Friday, March 27, 2009

Why do you ride?

(I like the look this horse has..... The personality in his face and the cute way he wants to stand on that ledge!)

Why do you ride?







I've had to think a lot about this lately.

You see I've have a horse available to me right now to ride. She is a cute little palomino mare named Sugar. She's smooth gated, straight forward and has a lot of miles on her. She's also sour, pissy and has developed a bucking habit. Luckily she's too fat, too round and too lazy to put any power behind her crow hops... she's just telling you to piss off in the only language she has available to her. I'd love to play with her and see if I can get her thinking about things in a more positive fashion. But you see that's not my job. I'm suppose to "just ride".

But I have trouble "just riding" these days.... I have an odd new compulsion to try and help out the horses I ride. I just cant seem to help myself. And more importantly, I'm no longer too interested in just getting on and going.

Do I love to ride? Yes. But if all I wanted to do is sit on a horse and go... I could head on down to the local grocery store and spend my time on a horse that runs on quarters. Heaven knows it'd be cheaper.

But I want to be engaged. I want to be communicating... interacting... invested.

That means I am either helping a horse I dont love....

Or "just riding" one I do.

Dont get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I'm happy and VERY thankful to be able to go to the barn. To feel the soft touch of a muzzle on my cheek and come home with my hair full of sawdust. I love horses and will take them any way I can get em'.... But I miss loving a horse. I miss the bond. I miss the connection. I miss this....


This video is of a clinician named Jonathan Field. He's not my Guru but he sure the hell has taught me a lot about horses. He's not perfect. He sells caps, sticks and expensive halters. He teaches 45 year old housewives how to back their horses up with the shake of a lead rope.... that is when they're not busy ogling over him in his jeans and cowboy hat.... God bless his soul. JF's techniques are not new. Their not his. And their not the only way. But he's the kind of cowboy that makes a horse sigh and melt under his touch. (He has that effect on women too). He's a good hand... great even. One day, I hope I'll be too.


  1. What a good post, I think I'll take a stab at it. I ride because I love the feeling up on a horse. The connection and control over an animal that is much larger than u and full of power. But like u, sometimes I too get caught up in "training". Working on things with horses to make them better, straighter, more responsive and lighter. Sometimes I need to remind myself to hit the trails and just mosey along. I do this a lot in the summer with my horse. When we're out on the trail sure we'll work on things. My buggest thing now is cantering down the dirt road and asking for flying changes in both directions. But other then that, we hang out, explore and in teh heat of the summer we go swimming with friends! and I mean swimming, over our heads and everything. It is such fun. i try and take the time to enjoy the woods and all of it's sounds and smells. I enjoy the fact that I have a horse that trusts me and is always listening to me. My horse who when we hit a large open space begs me to let him gallop, i love that.

    I try and keep a healthy balance of training rides and rides just for the sake of riding. That is why I started working wth horses in the first place. Horses and riding is my life blood, it's the last thing I think about before I go to sleep and the first thing in my head whne I wake up. I'm also lucky enough to not only ride my horse but basically any other horse I want at the barn, a choice of about 30. It can be kinda daunting. But the strongest bond I have with any horse is my own appy. He's not perfect by any means but we love each other and that's what counts in my book.

  2. Although I like to ride, it is secondary to the relationship I have with my horses. I just like being around them. Riding is a way to get me out of my comfort zone. It makes me push myself and try things that scare me a little or a lot. It's something I don't naturally do well -- AT ALL -- and something at which I must persevere.

    I don't think you can ever "just" ride. To do so would be dangerous. I think you have to constantly be engaged, teaching, correcting, encouraging, whether it's your horse or not. Nature of the beast.

    Riding is about the only dangerous pastime I have, and I do like the rush!

  3. OK - here's my take...

    I'm not at the stage where I feel I can train or really fix a horse. Schooling things I've learned recently in lessons, sure, but fixing a horse with a problem is beyond my skills right now. Although, if I had a horse with a problem and someone was willing to ride and try to fix things for free, you can bet I would let them try whatever they wanted!!

    Why do I ride? I love the feeling of the fresh air and being outside. I don't feel the horse "connection" bit as much as most people yet. Maybe it's just because I haven't had Rusty long enough. I also love that while riding, I don't have enough brain power to worry about all of my other problems - all I can think about is the horse and what I am doing. Riding and being at the barn recharges my mind and my soul - that sounds a bit cheesy, but it is my time and my goals. No one else is my problem at that time.

  4. I miss having a relationship like that too. I had it with my first horse, Meade. Well, except for the stop and go silliness and laying down, our relationship was similar. I often rode him for fun bridle-less and bareback. There was a bond there I haven't achieved with any other horse. Maybe I'll get there with Casey one day but he's still re-learning how to just be a horse right now.

  5. Why do I ride?

    Because to ride is to live.

  6. Why do I ride? As I child I rode to escape, to be with my best friend, to feel free. As an adult I ride for the thrill of it, peace and serenity it brings to my life, the feelings of connection and partnerships. At one point when riding contributed to my economic well being I fell out of love with it but time and some distance has me once again yearning for the bond, the feeling of oneness that a good ride can impart. Having been a rider and horse owner for over 25 years I think not riding and not having horses would be like not walking or having legs for me. It's such a part of who I am I can't imagine being without.

  7. My relationship with my horse is my primary objective, riding is second. I love the bond made and feeling connected with your equine partner both on the ground and in the saddle. Feeling like a team, working together. Not as two separate beings but as one. It's something I was happy to acheive with my TB mare Sally after having her for 8 years. It took having the right teacher however, to show us how to work together as one instead of against each other. Ever since learning that lesson a little over two years ago its been my goal to figure a horse out, know what its thinking and why, and adjust my riding/training techniques accordingly. I grew up riding under someone that had one method that she used with every horse, and it didnt work for every horse. You need to adapt your methods to the horse you are working with. Something I should have known all along, it just took someone showing me the way to really make it sink in.

    I love riding. But i also love working on things as well. Which in having my own horse I am able to do so. Riding my trainers horses Im able to as well. But I know there are so many horse owners out there that don't want you to 'change' or 'fix' anything, they think they've done justa fine job. ANd they very well may have. But things can always stand to be improved, working upon, or simply reminded of. Too bad not all horse owners see it that way. See every day as a learning experience.

    And I must say, the connection Jonathan has with his horses is what draws me to him. Not his darn good looks, or his mthods that are widely used, but the respect his animals have for him. And respectful respect at that. (If that makes sense) it wasn't beaten or scared into them, it was simply asked of, explained why, and fully understood. And what could be better than that?

  8. wow, sorry for the book Chelsi!

  9. Oh Chelsea, thank you for sharing this with us. It was amazing, it is awesome...and I loved it!!
    This is exactly why I ride. I love horses, I love MY horses, without the relationship...riding is nothing but something to pass the time. I love it, but with a willing partner...ahh that's what I love. I want my horses to want to be with me. I want my horse to want to hang out with me and feel like it's the best and the safest place for them to be...with me.
    I've never heard of this guy, but apparently, he's one helluva horseman. I consider my relationship with my horses to be good and solid...but nothing like that. I'm not that good of a trainer/teacher, whatever you want to call it...but I aspire to be, I work at it...and I dream.
    Good post.

  10. You do have a way of making a person think.

    Hmmm, Why do I ride?
    (think, think, think...scratch head...think, think, think...);)

    How about an easier question, like Why do I breath?

    Okay, seriously though...I think that several things affect people when it comes to what they think they should be doing when they are riding. First and most important is what horse you are riding-green horses and horses that have problems are going to need some assistance so it is virtually impossible to "just ride", even if you are just out and about. It's always a little fix here, a little help there, etc. A mature, more finished horse needs less help and that gives us more time to think about whether we should just ride or should we be "doing something" on them.
    Second-What type of riding environment is available to us. It's pretty darn hard to "just ride" in an arena. Arenas are for training-whether horse or rider. Now if you have a lot of open space to ride in-it's a whole lot easier to head out and just go for a ride.
    Third-Where a person is in their mental frame of mind. If you are learning things and wanting to practice techniques it is hard to "just ride". My mom and step-dad used to get really irritated when I would come home and start messing with their horses. They had broke, solid horses(for the most part) and they hated me trying all my newly learned training skills out on their horses. Now that I'm pretty comfortable with the techniques I have learned, I am less inclined to go so overboard doing this and that. But it took a couple of decades and a lot of horses for me to get there. It used to be that I thought "just riding" was the most boring thing in the world, but now, I rather enjoy just heading out and really, really not thinking about fixing anything. I think you are in the frame of mind where you are excited to learn and try out new techniques and just need a barn full of horses to practice on..any trainers in your area that need someone to do their groundwork or help with tune-ups?

    Sorry, this is a mini-novel comment, buuutttt....
    It sounds like Sugar has some issues and NEEDS some training. Her owners can't expect someone to "just ride" her if she has a bucking issue(even if it isn't serious).

  11. Thanks all for your great answers! Sounds like we are all on the same track!

    Sidetracked- A choice of 30! Wow... I wish! I also love to just mosey but I dont want to mosey 4 days a week (or 3,5,6 or 7)... and "just riding" for me is only really great when I feel emotionally connected to the horse I am riding.

    Leah- I agree that horses need to be ridden, not just sat on but you'd be suprised how many people do just that (sit on a horse rather than ride it).

    Laura- I hope that you find that "connection" with Rusty... I am sure you have it more than you recognize because you are having to focus on other things right now. For me that feeling just changes everything! But you are right, you should do it for your own reasons.

    Oregonsunshine- it sure looks like fun to ride bareback and bridless... havent we all wanted to be that kid on the beach in the black stallion?

    Country Girl- I rode to escape as a kid too...and for all the reasons why you ride now as well... like you said, it just is a part of who you are.

    Natarojo- glad you "got it" and I am always happy to hear your matter how long or short. I can ride just for fun but I need at least an emotional connection there. Sounds like you had it with your Sally. I agree that some trainers try to use the same methods on every horse and dont look at the individual. I dont think the owners dont want me to "fix" anything...they just dont see the same level of problems in their horses as I do...

    Jonathan is good and fair, I really like him but I feel there is a flaw in his demographic that will limit how more exprienced horsemen will view and use the mthods of his program. It is just not cool for "real" horsemen to go to a guy like JF... But I guess that is ok for him... the baby boomer re-riders are where the $$ are at ....

    C-ingspots- Thank you! "I want my horses to want to be with me. I want my horse to want to hang out with me and feel like it's the best and the safest place for them to be...with me." BINGO!! You got it! I feel just the same.

    BECG- I can always count on you to make me think too! lol... You are right, that is just the stage that I am at (wanting to practise my riding/training) and you are also right that some problems are impossible to ignore. Why would anyone want to ride a horse that is pissy as all hell? I dont get it. I also love a really well broke and finished horse b/c they provide that connection.... and I RESPECT them. I try to stay out of their way, and learn FROM THEM... which is still giving me a challenge. It is just different sides of the same coin.

  12. Hmmmm....this does make one think, doesn't it??? And any extra thinking gives me a headache right now, but here goes it....

    I ride because it is a release; a release from the stressors of my life. That being said, I don't enjoy riding horses that need my help right now, as I don't have any extra energy to spare/give.

    Do I still form a valuable bond/partnership with horses? Yes, but it has to be on my terms right now. I want to ride to have fun, and enjoy a well trained, even tempered, relatively problem free horse.

    I also think that having two little kidlets has made me this way, because if all I do is discipline and stay on top of two of them, the last thing I want to do is discipline and stay on top of a horse. Makes sense, I!!!

    My sisters' neighbor wants to give me one of her Qh mares, who is green broke, after I successfully rode her out on the trail. (I wasn't told that she had only had 30 professional training five years prior, and had only been out on the trail once, UNTIL I was on her back and heading down the road. Nice, huh???)

    I turned her down, because as nice as this mare is, she needs a lot of work from the ground up, and needs to develop a relationship with a person in general. I just don't have the time for that now.
    Maybe when I am done with school and my kidlets are bigger???

    Great post, Chelsi!!!

  13. Chelsi, You started somethig here. Something that will pull at many heart strings and cause many minds to wind up tighttrying to sort out why we ride our horses? for instance.

    Not that long ago the reason most folks gave above would nothave existed. Horses were ridden toget a days work done, not for pleasure, or for the relationship, or to enhance ones ability to bring the best out in a horse. Nope not at all. Horses were ridden to produce a product for consumption, or to provide transportation, or as frieght providers.

    Those of us who live the experiential life with horses, wouldn't we love to go back and liberate those horses who were never heard from? Wouldnt we love to know them intimately?

    We are so lucky these days and so are our horses, that we live in times that allow us to seek the unique individual out of our horses being.

    Thanks for bringing this topic to light.

  14. For me riding is all part of the process of getting to know that horse better and giving it the skills it needs to have a happy and successful relationship with another human being. If I get this done right, then I can go find a great home for that horse and then I can breed for another one.

    That promise of another foal is all tied up with my yearning to know the horse better. The more horses I know, the more I will know the horse, if that makes sense. There is just so much to learn and it can't be learned from just one horse.

  15. I used to ride as a kid for the joy of it, for the feeling of power over my world. That developed into striving for a goal, sometimes in opposition to what the horse wanted, physically, mentally. I rode school horses and other people’s horses, so didn’t have a real choice in what they were used for. My riding had to fit into a plan, usually someone else's.

    Now that I no longer have those outside constraints, a whole new world has opened up with no boundaries and no limits. It’s pretty cool, but also requires figuring it all out, redefining my reality around what riding is.

    While I do like communing with my horss, sharing thoughts and learning their personalities, I also like to have a goal. I hope to further the skills of both myself and my horse of the moment, mostly through basic dressage and correct movement. I would like to never stop learning, adding more tools to my trainer's toolbox. As that is what I enjoy most .... teaching them, and myself, new skills.

  16. I had to think about that question a lot too. When I was younger it was for the fun! I'd jump on my old mare and gallop around everywhere. Then when I got a little older and had that realisation that not all horsies are cute and cuddly...some are quite nasty! Now it's for the satisfaction AFTER I've had an awsome ride on a naughty horse. Not meaning a bronc horse though!

  17. That was a great video. My horse and I had a much closer relationship before my injury. I even rode her bareback and bridle-less up in the paddock and it went amazingly well. We were like one. She and I communicated so well together.

    But with me being stuck in the house healing for the past 3 months, the relationship we had must be rebuilt. Breaks my heart sometimes.

    Why do I ride?
    It WAS for the adventure shared together with my horse on a trail, being outdoors in nature while communicating with my horse.
    Also the connection and relationship and control with my horse, too.

    I truly miss that now, but I'm aware that it's going to take even longer than it did before to build up that same connection with my horse while building my own confidance and fitness all over again. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.
    But I did learn the hard way that you never 'just ride' a horse. I let my guard down for a split second and BAM! All hell broke loose.
    I'm at the point that I'm asking myself if it's still worth it, so your post is perfect timing.

    I'm 43 yrs old this year and I don't want to spend the next half of my life visiting the emergency room, having horse-related injuries and surgeries and not being able to do other things that I love to do in life.

    But I don't think I'm ready to give up on horses either. I've even about selling Baby Doll and buying a much older, been there done that horse.

    I'm seriously at a cross-roads in my life, Chelsi. I wish my choices were cut and dry, but they're not. I've got a lot to think about. That's for sure.

    Heck, I won't even be released to ride again until at least August. Seems like that's a long time from now...but the past 3 months have zoomed by already.


  18. I am with Mrs. Mom - I think she may know what I am trying to say here.

    But I will elaborate, some. I feel like horses are a part of me - like an arm or a leg (not necessarily a specific horse). I am drawn to them in ways I cannot explain. I don't ride for many of the above reasons - though, I see how riding brings those benefits.

    I ride because when I ride I am alive. I have known since I was very young I belong with horses. And maybe I am still discovering what it is that I am supposed to do with / for them - but we are forever connected. When I am riding I feel I am where I was meant to be.

    I have my goals and will ride to practice so that when I compete I am successful - I will ride so that we both as a team can improve and we work on things. But that is not the big picture answer.

    That one I can't quite put into words.

  19. I had a 5 yr old colt that scared me. He was sassy as a yearling & 2 year old. He was taller than any of my other horses. Sent him to a trainer as a late 2 yr old & came back riding well, but no one in my family would ride him. We didn't need him. He sat for a couple years.

    Fugly's column encouraged me to do something with him -- don't leave him sit. So decided I was going to ride him for me or ride him to sell, but he was going to get the time he needed. I'm no trainer. I'm a novice rider at best. But I started doing things with him that my trainer taught me. From the ground up. And finally started to connect. Took him on some rides and even though the bond wasn't there that I have with my mare, I started to relax.

    We had a setback in Sept & I hit the ground hard. Was worried my that I would lose my courage with my own horses if I continued with him. I did get back on him and rode him for another month before I offered him up for sale. The person who bought him liked that he had been started & knew the basics and not screwed up enough for her to move him along. I feel it was a good match.

    But back to riding. I don't enjoy the arena and round pen stuff, but do it because it helps make them a better a trail horse. But on the trail, we don't just ride. We look for obstacles to cross, logs to jump, big hills to climb. Trails to run. And that, I do with my mare. And its my passion.

    I think we all ride for different reasons & perhaps it depends on our own skill level. But as a 48 year old adult - who has been riding for 10 years now - I can truly say I have never had an activity that I was this dedicated to & like you, think about the horse all the time!