When I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I answered the girl who carried the flag at the rodeo. Pictures of horses cut out of magazines, wallpaper trim with barrel racers, and horse figurines are scattered all over my childhood bedroom. The name of twenty horses that I wanted to own someday are still taped onto the stairs in my parents’ basement where my sister and I pretended each stair was a different stall for our Breyers. I was obsessed with horses.
Every summer growing up I spent all of my waking hours down at the barn. If I wasn’t riding, I was grooming, feeding, organizing tack, etc. If it was a rainy day, I would take out a sketch pad and draw horses or watch a horse movie. All I wanted to be was a professional horsewoman. I wanted to be able to ride any horse and be a renowned trainer. I wanted to have the biggest trailer, the fanciest tack, and coolest barn filled with the best trained horses. Every night I would dream about horses and imagine taking home a stack of trophies and belt buckles.
I was so blessed that my grandparents and parents allowed me to have horses while I was growing up. So many of them have changed my life profoundly. Hard work, dedication, overcoming obstacles, patience, responsibility, and forgiveness are just some of the virtues I was taught by riding and showing horses as a youth. Some have hurt me, some have challenged me, some have inspired me.
It was my background in horses, along with growing up on a farm and showing hogs, that motivated me to get a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science. In college, I tried out for equestrian teams and horse judging teams. I would even fall asleep with my boots on sometimes and wear spurs just in case someone might not know I liked horses. I thought that horses would always be a part of me.
Lately though, something has changed. Bills. Work. Exercise. Responsibilities. Laziness. Fear. Loneliness. Those would all be words I would use to describe my lack of motivation for riding these days. As an adult, things change. I have to foot my own bills, work long hours, take care of my own house, and take extra care of my body. (Falling off as an adult hurts a lot more! lol)
I have never been a great rider. Besides my passion and love for the furry creatures, I have never had any true skills when it comes to riding. Just like everything else in life, I have had to work for what I got. By the time I graduated high school, I couldn’t do any real training, but I knew the basics and could handle most situations. I knew my horses inside and out and could get them to perform their best. Everything I learned came from my awesome 4-H leaders that I had growing up. Sometimes I wonder though, if I am not good at it, should I still do it?
Right now I have four horses. One that we don’t ride for health reasons, two older horses that could be retired, and my sister’s young horse that she lent me this summer. It’s been five years since I graduated college and I haven’t done much “real” riding since. Sure, I have rode a few trails, walked some pastures, and trotted around the roundpen a time or two. But, I haven’t had any true goals for my riding. Mostly it has been more for fun and stress relief.
However, I am a goal type of person. I want to work towards something. I want to have a reason for why I am doing it. I liked showing because it made me work towards a goal and held me accountable. I had to work on my horse’s talents because everyone was going to see them. I had to get better because I was going to be judged. It is the same reason why I sign up for 5ks. I need some motivation to keep me going. Not having any real goals takes some of the fun and motivation away from me. Can you still show as an adult?
It wasn’t until my sister brought Chief (her young horse) over that I realized that I don’t know what to do anymore. All I have done is piddle around with my old broke horses for the last half decade and my skills are lacking. I would love to work with a trainer or coach to get my riding skills more up to snuff. It would be so awesome if I could take some lessons! However, money and time are factors. Plus, who wants to work with a 27 year old who is afraid of her horse?
Money is definitely a factor. Yes, I have been working on saving since I got a big girl job. However, horses are expensive! Not only do you have the initial cost of the horse, but feed, vet bills, farrier work, and tack all cost a pretty penny. Plus, if you want to show, you have to have a truck, trailer, and pay entry fees. I am a teacher you know. Money is definitely not growing on any trees in my backyard. Should I still purse my passion as an adult if I can’t make any money at it and it costs a lot?
I have some of the most awesome grandparents a girl can get. They have an acreage in the town where I live and they have graciously kept my horses there and have done chores for me everyday. They don’t even make me pay for boarding or hay! My grandpa even lent me some of his garden space and put up a roundpen for me. They truly are the best!!! However, my grandparents getting older and shouldn’t have to take care of them anymore. My grandpa works super hard already and doesn’t need the burden of taking care of my horses, too. Should I sell my horses to relieve them of this duty?
Yes, a lot of joy from riding happens because you make a bond with your horse and have internal pleasure from doing what you love. However, that’s not the only reason to do it. I loved showing and going to 4-H practice because I got to make new friends. I didn’t have to ride alone all the time. Now, I don’t have anyone to ride with. It is not as fun when you cannot share your passion with someone else. Plus, it really is not safe to go off riding alone. If something happened, I would be in big trouble. If I don’t have anyone to ride with, should I still do it?
I think another reason why my heart has changed is because my identity is not in what I do or look like anymore. I used to say that I was a cowgirl and that is what I had my identity in. I had to have long hair, wear jeans and boots everyday, and have horse decals on my vehicle. However, my identity is in Christ, now. I know that everything else must come second to my passion and love for my Savior. I will hang up my cowgirl hat when I am talking to my King.
So, my question is, do I keep my horses? Do I let my childhood fantasy go? Do I move on and chalk another loss up to adulthood? If I keep them, how do I go about remedying my problems?
This is my food for thought on this Tuesday evening. God bless.