If i'm being honest, I'm not where I want to be with my horses yet. It’s been years since I last felt deeply connected, highly focused and forward moving with them. Life has gotten in the way. Adulthood has gotten in the way. Bills, jobs, relationships, vehicles, college/university, career and business building, you name it…. Has gotten in the way of my riding. Oh how I wish I could go back to the days where my homework assignment that was due was the only thing holding me back from riding and spending time with my horses, outside in the yard. Somehow when you creep into adulthood all of those things pile up, along with a long list of internal excuses like self confidence issues, fear, procrastination and bad habits and all of a sudden your horses are just the funny beings that act as therapy for you after a bad day. You say every season or every year that you’re going to recommit and get back to riding regularly and working towards your goals. If you’re like me and have more than one horse (I have 4 all at varying ages and skill levels) you’ve probably got a training list a mile long for each horse, and so much you want to achieve with each. After all, as horse people do we ever really stop dreaming about what comes next with our horses and about achieving the next level?
For years I’ve carried a lot of guilt around not being where I want to be with my horses. I always feel like other riders are achieving more than me. I’ve felt that I’m letting my horses down by wasting their potential, as they age each year. At time, I’ve felt like I wasn’t doing enough to even consider myself a rider anymore. Other times I’ve felt like I had to ride and pushed myself after a long day of work to get out and on my horse and ridden with a poor attitude and no joy, only to leave feeling worse about myself and the relationship with my horses. Yep, I’ve felt the whole gamut of emotions when it comes to horses and life over the years.
But I am learning to release all of that now. And over the past year, I've truly tuned back into my horses, recommitted, and made small adjustments to refocus and rebuild our relationships. I’ve learned to forgive myself, show myself some grace and accept that a busy life can sometimes mean there's some zigzagging on the road to achieving our goals.
Here’s what I’ve learned that I really hope will help you out if you too are feeling like you’re not where you want to be with your horses.
It's never too late to commit to your horses. To commit to your goals. To commit to yourself. We’re in this for the long haul. Remember that. If we’re really lucky, we can get up to 30 years with our horses, and at least 20 of those we can be riding them and really flourishing with them. If one year goes by where life gets busy and in the way, we’ve still got the next one and the next one after that. I think as equestrians we’re so used to hearing about all the futurities and young horse events that we start believing that if a horse hasn’t accomplished something by the time it's 5 years old… its over, it's done for, why even keep riding it? ------Complete---and----Utter-----Bullshit---- the best years of our horses lives are once they’re mature and we’ve had plenty of time working with them, fine- tuning and enjoying miles upon miles.
As for us as riders….. the best is still yet to come too! I know I have fallen victim to the belief that after 25 your riding is only going down hill. If you’re not competing and making your best runs, if you’re not already entering the grand prix ring, if you’re not already established with a barn full of 5 well trained horses and a decked out training schedule before you’re 30 then you’re out of it and may as well throw in the towel. AGAIN…. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.
Tune that ego out and quit listening to it and its ridiculous antics. You are never too old, it is never too late, there is NO finality whatsoever with horses. Horses are our life long passion. As long as you choose a life long learner attitude you can never be done with horses. Look at Mary Burger who set the record of being the oldest person to compete at the NFR at 68 years old! Take Ian Millar for example who didn’t retire from International Show Jumping until the age of 72! And Monty Roberts who is 85 and still actively coaching and writing about horses and training! My point is, it is never too late to commit to your horses. So just MAKE THE COMMITMENT.
Which brings me to my next point, committing to your horses and goals, isn’t as big, scary and difficult as it seems. We make it up in our heads that it is a huge commitment to getting back to riding. We make it seem inconvenient, an obstacle to overcome. Like we have to go 110% all in or our efforts wont make any difference. But the only true obstacle we face when committing to getting back to our horses, is getting out of our own heads and just starting.
Your commitment can be as easy as setting aside one day a week that is put in your schedule as your riding day. It can look like you switching out 1 hour of your favourite Netflix show for an hour of watching training videos from your favourite trainer, or buying a subscription to a horse video platform like Horse.Tv. (Yes there is a Netflix for horse shows and training videos). Committing to your horses again and your riding can mean something as simple as talking about them more, reading about them more, buying my Equestrian Goal Setting Workbook and reflecting and journaling on them more like you used to when you were a kid. Keeping them in the forefront of your mind to keep you inspired and motivated to work with them. Baby steps add up. The more you focus on and commit to your horses the more you’ll find ways to fit them into your busy life.
I’ve seen these little changes in mindset add up to a whole new level of commitment with my horses that I hadn’t felt in years. I’m feeling the connection and relationship with my horses deepen and feeling that fire and passion for riding and horses come back to me like when I was a 10-year-old infatuated and obsessed with anything and everything H.O.R.S.E. I’m putting the B.S excuses, self-doubts and insecurities on the shelf more and bucking up and getting out and working with my horses more and more. My boyfriend and I recently moved into our dream home and I’m beyond fortunate to have a sand arena to work my horses in. But MY commitment level to riding and working the horses still has to be there. The arena can't physically force me to ride, I have to make the choice. Make the choice to work towards my goals with my horses. Make the choice to schedule in my riding time. Make the choice to push past all the mental excuses, fears and self doubts and pledge my commitment to getting on the right path with my horses. Slow and steady. And that’s how I’ll get to where I want to be with my horses, and that’s how you will too.
P.S If you are ready to commit to your horses but don't know where to start, my Equestrian Goal Setting Workbook will help you create goals, narrow in your focus, set dedicated action steps, and follow through and reflect on your progress to really help you and your horse move forward and connect on a deeper level. Check it out HERE!