writing! Like Gail's wild ride on Sunny. (Yup...just finished... it's about time, eh?!)

Mikey said...

I'm right there with you. I feel like I should be doing more, like I used to, but I'm tired. I want to go slooooww, lol. It's hard when you're not motivated and sometimes I think the horses aren't motivated either. Enjoy this time you've got now. We all go way too fast and do too much these days. It's nice to just relax and enjoy.

Minus Pride said...

I'm 22 and never really go tthe horseshow bug, but it brings me a lot of joy to get Sugar out, and go down the trail, now that I know she can and is really happy to do it.
I don't think you're unmotivated. My barn owner had her kid in shows and stuff and the kid is burned out, barely rides her awesome horses now...I think you are doing your son a favor.

Anonymous said...

Nope, you're not lazy at all, you're to be envied. Well anyway, I envy you. I am still trying to become a better horseman, but my goal is to become a lazy one. I haven't been riding my current horse for very long, nor does he have a lot of experience, but once we become contented in our partnership, I think we'll both be pretty lazy. I look forward to it.

Shanster said...

You've also experienced much that many never get to... so you've truly been there and done that. shrug. Don't see anything wrong with that at all.... content is good.

Terri Rocovich said...

Laura you are neither lazy nor boring. For as much as my life revolves around competition and striving to get better, it is the little, simple things that keep me motivated and bring the most joy. Just rubbing down my horse Pete who shows every once of his enjoyment, or bathing Uiver so he he shiny and soft, those moments bring more contentment than horse shows. And as far as your son, you are teaching him the most important rules of horse ownership - quality care, kindness, love and bonding. As you know, boys progress at their own rate and if he wants to do more he will let you know. I think you are doing him a much greater service than the horse show Moms that I encounter that push their children so much they end up disliking horses altogether.

Laura Crum said...

Kate--Now that puts it in perspective. You're right, what's wrong with being content? And it sounds so much better than "lazy".

Dreaming--Regarding the wild ride on Sunny--though I never did that on Sunny, I have had a few wild rides in my past--and used them to help create the scene.

Mikey--As you say, I'm trying just to enjoy what I have. In a little while my son will be grown, and who knows how long he'll enjoy riding with me.

Minus Pride--Yeah, I am so not wanting to be the mom who pushes her kid to excel and makes everything no fun. I may be going a little too far in the opposite direction.

redhorse--Your comment made me smile. I never thought of it that way before.

Shanster--I am going to keep repeating that when I doubt myself (a regular thing) "content is good".

Terri--Coming from you, those words mean a lot, as I know you are deeply familiar with the world of learning/striving/competing. I did enjoy all that at one time and do see the value in it--its just not where I'm at now.

FD said...

I don't think you're lazy - after all,if Henry or Sonny stopped being what you needed reliably I'm pretty damn sure you'd work as hard as necessary to fix that - you just don't see the need to fix what isn't broken, which honestly, I sometimes think more people could stand to be like. I loathe hacking out with people who can't ever let their horses alone and are always fiddling Also, I don't love people who let problems slide especially when they moan about them - now that's lazy.

For me the merit in the whole striving, continually improving thing is that I enjoy it - there's no moral there, just pursuit of pleasure. You're enjoying the moment, not the process, and I fail to see why where the pleasure comes from should be relevant.

Laura Crum said...

FD--And that is yet another way of looking at it that I hadn't thought of. We have horses because we get pleasure out of them--and if we each find pleasure in different aspects of horse activities...well, why not? I have to admit, in my youth I looked down on those who had horses but didn't ride, but I don't feel that way any more. I get it that there are all kinds of ways of enjoying horses, and I don't judge any one who has a way that works for them and their horses. And I do admire those, like you, who really enjoy the striving to be better horsemen. And I think "enjoy" is the key word there. As you pointed out.

Mrs. Mom said...

I feel you totally here Laura! Kate got it right- content works! ;)

Love the pix. Love how relaxed you are with your son. Nothing in the world like teaching kids to stop and smell the roses- or the horses- and show them how to enjoy things. Keep it up!

Laura Crum said...

Thanks Mrs Mom--I know you, like me, are teaching your kids about horses and riding...I'm sure you know the questions that arise.

Leslie said...

No Laura, you're definitely not a lazy horsewoman. I'd go with enlightened and content. Allowing ourselves to relax and enjoy the little things in life is the reward of aging, in my opinion.

Your son will look back at his childhood with fondness and appreciation. I'm betting on it!

My two sons are grown and they often mention the camping trips we took,the mountain camping trip in Idaho, the trip to Alaska where we hiked and kayaked. All the engaging types of activities we did with them. So, you are enriching your son, you just may not see it or hear about it until he's grown. Keep on enjoying him and those little things!

Grey Horse Matters said...

I wouldn't say your lazy, I'd say you're happy with the way things are and see no need to change them. I feel the same way. Showing horses is out of the question for me, I did enough of it over the years and have no desire to go back to that life. If your son ever gets the bug to do something different I'm sure he'll let you know. For right now he's happy with what he does and so are you. I love just meandering around the fields and trails with my daughter, we have a good time and no pressure and it does form a bond between us.

I guess my thoughts would be if it ain't broke don't fix it. We should always do whatever makes us happy with our horses and not over think things too much.

Laura Crum said...

Thank you, Leslie--I hope my son remembers his childhood as fondly as yours sons remember theirs.

Grey Horse--I agree about the not overthinking things too much. But also, as I'm sure you guessed, I sometimes ponder this stuff because it makes a blog post--and perhaps one that others can relate to. Or I hope so, anyway.

HorsesAndTurbos said...

I agree with all the above! If I lived closer to trails so I could ride there from my house, I'd be doing a lot more of that, particularly now that we have lost daylight. So to keep from getting bored, we practice what I've read on the internet about training. Plus it's good for my two horses' minds to keep learning - they are just those types of horses.


Fantastyk Voyager said...

I agree with everyone else. Enjoy your contentment while you can- it probably won't last.

Laura Crum said...

Jackie--You always sound as if you are enjoying your horses and your life. Whatever you're doing, its working.

Voyager--Oh dear, that sounds a bit ominous. Though I must agree that everything changes. But perhaps I'll be content with what happens never know.

joycemocha said...

Laura--what you are doing is perfectly right for where you are in this part of your life. I think too many people think horses and horsemanship need to be this passionately driven thing, and it's not that way, really.

I tinker with everything I do to improve my performance. It's not just my horse, it's my skiing, my yoga, my occasional ballet...everything. It's who and what I am. I'm a good candidate for a boarding horse owner in a stalled situation because I find it important to get to my horse on a regular basis and spend time with her. I find arena work relaxing because breaking down tasks and schooling helps me think about teaching kids and teaching processes. Sometimes it also opens up story ideas.

But I also like a nice, relaxed outdoor hack. I just couldn't have that be my only form of riding. And that's okay for me. I'm a good owner for an arena situation because I don't drill and kill, I think of ways to mix it up and keep my horse mentally and physically engaged. I like doing many different things with my riding, that's how I enjoy riding physically. Many people don't like that. And that's okay.

Not everyone finds pleasure in doing horse ownership the way I do. That's okay. Not everyone finds pleasure doing horse ownership in the way you do. That's okay as well. We all enjoy different kinds of horses in different ways. Your Sunny and Henry wouldn't be happy with the sort of life they'd live with me and the regular arena work, and Mocha wouldn't be the type of horse you'd want for the type of horse life you live--she'd be too hot for that (plus she has really crappy feet). And that is absolutely okay.

Laura Crum said...

joyce--I think you've nailed it. There are many different ways to enjoy horses--and ALL are Ok, if the horses and people are happy. As I said in a previous comment, in my youth I looked down on those who kept horses and didn't ride them, but I don't feel that way any more.

And you've given me an idea for my next blog post (!) Thank you.

Unknown said...

Happy marriages are drama free too. Just sayin...


I don't ride for adventure, I ride for connection.

Seems to me you've got that connection and lots of good rides. Perhaps it's a little like confusing the end zone with the bench. :)

Laura Crum said...

Breathe--What a neat metaphor. "Confusing the end zone with the bench." That made me smile. And I agree, I don't ride for adventure--I guess I've made that clear. But like you, I do ride for connection, both with my horse and the world around me.