I was at lunch last week with some of my friends from my Masters Swim Team. I was trying to explain to them why I’d missed the last six weeks of practice: spring fox hunting had taken up most of my free time and a pulled lat muscle (from a fall) had made the thought of 3,000 meters of freestyle too painful to attempt. Even though it had not deterred me from fox hunting or from riding my green TB.
They rolled their eyes at me and muttered something about yet another riding injury. It’s true. Last year, I suffered a broken rib (and I wasn’t even riding!), and I’m almost always sporting a bruise or three that tend to be highly visible when you’re wearing a swimsuit. Thinking back, there was the summer when my husband forbid me to go to the pool because I had been kicked in the thigh and the bruise was so appallingly purple. Or the time when I could only wear sandals . . .
Let’s face it, for many of us, horses are an obsession. We’ve loved them since childhood, dreamed about them, read about them, spend every spare cent on them, and devote hours and hours of time to them. I’ve always enjoyed Cookie McClung’s articles in the Chronicle of the Horse, later collected into several books — Horsefolk are Different and Horsefolk are Still Different are the two on my shelf– because I could completely relate to her stories and the way she’d rearranged her life (and her family’s life) to foxhunt. My husband has found me chuckling over them several times but never finds the stories funny; rather, he shakes his head because he cannot understand how my passion for horses has lasted since childhood. My parents certainly hoped I’d outgrow it!
I do believe that having a passion in your life is, for the most part, a good thing. The time I spend with my horses, both riding them and caring for them, is usually relaxing and rejuvenating. The total focus that is required when I ride is one of the few times during the day when I’m not multi-tasking in my brain, trying to solve business problems and figure out what to cook for dinner. When I ride, I am almost in a meditative state. If I haven’t ridden for several days, I get irritable and cross. Usually, at that point my family begs me to go to the barn!
There’s been a lot written about the special bond that exists between humans and horses; a partnership that started when horses were more integral to our daily lives. But I think that what equestrians experience today is different. Our horses are more like pets (or in some cases, children) with whom we share an adventure. There’s a thrill to riding a horse that doesn’t diminish with age and a sense of freedom and joy that is unique to my riding experience.
I hear people say that riding is less expensive than therapy. I’m not sure that’s necessarily true, but I would wholeheartedly agree that it’s a lot more fun.