Standing Still and Moving On: When Horses Mirror Life

Photo © Jennifer Wile Rubin


A couple weeks ago, I had one of those days. I was an octopus on roller skates trying to fit in more than I realistically had time for. We were heading out of town to take Ponykid to a show so I needed to pack up, load ponies, ride mine since he would have the next few days off, pick up kids from their respective schools, and make it to the show grounds in time for the kid to school before the rings closed for the day. Of course everything took longer than I wanted it to and the farrier showed up as we were hooking up the trailer, so I sent the ponies off with the trainer, chatted with the farrier, and then squeezed in a short bareback hack on my pony. 

After a fun, easy ride, I walked back to the barn and our farrier commented how refreshing it was to see someone smiling so big after a “nonproductive” ride. That’s when it occurred to me that, for the first time in my adult riding career, I am completely at peace with where I am with my riding. 

I have spent the vast majority of my post-junior-years wishing I could just get back to where I used to be, where I felt like I should be. For a long time, I felt like I needed to be doing the 3’6” AO’s (or at the very least making my way back to the adults) to prove to everyone that I really do know what I’m doing. It has just been in the recent past, that I realized that I have nothing to prove. To anyone. 

Photo © Jennifer Wile Rubin

When I bought my large green pony, I knew he was never going to jump 3’6”. Though it’s not my proudest confession, I still spent far too much time trying to convince myself that he could be something he wasn’t capable of being because I wanted to prove that I wasn’t less of a rider than my peers.

The farrier watched my 900lb pony licked my face like a dog and said, “You’re more concerned with connection than competition. I can see your partnership in everything you do.” And just like that, all the feelings I had been having clicked into place.

I am ok with allowing myself to stay right where I am. My quirky pony and I are enough, just as we are. We can keep on clocking around the “special adults” division for now. Maybe one day, I will have the drive to make it back to the “real” hunter divisions, but for now, I am good to take a breath and be still. Be happy with where I am.

The irony of me being at peace with standing still is that my ponykid is ready to move up and on. She has gone as far as her current pony is able to take her, and is ready to take the next step. I am a self-proclaimed pony hoarder and not good at saying goodbye. The ponies who have taken of me or my kid are family, so “saying goodbye” means leasing so he can bring along another ponykid the same way he has for mine. 

Photo © Sarah Schuping

The journey with this pony has been filled with ups and downs. He showed giant gaping holes in Ponykid’s riding that I didn’t know existed. It took me several months to truly connect with him, but two years later I cannot imagine a world without him. He has become the pony who I knew would take care of my kid in any situation. When she decided she wanted to ride bareback and bridle-less on a whim, I trusted that he would not take advantage. He’s not as easy as our first pony, and he will call her bluff if she doesn’t have her head in the game, but he is so very kind, and has taught her so very much, that saying goodbye to him feels scary. Unknown. 

The first child who came to try him loved him instantly. He was as saintly for her as he has been for us. When I came home to report the good news to Ponykid, she burst into tears. She was hoping he would be naughty so that they wouldn’t want him, and he could stay with us a bit longer. I told her she needed to be proud of herself. Proud that she had brought him along so well that he was ready to take care of a more novice rider. She could feel secure in the fact that we will always have say in how he is treated and that he will always have extra people who love him like we do. It made her feel better.

I, however, am still struggling with the moving on. The process of finding another four legged family member who can fill some awfully big pony shoes is daunting. I have no doubt there will be more ups and more downs. We will discover new holes in her riding that I didn’t even know existed. And inevitably, we will discover a new set of strengths and skills she didn’t know she had, as well. 

Photo © Sarah Schuping

I am content in my standing still, because I have already gone through the stages of moving up. I know my strengths and am at peace with my limitations, but I learned all of that through the course of partnerships with many different horses and ponies. Each one taught me something about my riding, and something about myself. My ponykid deserves this same experience so that one day, she can be at peace with herself, whatever that may be.

I truly believe that the universe has a funny way of presenting the right pony/horse to us at the right time. I truly believe that the horses we ride were sent to us for a reason. Our beloved pony will end up with a kid who needs him more than we do right now. And we’ll find the next pony that is right for her at this stage in her riding career. 

Photo © Sarah Schuping

It’s funny how our lives with horses mirror the stage we are in. With age, comes wisdom. With that wisdom, comes the belief that I don’t need to prove anything to anyone, least of all myself. I am good right where I am, in every aspect of life. 

My ponykid is just coming into herself as an adult. She is moving on and moving up, in every aspect. She has so much left to learn about riding and about herself. It makes sense for us to be in different places in the barn. And I know that we will both be at peace with where we are, whether that is standing still, or moving on.

About the Author: Ponymomammy juggles her roles of mother (two human, two ponies, and three doggos), wife, and perpetual amateur in Camden, SC. When not shuttling kids, or riding, she can be found feebly attempting to clean or cook, usually in dirty breeches from an earlier hack. Both she and her daughter enjoy showing on both the local, and A rated, show circuits.
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