I was that horse crazy girl growing up. My second grade teacher asked my mom if I could write about anything other than horses. Every book I checked out, every free choice topic report in school, every art project or craft activity was about horses. My parents started me riding young. My first rides started when I was three and went through my entire childhood. English, Western, Rodeo, Trail Riding, I did it all. It was all just part of the fun of growing up with parents that raised horses. In my younger years, I loved riding anything and the young green colts were my favorite. I loved shaping how they would turn out and making progress with each ride. I loved having to actually sit up and ride when out and about. Who wanted a horse you just sat there on? My sister and friend of mine even had it all figured out. He would start them from scratch, I would do all the finishing riding, and my sister would show them. What a plan for our futures.
Fast forward ahem, a few years. I now find myself in that category of the older rider. I ask myself “How did I get here?” on a frequent basis. In my mind, I’m still that sixteen year old girl that loves a challenge with a horse. But my mind and body just aren't up to the challenge anymore, no matter how much I want to be. I'm took fifteen from active horse riding to go to college, start a career, and have family. I still think I know a lot about horses, and wish I would have found a way to stay active over those years. But we can’t turn back the clock.
Horses are back in my life and have been for about seven years now. My first horse in my adult life came with the property we bought in Texas. We were buying a house and some land and they had a horse for sale. They just added him in on the whole deal. Zippo was a decent horse, but had no special training. And I wanted to ride like in my mind. So we bought a couple more little horses for the kids and hubby to ride along with me, and soon I had five horses that we actually got out and rode some. Then the novelty wore off, and times got busy. The kids still rode when we would go out and help them, and they rode in local rodeos. It was not the riding of my memories, but it was good. I actually looked forward to going out and just feeding every day.
Then we moved back to Colorado. This was coming home, for both my husband and I. Oh the plans I had for horses, with us being back on my turf. We signed the kids up for 4H and found an older Appy Show Gelding worth his weight in gold and a broke quarter horse mare to go along with the two we brought with us from Texas. We could ride again. I’m a firm believer in kids need broke horses, so I made sure the kids were on good mounts. Oh, but not my hubby and I. The two from Texas were a three year old un-started mare and a half broke gelding. I loved riding him but not many other people did. But with the move came repairs to the place, longer commutes to work, and more commitments with the kids getting older and being involved with more activities. Nothing was working out how I'd wanted it. Riding was and is something, that there just never seems time for.
Now we are getting ready to start our fourth year of horses in our new area. I’m really re-evaluating where we are and what we are doing. As an older rider, now I have come to some truths. First, I don’t bounce back like I use to. Like I said, I use to love to ride the young horses. Bucking didn’t bother me then. I could ride it out or stop it. And I love seeing my son’s face light up and hearing his giggles when his paint mare gives a little buck for the heck of it. But the last time I had a horse buck me, it hurt for two weeks and didn’t even come out of the saddle. Second, my joints don’t bend like they use to, so a mounting block is mandatory. Third, these extra pounds make me self-conscious about getting in the show ring or even just knowing how my body is going to be balanced in the saddle. Fourth, time to ride is a luxury. But I think it needs to become a priority, to help with the stress of my job and the depression I feel creeping into my mind. I may have grand ideas about riding every night and on the weekends, but then my full-time life closes in. After a two hour commute home, all I want to do is have some dinner, spend some time playing with my kids, and going to bed. Even on the weekends, there are errands and chores and the un-ending list of repairs that an older home and barn require. Which leads me to my final and probably most important truth: I still love to ride, but I just don’t have the time and energy to go grab that young colt and spend quality time on him. And I don’t enjoy that part of it, or find it to be an interesting challenge anymore. I want a broke horse that is ready to do what I want to do, with minimal extra work.
I am excited to see how this year goes. Right now we are back up to five horses again. I have my old man Appy, that will be twenty-five this year. With luck, the plan for him this year is to be my daughter’s main 4H horse for one more year, and my two year-old son’s lead line mount. He will perform great at this job. My sixteen year old new paint mare will hopefully recover from the injury she got within two weeks of us getting her. After all, teenage boys have to work a little harder to compete against all those cute girls. So, this really well-broke mare is supposed to help him reach that next level. His nine year old mare from last year will be his fall-back horse, or (I’m hoping), my horse for the year. I’m really looking forward to having a broke horse that I don’t have to share with anyone else, and can just jump on and ride, even if for just a few minutes. Then there is the four-year-old. She is green broke, and even though she is my daughters future mare, and a present from her grandpa, I’m dreading having to ride her to get her finished. But I will figure it out one way or the other-- at least I hope. That leaves my six year old mare that we brought from Texas. I think it’s time to sell her. She is my dream horse, and as close to a Fresian as I'll ever be able to afford. But we started her as a three-year-old with a solid sixty days of training. Then she has basically sat for the last two years with maybe three to four rides a year. It's difficult to justify her feed bill when we barely ride her. And if I really face it, she will never be a show horse. Not for the type of shows we are going to. I know I struggle with finding time at all to ride, let alone the hours needed to finish out two green-broke horses. I just don't see the joy in that. So, I have to make the tough decisions now. At least I'm at peace with it.
So, my goal for 2014 is to get back in the saddle and find the joy and peace of riding, while hopefully getting to enjoy a mostly broke horse.