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"Riding should be fun."

At various times throughout the years I have encouraged my students to examine their equine partnerships. I have asked the typical, prickly questions. "What are you gaining from this relationship?" "Does the benefit still outweigh the cost?" "Do you wake up in the morning excited to ride?" "Is your horse standing in the way of your dreams or helping make them come true?" What is best for your horse? I have made many a bold statement. "Life is too short," I say. "Riding should be fun." "Your horse should lift you up, not bring you down."

Sometimes, this conversation serves only as a catalyst for movement. It cracks open the door and let's the light in so that you can feel you are making a conscious choice to own this horse and are not trapped in an unchangeable situation. It can segue into the formulation of a new plan or simply be the recognition of a crossroads. A conversation like this can drill down to the essence of why we ride, what our horses mean to us and ensure that we stay on track with our goals.

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Sometimes, this conversation is horrible, painful and met with resistance worthy of a gale force wind. For most of us, our horses are so much more than pets or possessions. They embody our dreams. We see them as reflections of our best and most desirable selves. They are not only our companions but are our partners. They are sport and art and passion. They take a place in our hearts interconnected with all aspects of our being: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.

Amazingly, this remains true despite the hardships inherent in any human- equine partnership and sometimes despite years of frustration, expense, shattered confidence and broken bones. There are times, from the outside looking in, that the depletion wrought by what we, in the business, would call a bad match, is painfully obvious. A person can build up an unbelievable tolerance for the dreary frustration of dealing with the issues resulting from "the wrong horse" or having a horse whose talents and interests don't intersect with her own.

Recently, I found myself having this conversation again. This time, it was with myself. What are you gaining? Does the benefit still outweigh the cost? What is best for your horse? Life is too short. I felt strangled by my own resistance. I turned away from the mirror several times before I let my own words sink in. Pain and fear, sadness and failure swam around in my mind for days as I pondered the prospect of letting my special mare go.

There we're the dreams and expectations that go along with owning what, by most accounts, should be my once in a lifetime horse. There we're the facts of her jaw dropping presence and ever-sweet personality. And there we're the shining moments of hope in the form of days, weeks and even months of amazing rides that kept me hooked for several years. There was, however, also the frustration of always finding myself several steps back from where I was headed and never knowing if my hard work was going to pay off. Many times, I found myself astounded by my own willingness to spin in the cycle of chiropractors, farriers, supplements, vets, hormones, custom saddles, training methods, feeding programs, and special blankets. I felt, vaguely, the desperation of a crazy person. I would have recognized it immediately in someone else.

So here I am. I have called myself out. The spin cycle has stopped. I have gathered the courage to let go of those dreams, to look hope in the eye and choose what is best for myself and for my horse. I am sad but I feel lighter. I will move forward with other horses and she will lead the life she was meant to live. Happy trails my sweet girl. I know that we will meet again.

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Posted in Sport Post Date 04/12/2016


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