We’re all motivated in different ways as equestrians. We have different goals, ambitions, passions.
And somewhere in all of those differences, the one thing we have in common with each other is the horse.
When I first started riding, I rode because I was obsessed with horses. I was 9 years old when I first got the chance to work with horses regularly; I started by volunteering to lead horses for a local handicapped riding program. It was enough for me to just be around those horses, not being able to ride them myself was never a deterrent for working with them in any way I could.
Eventually I did have the opportunity to take riding lessons; still, riding at that time was motivated by my desire to be around horses. I was horrible, having absolutely zero natural talent in that regard. But I worked hard to learn as much as I could. I didn’t care about where I was riding, or what horse. I didn’t compete and I didn’t care.
Somewhere in my teens I started competing. It wasn’t because I wanted to, but because I thought I had to. I was trying to dig my heels into running a horse business, and all the cool kids were doing it. No, not really, but I imagined that it was the thing you do when you run a horse business, you compete.
And I hated it. Every miserable moment I was at a show and couldn’t wait for it to be over and go home. I did very well, surprisingly; because I entered every show arena so stressed out and tired I had practically given up on the idea of placing let alone winning. But winning a class or a trophy felt empty and boring. It was a distraction that interfered with the relationship I wanted to have with my horses. It wasn’t me.
But what I learned through those times of showing up to a competition and trudging through was that I wasn’t alone. The arena was full of people who hated competitions! The weren’t showing because they genuinely enjoyed the process; they were there because they too felt for one reason or another the compulsion to compete.
I’m always trying to return to those first moments when I started riding, when just walking into the barn and filling my nostrils with the unmistakable smell of horses was enough, and anything else was unexpected and invoked a feeling of humble gratitude towards the horse.
Now I ride for myself, and for my horse. Those are the only things that matter in the saddle. Other riders, trainers, judges — they’re unimportant.
Who are you riding for?