Any equestrian will agree, having horses in our lives teaches us about budgeting, risks, planning, and reality. As a young adult though, I found that one of my most impacting lessons Iearned was the value of self-care. It’s so easy when you are a little kid; someone makes sure that you get to the doctors’ appointments, or the dentist. They tell you to go to bed when you should, and that eating Ramen noodles twice a day is a bad digestive habit. Then fast forward a few years and suddenly you are out and on your own, welfare becomes about survival, and I feel that in many cases, taking care of yourself falls to the wayside. Now if you’re on your own and throw in horse ownership, this issue grows to a whole new level of self-deprivation.
It shouldn’t be a positive health decision to go without, so your horse can go with. As owners and riders, we are totally fine with the bills that come with horses, yet we shrink away from the idea of getting ourselves taken are of? I remember avoiding an annual dentist appointment one year, just because it seemed bothersome to go. But the horse’s getting it’s teeth done? Obviously! He needs it. Or with everyday human shoes (not riding boots). How long do I need to keep wearing the same shoes before my feet give up? Yet if horse need shoes to make his feet feel better in the winter? He gets them…times 4.
If I’m guessing correctly, most owners make that change happen immediately, without pause. Then horse will need their vaccines maintained, their blankets correctly fitted, and a thousand other health related requirements. For an equestrian, these are all normal, health and safety minded concerns for their horses. And I’m not saying we should lessen our quality of care for our animals.
However, where does that leave the owner? Riders joke that horses are hard on our bodies; and they are correct. Not just from the rigors of such a physical sport, but also in the cultural way that we are taught to automatically do what’s best for horse first. Obviously this is a good thing for the horse, and not something I’m trying to change. I’m just suggesting that this year, push a little more after the horse is cared for and see what you, the rider, might need too. We tend to ignore our own pain or recovery in light that our partners cannot speak for themselves. Yet there are two halves to this partnership. Maybe those $10 flats are hurting your feet for a reason. Perhaps seeing someone about your painful shoulder will not only make you feel better, but ride better as well. We can’t keep pushing ourselves to the limit without consequences on our own health.
And last, but certainly not least, we jump through hoops to ensure our horses are mentally sound as well. We know what’s going on in their lives to extensive detail, and strive to be teaching them correctly and honestly when we ride; we’ve all seen what happens when a horse’s mental state isn’t good. So why shouldn’t we turn the tables here as well? Maybe we won’t rear or bolt when our mental state is dissolving, but it can be just as big of an impact on both our riding and our everyday lives. I ask that you spend some time this year thinking about how to take care of your mental and emotional state as well. Taking care of yourself, and being proud to do so should just be another item to check off our list when planning a show, a ride, or next year’s schedule. In the long run it will create more positive routines and self-care, in both our horses and in ourselves.