I ride. I ride at least six days a week, and I ride seriously. By seriously, I mean when I get on, I’m not just lackadaisically roaming around the ring for 15 minutes and hopping off. I get on, I work my horse, I work myself, and we usually both get sweaty. Even when it’s 20 degrees.
I find though, most people whom consider themselves riders, don’t. Whether they own a horse, own multiple horses, lease a horse, compete, or just ride to have fun, a majority of people involved with horses don’t actually ride.
I just can’t seem to wrap my head around the idea of being in horses, spending large amounts of money on board, vet, farrier, and all the other miscellaneous costs of horse ownership and not taking full advantage of it.
All of this is besides meaningful excuses like injury, work, and school. The average horse person just doesn’t ride, on average, at your average barn. You can tell I’m being scientific.
Some numbers. I’ve boarded at six barns in the past 18 months (no, I’m not a barn hopper—my place of work has moved a lot and Mr. Horse has to be nearby). Of those six barns, there were about 65 owned horses, and by my six-days-a-week-at-the-barn calculations, I definitely only saw no more than ten horse and rider combinations in regular work or regular riding. Funny enough, one of those riders was over 65 years old, and she rode hard five days a week through the heat of the summer. Never less than an hour.
So, what’s up with the rest of the “riders”?
Is it motivation? Don’t get me wrong; after a long day at work, sometimes going straight home sounds really nice. It’s not that I don’t want to ride, but I DO want to sit down and relax.
Currently, I don’t have the driving excuse. The barn is located less than a mile from work (see, sometimes that means you gotta move barns). Even still, I generally don’t need an excuse because I really do WANT to ride, every day. The times I don’t want to ride, I shouldn’t. Those days are few and far between but usually occur from lack of sleep or lack of food. And Frankie responds to my mood. A foul, lazy, or hungry Kristine creates a irreverent, moping, or agitated mount. I know if my work face isn’t on, neither is his.
Occasionally, a relaxing trail ride is in order, but even then we’re both working on something. Forward walk, balance, listening to my leg, my position. The ring is all well and good 4-5 days a week, but enough is enough. Out of the ring both of us must get.
And then again, riding can be pure relaxation for some people. Calmness. Away from it all. Those people are different. Maybe many of these people are the ones who aren’t riding their horses. But the strange thing is, I sometimes get different information from those people directly. “I wish I was jumping bigger.” “He is always so lazy, I hate riding him.” “I work on everything from my lessons but we just aren’t getting it.” And the classic, “I don’t understand why he acts up every time I ride him?” (don’t worry, it’s not you).
Here’s some tough love:
He’s out of shape because of inconsistent work. You probably shouldn’t be jumping at all, let alone bigger.
He’s lazy because he doesn’t get worked enough and you don’t push him. It’s just like kids, if you let them get away with it…they will.
Working on everything from lessons? Hardly. Here’s what you actually do—ride two days a week out of a lesson. Those rides consist of 30 minutes tacking up, 10 minutes adjusting things once mounted, 3 minutes of trot, 15 minutes of chatting, 1 minute of canter, and an hour untacking and hanging out. Stop fooling yourself.
And acting up? EVERYTIME? That’s because when you ride he is hyper, bored, annoyed, and in need of consistency. Get your ass to the barn more often and you’ll have a different horse.
If you’re lacking wherewithal because you’re lacking a goal, you’re still not trying hard enough. A horse show, a clinic, a lesson, and obstacle to overcome (quick ideas: fear of trail rides, fear of x size fence, canter transitions, halt, turn on the haunches, backing, posting trot no stirrups twice around ring, or maybe just five steps) there can be a zillion small and large goals to set to help motivate you to ride.
Even if your riding is simply a pleasure process—if you’re frustrated with your hack, two to three days a week isn’t going to cut it. Riding to relax, and riding to work you and your horse, properly, do not have to be mutually exclusive. Hell, most everyone, no matter how competitive, or not, says they ride to relax. However, even if you aren’t looking to improve your riding or your horse, a lazy pickup of the left lead canter is going to cut into that tranquility.
I guess I just don’t appreciate those who equate showing up to the barn with riding. There is so much time and money going into this sport; what are you doing here besides catching up on barn gossip? There are cheaper options.
If you do own a horse and are only able to ride two or three days a week, find someone else to ride your horse. Guaranteed, there is a girl out there, near you, maybe not riding at your barn currently, or possibly NOT RIDING AT ALL that would LOVE to ride your horse. Make her happy.
Yes, you can set rules, watch to make sure she is a good rider, and of course expect her to take care of your stuff and horse. But don’t be selfish. See, either way, boredom does your horse no good. In the metaphysical sense, you’ve cooped up this horse and kept him away from the roaming the countryside. Better make it worth his while with consistent companionship, work, and training. And you’ll benefit from it during your relaxing rides, or especially if you’re in work and training.
At the far end of the non-riding riders section, leasing can be a fantastic option. However, there are many people wanting to lease in the same boat as you. And of course you have really good intentions. But many, like you, will not follow through with them. “You don’t have the time”. “It’s only temporary”. “You’ve got some other things going on”. “You just need a break for a while”.
Maybe you’ll get to the barn one day a week. Maybe. And doubt starts to feed the (missing) initiative. “Am I not riding because of the horse?” “Could it be the trainer?”
Sure, could be both. And I’m not here to examine the brains of most horse people; too messy. But if you really aren’t riding, or not riding enough, examine why. But don’t make excuses. No one has enough time to ride if you have a full time job. Really, come on. After an eight to ten hour day—not to mention commute time, is there really another one-and-a-half to two hours left in you?
Only if you want there to be.
You started riding for a reason. Did that reason go away? Somehow I doubt it. Either something sucks where your horse is, your horse is too much for you, you have outgrown your horse, or you need some goals, plans, and motivation.
If things in your life are just too crazy for riding horses, as long as the “crazy stuff” isn’t in perpetual motion because of your normal psyche, that’s just life. But if priorities have changed, it’s okay.
Just don’t make your horse sit and rot because you’re holding onto something that, plainly, isn’t going to happen.