I’ve been riding more lately, not taking lessons, just riding for fun. We ride in a small pasture, down a residential street with rabid Chihuahuas and finally onto a trail through the woods. My barn isn’t fancy, but it does offer a nice place to ride. I used to think I would never progress in my riding without a proper arena, but now I realize that’s hogwash. Riding anywhere will help me progress as a rider and I honestly think hacking out for fun over the past couple years has improved my riding considerably. I still have a long way to go, but at last I feel that I can influence Baron positively. I’m used to the way he moves, I’m relaxed on him and I’m finally balanced enough for him to round up his back and lower his head. He’s out of shape and I am way out of shape, but I think we look okay considering how sporadically I’ve ridden over the past couple years.
These are some still shots from a video I took today. Like I said, I’m nothing special, but I think Baron is looking good. He’s relaxed, ears pricked forward like he’s having fun and he’s rounding up through his back. He needs to develop more of a topline, but he doesn’t run around with a hollow back and his neck up high like a camel. In the video he stays consistently in a nice frame. I wasn’t trying to put him in a frame. It just happens naturally now that I’m more balanced. I still need to get my leg further underneath me and I feel like I stick my elbows out like a chicken. Always something to improve on!
As always, I welcome advice on improving my riding!
I bought Baron when my first baby was 3 months old, even though everyone told me I was crazy and I would never be able to handle a newborn, a full time job and training an ex-racehorse. Truth be told, it has been a little nuts. There were multiple setbacks and even times when I thought I would have to sell Baron. But I hung on to him through a crappy economy, another baby and various serious injuries. Even though my responsibilities at home and work kept me from riding more than a few times a year, I held on to my horse.
For the past few years while I have been raising two toddlers and working, Baron has lived at a small self-care barn two minutes from my house. I am responsible for his entire care, from feeding to turn out to mucking stalls and grooming. I’ve worked to keep him even though I haven’t ridden him with any regularity for years.
It wasn’t fun to pay for a horse I didn’t have time to ride. It wasn’t fun to watch my friends show their horses and bring home buckets of ribbons. It wasn’t fun to muck a stall every day, in the middle of winter and the sticky humidity of Atlanta summer, for a horse I didn’t ride.
Owning a horse is a luxury and one that I chose to the exclusion of nearly everything else. I don’t have hobbies, I wear my trendy friends’ hand-me-downs and I don’t get manicures or go out for $12 cocktails with the girls. I hold on to a horse instead.
See, the horse has become more than childhood dreams of blue ribbons and gleaming tall boots, cantering around courses against a backdrop of fall foliage. The horse has become more than the vehicle by which I will attain all of my equestrian fantasies. He has become my friend. I love Baron and I would rather spend an hour mucking stalls and lugging fifty pound bags of feed than drinking cocktails and discussing handbags with the girls.
Over and over through the past three years I’ve chosen Baron over the money I would make by selling him and the money I would save if he were no longer mine. I’ve chosen to keep him because I love him, even when I can’t ride him. To me he is utter and absolute equine perfection, the childhood pony I never had and the fulfillment of years of longing for a horse of my own. He gave me my first confident canter, my first horse show and my first blue ribbon.
More than that, he has given me countless quiet moments at the barn, with only the sounds of snuffling grain and then sighs of contentment. He’s given me barns covered in picturesque snow and horses trotting over hilltops to meet me at the gate. There is no ego in these things, no ribbons or riding accomplishments or moments to brag about to my horsey friends, just the calm and quiet ecstasy that only true horse lovers understand. How could I sell someone who has given me so much?
Now, FINALLY, my life is settling down to a point where I have time to ride again. My kids are old enough to play at the barn while I ride or watch a movie at home with my husband. They’re old enough to enjoy sitting on Baron bareback in the pasture while he grazes and to pick blackberries along the fence. My son likes to sit on the old tractor while I do my chores. They’re both old enough to think it’s pretty cool that we have a horse.
It’s been a long time coming, but now that it’s here, it’s heavenly. I’ve been riding a couple times a week and my five year old daughter usually comes to the barn with me at feeding time. She isn’t horse crazy like I was, but she likes to sit on Baron while he eats and she loves to pet Lou, the orange barn cat. We’re a horse family; it’s become part of who we are.
I guess you could say that now that my kids are older, I’m getting back into horses. I never really got out, I just took a hiatus. Nonetheless, it’s good to be back!