Why Do You Ride?
Whenever I ask this question of an equestrian, I usually get a brief “because I love horses,” “because I love working in partnership with such a powerful animal,” “because I love those moments when we feel like we are moving as one,” or similar answers. While these are fine reasons to ride, I think that for many of us, there is a much deeper reason. A reason that speaks to a deeper internal reward. And if we understand that deeper reason, it is a resource we can turn to in times when we are frustrated in our riding journey.
As part of my own reflective practice I have come to understand that for me, being with horses and in particular riding one of my own horses, is a key to finding my inner peace and understanding of my connection to the world around me. To find those beautiful moments of togetherness with my horses, I must learn to clear my mind of all the noise of work and life stresses, ignore the distractions of the hundreds of tasks that need doing, and devote my entire awareness to the relationship with another being in the universe – the horse that I am with. Being with my horses helps me find joy in the present moment and after spending time with my horses I feel refreshed, renewed and rebalanced.
Sure I have riding goals and I always want to advance my ability as a rider. I enjoy the challenge of riding. And just like everyone else, I have times when I feel frustrated that my horse and I cannot seem get past a particular sticky spot in our training. When I reach that place of frustration, if I pause for a few days and reflect on the question “why do I ride?” I come to the same understanding every time: I ride because riding is a pathway to inner peace for me. Then the fact that we have not been able to accomplish a particular goal becomes much less important. Answering this question inevitably allows me to free myself from the bondage of goal-driven frustration and negative self-talk and enables me to return to listening to my horse and finding other pathways that ultimately always lead me to accomplish the goal I set out to achieve in the first place.
Why do YOU ride?
Take home message for equestrian educators
Help your students understand their reason for riding. I have stopped many students in the middle of a lesson when it is apparent that they are becoming overwhelmed with frustration and I have asked them this question. They always give me a quick answer like those I listed above. I try to help them reflect a little deeper with responses like “you can enjoy working in partnership with a horse without riding” or “you can love horses without riding them” or ”you can have beautiful moments moving as one with a horse by doing work in hand.” I suggest to them that they can do all of these things without riding. I encourage them to dig a little deeper - so why do you RIDE?
What fabulous discussions I have had with students when we explore this together and they increase their own awareness of why they do what they do. Frustration evaporates, the horse relaxes and the lesson proceeds in a whole other way. Once I have had this discussion with a student, in future lessons when I see frustration growing, all I have to do is ask them to take a walk break and reflect on why they ride. It works every time.