If you’re a classic horse junkie, you’re always thinking about them. When is my next ride, what horse show am I going to next, my next lesson, my next Rolex, the next HJU post about funny things our horses do.
“Next” is sort of a way of life in the horse world. To some extent, it follows the natural order of life for equines, who are also always moving, always going toward food, water, warm sunlight. The horse was made to travel, eat on the go, stick together, run from danger, live to fight another day by leaving the unknown, the scary, the difficult or frightening behind. Avoidance meant life goes on for the horse in the wild. We utilize these instincts to help us jump, event, do dressage, and trail ride and true to his nature, the horse protects us riders with his instincts.
We get so comfortable with “next” in our horse life that we continue to push for higher heights, bigger tasks with our horses, bigger courses, the next level, higher jumps, longer schooling sessions, lessons, trail rides. We are encouraged to go forward by instructors, trainers, chat room junkies, fellow Facebook horse friends who are always supporting, validating, providing positive vibes. It’s perfectly well-meaning, but it has a way of making you feel as though you’re doing the Right Thing by wanting more, because no one says ,”wait a minute”. There’s a little nagging danger, I think, in this mindset for a horseman.
I was cleaning up some old photo files and found a couple of pictures of some upper level riders on younger horses competing in the dressage portion of an event. They were just snapshots of horses in a moment during a dressage test. But you can clearly see they were young, the development was not there, they were working toward the engagement and strength needed for the next level of competition. I contrasted these with a couple of photos I’ve seen much more recently of the same horses, and to be honest, there wasn’t much difference in their frames, yet they were competing at a MUCH higher level.
I am not about to second guess, or third guess, an upper level rider. But I wonder if the insular world of horses in general, of our own making, does a lot to get us all into a group dynamic of “next”. I have some friends who don’t compete, don’t show, and don’t want to. They enjoy trail riding with buddies. They know I compete and show, and they often guard themselves from my “look at my ribbons” attitude. I’ve been listening to them lately, and you know, after the second glass of wine, or third cup of coffee, in the end, to do what is right for the horse is more important in your heart than getting somewhere forward in your goals. We don’t have to move up all the time. We can stay where we are if we are comfortable and happy there, and if our horses are also comfortable and happy there. If little nagging voices in your head are telling you, “it’s just fine if we jump 2’6″”, then it is probably OK just to jump 2’6″. We don’t always have to move up. We don’t always have to try the next level. Sometimes it is just ok to stay where you are and enjoy the quality of life you have with a great best friend.
I’m going to think about that today and become more and more at peace with that concept and I know my horses will enjoy their lives more if I take the time for the third cup of coffee.