You know who you are.
You're the one who wants to ride horses but still has so many responsibilities to juggle in the meantime. Life can take you by the hand and in the blink of an eye, you're out of school, well into a family of your own, nurturing a career on the side... and only now, you can finally afford to fulfill your lifelong dream of owning your own horse.
Or you've ridden before and finally have enough time and money to get back into it.
So you take lessons, part board a horse or eventually buy your own favorite equine. It's something you've always wanted to do and the more you get into it, the happier you are. The barn is your chance for a little "me" time. Riding requires you to drop everything and just do, be in the moment and spend time with a magnificent animal.
The thing is, your many responsibilities keep you away from your barn more than you would like. You find you can't always get out to ride in a regular schedule. Your goals get lost to the wayside and your fitness level is never quite where you'd like to be.
Despite it all, I'm here to tell you that there are so many reasons why horses and riding are still not only worthwhile to you, but also a huge benefit to the horse as well. Here are 8 ways you can feel good about your horse ownership and riding decisions even though it may not be the ultimate arrangement.
The guilt factor.
Don't beat yourself up over missed rides. It happens. Sometimes, life just gets in the way and despite your well-laid-out plans, you have to ditch the ride you were so looking forward to. But you know - it's ok. Your horse doesn't know any different and in the grand scheme of things, one missed ride is not going to make or break your entire training program.
Ditto if something urgent happens and you have to leave your horse for a week or more. Honestly, your horse will be there when things settle down for you. Just adjust your expectations and realize that you might have to re-condition both your horse and yourself in that case.
Your horse is glad to be your horse.
Trust me on that! If you're around the horse industry long enough, you will likely hear about the neglect cases and the kill buyers at the auctions and all the other rotten things that can happen to "livestock." If nothing else, you can provide food, shelter and a safe environment for your horse, and he is lucky to have you to make decisions on his behalf and pay for his keep. Many horses aren't so lucky.
Take more breaks but do your best.
If you find that you are less than adequately fit for riding thanks to lack of time and the abundance of hours spent at the office, just change your perspective of what it takes to make a "good" ride. Don't feel that you have to ride for an entire hour, or that you are committed to doing a whole lot during a riding session. Just get that saddle and bridle on and head out for a quick ride. Make your ride shorter. Take longer walk breaks.
Even during the shorter ride, be there, give it all you've got and work hard. Stay focused, listen to the horse, and respond accordingly. But give yourself some slack when needed.
Listen to your body.
Walk more often and catch your breath. Take it easy if you have an existing ache or pain (post instead of sit trot, for example). Know your limitations well enough so that you can ride within them. It's no good if you hurt yourself just for the sake of a ride.
Set realistic expectations.
Sometimes, we want to achieve more than we can realistically do with the time we have. Adjust your riding goals and expectations based on your other life responsibilities. If you can only ride once or twice a week, you'll have to consider that your goals might take longer to reach, simply because of the limited practice time. That's just fine.
Realistically, goals will take longer to reach. Your horse will be less fit. You will be huffing and puffing sooner than later. This is to be expected. All you have to do is patiently work at your goals and know that it might take longer to hit those milestones.
Help might come in many shapes and sizes. If you can't ride often enough, consider getting a part-boarder. If you need help keeping your horse's exuberance down to a manageable level, consider hiring a trainer. If you want to improve your skills, join a lesson program. It's all about surrounding yourself with the right people at the right time.
Enjoy the ride!
Well, because that's what it's all about, really. Don't get too caught up in the missed opportunities or the longer timelines. I suspect that most of us are in it for the love of the horse, and for the sheer enjoyment we feel whether in a lesson or on the trails or in the cross-ties, just beautifying our four-legged friend.
Finally! The Ultimate Rider-Centered Program!
Ready for something completely different? If you liked what you read here, you might be interested in the new Horse Listening Practice Sessions.
This is NOT a program where you watch other people's riding lessons. Start working with your horse from Day 1.
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More related reading:
8 Ways To Help Your Horse Achieve His Highest Potential: Regardless of what we want to do with our horses, our first responsibility is always to the horse.
17 Wise Reflections - Straight From The Horse's Mouth! My horse, Annahi, is full of words of wisdom for those horses around her who are willing to listen.
Eight Legs Plus Two: A poem.
42 Ways to Learn, Play and Grow With Your Horse: Horses give to us in countless ways. We play, learn and grow with them, making horseback riding not merely a sport (which it truly is, like no other), but so much more.
The Top 8 Perks of Horse Keeping: Here are a few positives that keep us going when everyone else is enjoying their leisure time.