I’m 30. As if that isn’t painful enough to admit on its own – I’m 30 and I’ve been riding all my life, but I’m lucky if I jump my horse over a 2’6″ tall fence.
There are definitely days after a truly painful lesson when I leave the arena thinking, “man, I’m a loser.” I work for an equestrian magazine, for goodness sake. I talk to professional riders and super talented, young, up-and-comers all the time. Their stories and their drive are incredibly inspiring. I try to channel their attitude and their grit in my own rides, at my own barn. But that rarely goes to plan.
I don’t know why I thought it was a good idea to bring along a green Thoroughbred at 30. I work full time. I’m an amateur through and through. Consistency is difficult to maintain, both when I’m in the saddle and when I’m just trying to find the time to log enough rides in a week to make a difference in my horse’s behavior and overall education.
It is an uphill battle, both ways, in the snow, with no shoes on… every day.
It can be difficult to stay motivated. There are definitely tough days when I look at my horse and question why I do this.
What’s even worse is being inundated with friends’ and equestrian bloggers’ social feeds showing blue-ribbon wins and moving up to new levels, like it’s so easy to do. Many of these people are several years younger than me too, which is like adding insult to injury.
It is downright embarrassing to ride your horse at horse shows against children – yes, children – because there aren’t enough adult amateurs to fill the division. Is the ribbon really worth it when you’re beating 14 year olds?
It can be difficult to stay motivated. There are definitely tough days when I look at my horse and question why I do this. Why do I spend all my money on this ungrateful animal? Why do I get up at the crack of dawn to hitch up the trailer and spend the weekend away at horse shows, when most of the people I know my age have leisurely brunch plans and binge Netflix from the couch late into the night?
It’s too easy to feel salty. It’s even easier to feel burnt out.
But I do this because I love it.
I had a tough lesson the other day. I got frustrated with my horse. My trainer let me have a moment immediately afterward, but then she said something that really stuck with me.
“If your horse came out of his stall every day ready to do what you asked all the time, would you really enjoy it?” My initial answer was “duh, heck yes”, but I didn’t dare say that out loud.
“We do this because it is challenging. Because you are creating a bond with this animal. You are learning together. There is no easy out to achieve that,” she said.
Sure, my gangly, uncoordinated horse and I could lob ourselves over a 3’6″ fence tomorrow and probably survive. But if we can’t get the distance right to an 18-inch crossrail, let alone be straight in the strides leading up to the approach, why would I do that?
My trainer’s words are wise. And they serve as a good reminder that I ride for no reason other than my own enjoyment, education and goals. So I shouldn’t compare my path to anyone else’s. And you shouldn’t either.