Thinking about not having a regular horse to ride is distressing. I find peace and rejuvenation on the back of a horse or in the quiet of the barn. For as long as I can remember, I would climb on the bus after school to be dropped off at the end of the barn’s driveway. Day after day did I head straight to the barn for several hours, loving on my horse and learning how to have a relationship with him.
But what happens when you no longer own a horse? When you no longer know the next time you’ll be able to find peace, and center yourself in your saddle?
In passing, I’ve had conversations with friends who sold their horses, or they no longer ride regularly. They commiserate with me over the lack of a mount; they understand how miserable it can feel. Once horses are in your blood, no amount of transfusions can repeal that passion. They’re a part of who you are, so when they’re not in your life it’s understandable your identity feels different.
In pursuit of the horse-loving, riding person you are, you might begin to ponder your options. Does anyone in your old barn have a horse who needs exercise? Perhaps your old trainer knows someone who needs their lesson horses schooled once a week. If not, you might try Craigslist; horror stories galore exist there, yes, but there may also be a free ride. And if the horror stories of Craigslist make your heart beat a little too hard, there are Facebook groups which promote horseless riders and riderless horses. Maybe your match is there.
If only there was an app that matched horseless riders to riderless horses, am I right?
Unfortunately there isn’t. The opportunities to ride sometimes come far, few, and inbetween. You begin to get less picky, offering the phrase, “I’ll ride anything with four legs” when asked if you want to ride so-and-so’s horse. Hey, who cares if she has a screw loose and you may, quite possibly, end up launched into the air like a failed rocket. Secretly, I’ll admit that prospect makes me uncomfortable, but a horse is a horse, regardless of whether they’re turbo-charged and launch ready.
Age-old wisdom tries to comfort us by saying challenges that face us are preparing us for what we truly want. What we go through, we learn lessons from which apply to the rest of our lives. Being a horseless rider certainly creates obstacles (ones I’d rather leap over on a darling 16.1 warmblood, should I have my preference). But to over come these obstacles, I have to step out of my comfort zone.
I have to reach out to contacts, and feel no shame in asking if they know of a horse I can ride. In pursuit of the horse-loving girl I know I am, at heart or otherwise, I owe this to myself. And you do, too. The little girl who fell in love with a pony is in all of us, still. Unless you, kind gentleman, began riding as a little boy and you too fell in love. That person is in all of us, and we’re better off trying to grow and overcome obstacles in this period of horse-less-ness than setting aside something that’s part of us.
You don’t have to part with your identity of being a horse-person. Of being a rider. If you imagine your equestrian career like a book, perhaps this is the middle part where the protagonist learns valuable lessons that will, in the end, help them get what they want. But for now, it’s best we put our heads down (figuratively, of course, because who in their right mind would look down on a horse?) and create opportunities for ourselves to swing into the saddle every now and again.