There are two types of breaks in the world of horseback riding: the ones that are by choice, and the ones out of necessity. In my 15 years as an equestrian, I have taken two voluntary riding breaks. Once, when I sold my horse in college and wanted to get a fresh start as adult without the cost of my mare, and again in 2015 when I had my daughter. These were moments I mostly felt peace about my decision and understood what I needed to do, regardless of how much I missed horses. All of the other smaller, unplanned breaks in between were much worse. I would be convinced that “it was all over” all the time. That somehow since I wasn’t a rider, I was no longer part of that world, or a real equestrian. Yes, I understand that I was quite dramatic.
But now I’m planning on taking another voluntary leave from horseback riding. This stint due to being pregnant with my son, and in the weeks (maybe months) after his birth day to heal. Only now, I feel different. Even with my daughter just a few years ago, I was obsessed with getting back on, and probably pushed myself a bit hard too early. This time around, I am trying to be more reasonable, and more long-term mind. The well-known adage of “life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon” plays in here.
Each time I have taken a break, I have come back, in many cases better than the last time. Maybe not always in riding abilities, but in mental soundness. You do continue to grow up and wise up, even not in the saddle. I attended clinics, shows, friends’ lessons, and lived vicariously through other riders online. Maybe it doesn’t make my first lap of two point after a break any easier, but it gives me a level of grounded that I wouldn’t want to trade. I will admit that keeping my toe in the door of all things equestrian both helps ease the gap that riding leaves, as well as gives me extra motivation to keep working back towards my return.
This holiday season I am packing my stuff up to keep at home. I hope to keep toddling around on some schoolmasters after that, but I don’t think I’m going to pressure myself into any of it. Because I know that regardless, this sport, these horses, and riding will continue to be there. After a baby – yes. After a bad few weeks of work – yes. After an injury – yes. Riding does not change, and I know who I am in the saddle. Sometimes a strict word from a trainer is necessary to keep me in line, but there is an essence of coming home when I swing a leg over my horse.
So no, I do not fear this break – I’m embracing it! I’m embracing the idea of auditing other trainers’ lessons, of expanding my ideas for training the next horse in my life, and perhaps offloading some of the insane amount of tack and supplies things no single rider should own. That way I can be ready, when everything comes together for me again. Which it will, because I know that in the end, I always find my way back to horses.