Sunday, January 9, 2011

Why I Ride

Why do I ride? A simple four word question that has such a complex answer lies in wait of an explanation, doesn't it? I go back in time to tell you that I began to ride when I was just a little 6 year old munchkin. Moreover, like many young girls, my mount’s kind, soulful eyes captivated me as did the scent of hay, grain and shavings, the smell of leather in the barn owner’s tack shop and most of all, the sheer joy of receiving such a gift from my Dad, the years of lessons he provided for me. Even though my Dad has passed on, I clearly remember him patiently standing by the dusty outdoor ring! I would catch his eye as my mount, Snowball and I, went round and round and his face always told a story, “You’re doin’ great honey”, that’s what his eyes said. Oh, how I miss that encouragement today!

Anyway, the truth was that I was filled with a compulsion to ride because of the excitement and even the fear I felt when astride these beautiful creatures. The horse, with a mind of his own, unpredictable with flights of fancy, provided a melting pot of happiness and a healthy dose of fear. I forged ahead and my passion grew with the inevitable passing of time! However, over the years my feeling and the reasons why I continued to ride changed dramatically. In my early twenties, my riding then morphed into a new phase, it was all about the competition or the fox hunt or the tall boots or the new saddle and of course, my horses were important to me as well but the focus was different – a different time and a different place in my life. Therefore, when I look at my reason for riding today and what I feel for my horse, it’s a whole lot different from why I rode and what I felt so many years ago.

So, flash forward to finally “growing up”, I suddenly realized that I had taken some 17 1/2 odd years away from horse ownership and did so to finish college, begin a career, raise a family, etc. When I reached my early 50’s, it occurred to me that I was missing something primal and that was my need to reconnect with a horse again, on a one-to-one basis, “Yup, I was ready to be an owner again!” I realized that the desire and passion that drove me to ride as a child and as a young adult was replaced by a strong need to “give something back” to equines in general. I needed to find a way to show my thanks and my respect for the horse and that led me to feeling passionate about “rescuing” a horse rather than buying a “pleasure or show ready” horse as had been the case as a younger person. I wanted another Thoroughbred but this time I wanted one that was unwanted because he was not fast enough, one that would have been tossed aside because he was in poor mental or physical health or even both and sadly, one that might end up facing a horrific end at an auction. In other words, I was determined to give a new life to a horse “after he left the track” and that’s what prompted the revitalization of my interest in horse ownership! 

I suddenly realized that my desire to ride again, on a horse of my own, had taken on a whole new meaning. The possibility of helping a horse find a new "life after the track" became my single focus.  I found him, a horse that had been taken from a fairground race track, a horse that needed sustenance, love but most important was that he needed to learn to trust.  So, I began to devote myself to his well being and what he gave me in return is why I ride now.

The truth was that I did not care if I couldn’t ride the horse I saved, as long as I was able to save even one horse from auction, that selfless act would satisfy my needs! However, as it turned out, my boy, my Valie, retired from the track in sound condition! So, I ride and he takes me anywhere I want to go, do I want to forget the troubles of the day, do I just need to relax and enjoy this simple pleasure, whatever my reason on that particular day is why I ride!

We walk to the mounting block, he stands like a rock because I really believe that he knows my mounting hand is disabled and despite the fact that it may take five times and sometimes even more to get in the saddle, he doesn’t move until I am safely astride and cue him that’s it’s time to walk. So, off we go! I ride him and he carries me with care, I encourage him when he hesitates or is wary and in turn, he trusts me enough to go forward when he feels my leg and hears my voice, when I’m scared, he takes baby steps and when I’m not, he gives me as much as I want but never more. “….could I continue to go on expounding about the genuine connection we have, “Yes, I could but I think you get the picture”.

"....only 3 months off the track!"
If you would like to comment on this topic, I would truly love to hear why you ride and how you connect with your horse!