Giving Everything

GA APHA Amateur Equitation

I love to write. It helps me organize my inner-thoughts, which has a calming affect and keeps me from worrying about all the things stuck in my head. Unfortunately, there are also times when my writing inadvertently brings to the surface emotions and thoughts that are not exactly my topic of choice. One such instance occurred as I attempted to write a piece about why I prefer having a halter horse instead of a western pleasure or hunter under saddle horse. 

My article began with solid justifications such as the cost of a halter horse versus a rider. 

It’s ridiculous to me how much money it takes to own and show a riding horse. First, there is the cost of the horse (I prefer a roof over my head). Then, assuming you are into western pleasure, there is the $20,000 saddle, $1,000 plus bridle, and $2,000 outfit you only wear once because who would be caught dead in a $2,000 top twice (please note my sarcasm). That doesn’t even include training and show fees! And, you know you can’t show up to an event without a popular trainer.

Now, I admit, that last statement isn’t just for pleasure horses. There are definitely politics in the halter pen as well. From my experience, politics are in everything. Even when I showed dogs, there was a lot of “who knew whom”. But, I think halter horses are closer to the side of objectivity.  

Of course, there is the argument that it is silly to have a horse you can’t ride. Honestly, I agree. I also think all horse people are blessed with an inherent level of stupid because who in their right mind would get on a 1,200 pound animal and think, “I’m going to tell you what to do.” 

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on perspective), I too possess a high level of stupid associated with horse ownership. After writing the first few paragraphs of this article, I thought to myself, “Why do I have a horse I don’t ride??? I haul for hours to attend shows where I only go in one or two classes. By golly, I’m going to ride my horse!” So, I did. For about 4 minutes. 

No, she didn’t go bananas— she paid her dues at JH Performance Horses where even the green horses are as broke as a finished hunter. As I sat on top of my over-stuffed halter mare with nothing more than fur between me and her, I remembered why I don’t ride. For one, I refuse to buy a saddle. For two, I don’t have the wherewithal to be competitive anymore. This goes above and beyond costs. It’s the time and energy it takes to ride like you mean it. Riding isn’t just about what my horse looks like; suddenly all eyes are on me, too! It goes full circle to the cost of a trainer, the gear, the clothes, and everything else you have to have to look the part when you’re in the pen. I simply can’t. Being a competitive rider takes more than I have to give. 

There it is! The thesis to a heart-felt truth buried in arguments and justifications as to why halter horses are better. It is a painful realization, but the reality is that I don’t have the time/energy/strength to give that it takes to be the competitor I want to be in the under saddle classes. I’ve compromised by showing halter horses despite desperately wanting to do more.

Don’t get me wrong here. Halter horses still take a ton of work and I truly enjoy showing halter classes. I’ll write another article on what it takes to keep my mare fit for the pen. 

In the meantime, my body hurts. When I was a youth, I could spend hours riding and working horses. Now, not only do I have to use my free time for adult stuff, when I step into the saddle my body reminds me of the time I came off so and so horse and landed on my thus and such body part. It’s like my head knows what to do, but my body can’t always cooperate. When I wake up in the morning, my first thought is most often, “What is the least painful way for me to get out of bed today?” Throw in an hour of ride time every evening, and I might not make it out of bed at all. 

Plus, it’s difficult to look at pictures of myself from just ten years ago as I yearn for my youthful seat; heels down, head up, tall and slender in my 16 inch huntseat saddle. Those were the days I could ride a horsemanship pattern bareback. I have no illusions of ever being able to ride like that again and I really don’t have the time to try. Could I just get my butt back, please?   

Then, there is the money issue. I am not rich, but I am comfortable. I watch my expenses and live within my means. Everyday, I have to make choices between a new horsey something and groceries. I would love to be able to afford the luxury items needed to be competitive under saddle. I wish the best for people who can afford the latest Harris saddle and highest profiled trainer. Unless I win the lottery, I can’t. There is a tinge of remorse, but not enough to push me to choose horse show bills over household expenses. 

However, I know there are plenty of people who somehow manage to juggle horses on mediocre budgets; I have to wonder what type of stress they put themselves through trying to make ends meet. I personally can’t do that to myself or my family.

I’ve also seen too many women give up on horses completely because they feel like their goals are too far away to be accomplished with what they have left at the end of the day. We need to be okay with pulling our goals closer. Goodness knows, it’s much more difficult to juggle lots of balls, than it is to throw a few up high.

Even though there is still a deep desire to ride, I have made a choice to focus on an event within my abilities and my budget— something I can do without guilt because when you give everything you have to give, you should be proud of your accomplishments. I give everything I have to everyone I love. If that means I have keep my feet on the ground, I’m okay with my decision. 

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