cropped-ride.jpgThis letter is for you.

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.

TSF Aussie

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. 

Be patient.

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.

Get help.

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. 

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The Top 8 Perks of Horse Keeping: Here are a few positives that keep us going when everyone else is enjoying their leisure time.


    1. Awww thanks so much for your kind words, Sheryl! I grapple with the same problems myself all the time, so I’m really speaking from experience here. I’m glad to hear that you’re finding the articles useful.

  1. As an owner of a owner of a horse with a genetic myopathy (muscle disorder), I’ve substituted, what I can’t do with what she can’t do. There are days horses with injuries or disabilities have to miss their schedules as well as those we can’t make. Those missed days cause the most agony for us. Thanks for reminding us there are make up days.

  2. Dr Bo Brock DVM – great book – you horse and animal people will love this – S

    Cell Phones and Pink Skin

    Have you ever just really stopped for a moment and considered the cell phone? I graduated from veterinary school in 1990 and there was no such thing. That means that twentysix years ago the idea of a phone that you could talk on while driving in your car was only fiction.

    I purchased my first cell phone in 1993. It was a “bag phone” and was about as easy to carry around as a suitcase, so I never took it out of the truck. Let’s have a look at how much things have changed: I am typing this article while being the passenger in a pick up truck in the middle of nowhere on my current cell phone, an I-Phone of some designated number that has more capabilities than the space shuttle.

    I have to say that for an old dude, I feel like I have ridden the cell phone craze pretty well. I have learned to use it to communicate with my clients and keep them in touch with text messages and texted pictures on a daily basis. I probably send 20 or 30 texts a day to clients and referring veterinarians. I love it, it lets them know you are thinking of them and gives them the progress of their critter without having to carry on a long conversation.

    Mrs. Craig was a techno nut. She was insistent that I text her pictures of the surgery step by step as it occurred. I assured her that I would have one of the techs take pictures with her phone and when it was over I would send them to her.

    Olaf was the name of her horse. He was an extremely pink skinned paint horse that had befallen the terrible curse of many pink skinned geldings…….Skin cancer. And most of them get it on the penis. Horses with extremely pink skinned penises are at a very high risk for squamous cell carcinoma as they age, and Olaf was no exception.

    The cancer had become very invasive and conservative treatments to get it under control were no longer working. The only solution is to amputate the penis far enough away from the tumor as to remove all the cancer cells. It is a fairly routine surgery that horse surgeons perform quite often, but it can be a bit bloody. This is one surgery that requires a surgeon and an assistant surgeon. Some one has to hold the penis out and the proper position while the other does the surgery.

    We started the surgery and I informed one of the techs to photograph the process of removing the penis one step at a time so I could send three or four pictures to Mrs. Craig when we were done. The surgery went very well and I saw the tech take a few pictures as we went.

    When it was over I had the tech text me the pictures and I went to Mrs. Craig’s chart to punch her cell phone number into my phone and was going send her three of the pictures that showed the progress of the surgery from start to finish so she would know everything had gone just fine.

    I briefly glanced over the photos with the eye of a veterinarian but never really stopped to consider that a photograph of a pink penis with a hand grasping the base of it in the before picture may look a little too human if gazed upon by eyes that were not a veterinarians.

    I pushed send on the text message of the before photo intending to send the other two and then a brief caption of what we had done and what was happening in each photo. Before I could get the second picture downloaded and sent, the phone rang and I recognized the number as another client that I needed to talk to. I answered and spoke to the client for about ten minutes.

    When I finished the call and returned to may task of sending the next two pictures, I was surprised to see that Mrs. Craig had already responded. I clicked on her name and found a rather startling response from her on the first picture I had sent:

    “That is the most perverted thing I have ever seen. You are gross and disgusting and should be turned over to the police. I have your phone number and I am going to send this to the police and you will never send women horrible pictures again!!”

    What? That seemed like a crazy response from her. I couldn’t imagine what the fuss was. I had not had a chance yet to send the next two photos or a description but what in the world would have made her go ballistic like that? I looked at the picture……..Hmmmmm……well, I tried to imagine what I would have thought of it if someone would have sent it to me with no explaination…….Oh my…..It did look a little too human and perhaps pornographic. Wow… I figured Mrs. Craig didn’t know my cell number and when she saw the next two pictures of the surgery, she would know it was her horse and be just fine….. so I sent them.

    It wasn’t one minute later and I got an equally angry return text with even more threats of me spending years in prison. It was then that I checked the phone number closely. OMG……I was one number off. I had sent three pictures of a pink horse weenie (that didn’t look like a horse weenie) to a total stranger, the last two revealing surgical amputation.

    I panicked. I had no idea what to do. Somewhere there was a person looking at a horse weenie surgery thinking I was some pervert. They saw the first picture and were disgusted, but when they saw the second two, there is no telling what they were thinking. I decided there was nothing to do but call the number, hoped they answered, and do my best to explain.

    The voice at the other end of the phone sounded like an older lady. I called from a different number than my cell phone, knowing she would probably never answer that. I started a profuse apology and did my best to explain the situation, all the while throwing in as many “Yes Mam’s” and respectful tones as I could possibly muster up.

    It turned out she was a really funny old lady. When she finally believed me that I was a veterinarian sending pictures to a client and looked close enough at the pictures to see it really was a horse, she laughed with me for a good five minutes and assured me she was going to send the pictures to her grandson who was studying to be a veterinarian in Wisconsin.

    I got off the phone and remembered that giant bag phone from 23 years ago. This would have never happened back then.

    Sent from my iPhone

  3. I loved this article. I would add that often I just go out and fool with my horse; brushing, ground work is a way to connect too and, done right, can be very valuable for future riding as respect and obedience is something done on the ground first.

  4. Wow. My world is upside down right now and I have been beating myself up for not getting out to the barn. I made it out 2x in the past three weeks due to the whirlwind that is my life presently. Thank you for this, I SO needed it.

  5. I’m one of these adults (no family though) and I have a big issue with this guilty feeling, because after not having been worked regularly for a few month in the winter 2015/2016, my horse got diagnosed with chronic bronchitis. He needs to be exercized every day now and of course, I still have the same amount of work as before, so sometimes I have the impression I’ll get crazy, and at the same time I feel guilty because if I had worked him more, my horse probably wouldn’t be that bad today… :/