Horse riding, especially in a competitive capacity, has always been a world of jargon, fierce comparison and intense drive. “Horsey people”, as they are quite often referred to, are a breed unlike any other homo sapiens sapiens – the closest comparison likely being competitors at dog or cat shows. This is of course an exaggeration, but the point is that we are…different. My future husband likes to refer to it as completely bat-shit crazy, but I guess if he is still here to marry me, who is actually the crazy one? 😉
What exactly is it that makes people think that we are crazy? Well, we will spend hours before a show shining each and every crack of our tack, boots and outfit (including our horse), but have absolutely no problem sifting through a pile of our sick horse’s poop to check for consistency, colour, mucus levels, how much poop was expelled, what was not digested, how wet, hard, soft, moist or crumbly said poop is and how pungent its smell is (this matters, too. I kid you not!). We spend a fortune on blankets (for the horses), that we know will be torn within the season. We might think twice about buying that handbag we’ve been eyeing for a while and will walk with holes in our socks for months, but the moment our horse needs a new blanket or saddle, we easily fork out our life savings, newest loan, six credit cards, our mortage and at least two of our unborn children in order to ensure that our horse receives enough “clothing” for every temperature and air moistness level ranging from Sahara Desert to Ice Fishing Trip in Alaska. We can indisputably relate to cat ladies. It is perfectly acceptable for us to have lengthy conversations with our horses. When they are in distress or pain, we have the ability to feel the anguish of any good mother. Competitive riders often elevate their horses to the ranks of the world’s finest athlete. The good ones will see the merit of their individual horse and will value them as a team member. The less thoughtful among them will still afford their horse with the best amenities their money could possibly buy. There is a pattern emerging here – the undeniable sense of wanting the best for one’s horse.
I have personally met a great many animals in my life that have had this profound effect of inducing an unrelenting need to provide, to care for, protect and nurture. Horses are the greatest among them, because they do not demand that we care for them in the ways that we quite often do. They would, if left with ample roaming space, grazing, water and company, be quite capable of surviving on their own. We see something magical in them, though; something intangible, just out of reach, and for many hundreds of years, man has tried to harness this magic. We love to see them move. We gasp at their raw beauty, sophic gazes and intuitive reactions. We use them for breeding, to attempt to recreate this magnificence. We use them for Polo, Racing, Show Jumping, Eventing, to give ourselves wings. We use them for Driving, Endurance and Western Riding to prove to ourselves that we can push ourselves to the limit, with the help of our horse. We use them for Dressage to recreate their dance and to give our inner atrists expression. We Hack them to escape from our daily lives. We watch them glistening in our paddocks because they are pretty. We argue fiercely about what is best for them…and we hurt each other to prove our point while our horses just carry on being magnificent.
I recently read that everything we do around horses should enhance their beauty, strength and well-being. This type of enhancement is completely subjective, as much as we would like it to be universal. Some people believe that barefoot living in a Paddock Paradise system is enhancement, while others believe that altering the horse’s gait is enhancement. What both points of view have in common, is that, regardless of goals or ego, both believe that their method is best. As I continually learn more about horses, I discover how much there still is to uncover. I feel less and less inclined to have a strong opinion, because as my friend and mentor, Sandy Biggs, always says; “it depends.” My personal stance on certain topics is firm, but even with those, I am merely operating from my own reality. Every equestrian likewise operates from his or her own reality, brought about by new research, years of experience or by the guidance of someone they trust. Horses are very forgiving. They allow more than we often realize and in many ways they thrive despite us. Yet, they thrive. The world keeps spinning. They will not think less of you because Frikkie McAdams beat you on an internet debate. They will, however, doubt your ability to keep them safe if they sense your self-doubt. The best way to avoid this is to see aforementioned reasons for self-confidence in one’s personal theories, employ them, test them, let go of the things you cannot change, do what brings your joy and take a page from your horse’s book: live in the moment. Give it a try and let me hear what you found 🙂