There is nothing better for a long or trying day than a great ride. I cannot wait until I get out of class each day to spend some quality time with The Mare, and wipe away the worst parts of my day. If I’m feeling down, a little barn time is often the perfect remedy. I believe that adding some time with a horse to any day can make it better. It makes a good day a great one, and usually it can make a bad one marginally better.
I find solace, and stress-relief and happiness when I’m at the barn and/or in the saddle.
But, I know better than to touch the irons if I’m angry.
I don’t mean, a little annoyed/peeved at XYZ thing that happened. Those are days when barn time is especially useful. Barn time is great to drown out the day-to-day annoyances of things I can’t change, but still bug me.
I mean the days when I’m frustrated, or super upset to the point of distraction or lashing out. I try not to have these days often; it’s a waste of time to be that angry.
But some days, that’s just how things go, isn’t it? Everyone has their, terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad days.
I love the quotes, “There are only 2 emotions that belong in the saddle: one is a sense of humor and the other is patience” (John Lyons), and “Every time you ride you are either training, or untraining your horse” (Gordan Wright).
And I think if you combine these two bits of wisdom, you’ll have the crux of why I will forfeit a day of riding when I’m royally irritable. It’s just not worth it.
I’m going into the ride, already uptight and resentful for reasons that are (usually) totally unrelated to my horse. And that puts me in a place where I am 100% impatient, and not at all in the mood to take a joke. Which inevitably will lead to me picking a fight, or (yes, I’ll admit to this one) making a correction that might be more harsh than my horse deserved.
Which brings it around to the second bit of advice. Now I’m tense and overcorrecting for something that my horse potentially doesn’t even know what she did, or has never been corrected to that degree for that error in previous rides. What does that teach her? Is getting into a pissing match really how I wanted to spend my ride that day? Is undoing days/weeks/months of training, or sending my horse into a tizzy, or overcorrecting (and then feeling super guilty for doing it because your horse isn’t even who or what you’re mad at/about)…is that really what I was hoping to accomplish when I swung my leg over the saddle?
I’ve made the realization that I usually end up riding much longer than normal because I’ve picked a fight with my horse, and I’m just trying to get back to a baseline with her and end on a semi-decent note. I end these rides not any more relaxed than when I started, and I’ve probably only deterred our training, if not shuffled it backwards a bit. The great ride I was looking for to be a pick-me-up has morphed into the worst ride in recent memory. It’s not productive, for either of us.
And so instead, I go out for my barn fix. I brush my horse. Maybe I lunge her. I feed her some treats. And I’ve learned that if I’m having one of those days where I’m worked up and storming over something, I need to recognize it. It’s not worth it to me or to my horse to force it. I’ll come back to the barn the next day with a better attitude and the work ethic, patience, and humor I need, and that my horse deserves.