Four Keys to Finding the Balance in Your Journey
I have been thinking of this stage of life as a convergence zone; the place where a day job, family and horse training all crash together. Like me, some folks have had the opportunity to devote themselves to horses before the “weather” changed. Then there are newer equestrians trying to learn in the midst of the storm. While these two realities may have different challenges, the mindset needed to move forward is pretty similar.
Safety First. I can honestly say that one thing I battle with now is the fear of getting seriously injured. I have been kicked, dragged, stomped, bit, bucked off and fallen on, not to mention all the daily wear and tear of being a horse trainer. However, now there are people, not just horses, who depend on me. I also understand that fear of being injured makes that reality much more likely. I know the dangers. Others—newer to horse life—may not yet be aware of them, and this also puts them at risk.
In this stage of life I believe it is important to take extra steps to make sure your horse is ready to ride. When your mind is on other things, it is not the best time to slap a saddle on your horse and swing a leg over. “Never ‘empty out’ on a horse,” was drilled into me. This means taking my attention off of him while riding. This mantra is literally impossible now with a 5-year-old “at large,” and a new baby. Experienced horsemen, like me, may find it hard to throw a horse in the round pen and take the fresh off for safety’s sake. For others, the challenge is learning the signs and steps to take to ready a horse’s mind and body for riding.
Expectations and Goals. Throughout my career I have set goals for everything from daily training to showing. It is also important to set new goals for this tricky stage of blending family life with horses. I personally wish to enjoy my family and not lose my identity and skill with horses. With this is mind, I have had to lower my expectation of the type of horse I can build at this time. I don’t take on as many colts or problem horses because I don’t have the attention or time to give them. To build a solid horse it takes 5+ days a week of focused training and I will feel like I am doing a substandard job when many weeks all I can manage are 3 days. So, I pick horses that will fit into what I can do and still be successful. I think it is important for people to know what it takes to make a solid horse so the expectation is realistic. It is also important a person has a horse that fits their ability and availability. The goal is a successful ride, for both horse and rider.
Successful Rides. I have long preached that solid, confident horses are built on a series of successful rides. During this stage of life, one may have to let go of lofty and/or competitive goals. What does not have to be sacrificed is building a confident, happy, horse and rider. Each day, judge your progress on where the horse starts and finishes the ride. Don’t go into the session with an agenda, but let the horse’s needs determine the direction of the ride. Expectations should fit the horse that is in the arena, on a specific day.
Frustration and Focus. The frustration will come. For me, it may be because I can’t devote myself to a talented prospect. For others it may be because they can’t get a horse past a training roadblock, or can’t get their horse to a level they see in others. Frustration ruins timing, ability and confidence. It works against successful rides. I have found that much frustration comes from a lack of appropriate goals and/or comparison with other people.
Social media is a breeding ground for comparison. Many times I have had to answer the question of whether I will show again. The truth is I don’t know when, or even if, I will show again. Do I miss it? Yes. Would I trade what I have now to be able to show at the futurity again? No. Make choices appropriate for your values and goals, for the life you want. Don’t be swayed by the opinions or choices of others.
Lastly, forgive yourself for mistakes and for not being as far along as you would like. Refuse to dwell on what others may think of you. If you can only leave one thing at the arena gate let it be frustration. Learn to simply enjoy your horse, and your own unique journey.
Want every ride to count? See Allison’s July 2014 Issue
Published in May 2015 Issue