BY CHLOE HARDGRAVE
I know from experience that not enough equestrians slow down and remember why we joined this sport in the first place. With the hustle and bustle of school, lessons, shows, and the occasional drama that the barn brings, equestrians can find themselves riding with no motive nor passion. We fall into a dark hole of what I call, “just riding to ride.”
But I know that horseback riding is so much more than just riding. It is a lifestyle, a passion. It is a relationship and team sport in which your partner is an animal that sometimes seems more wild than tame. It is a sport that takes up every last inch of you—all the blood, sweat and tears you have. It is all that you talk about. It is your motivation in school, and at work. It consumes your thoughts and your dreams.
But despite knowing all of this, equestrians find themselves asking at times: why do we do it? Why do we put everything we have into this sport that is so expensive and often heartbreaking? Why do we get back up when we have fallen so far? Push through painful lessons, and disappointing shows. Why do we save our birthday money to pay for our horse’s shoes when we could be getting a pair for ourselves? Or ask for a bottle of fly spray for Christmas?
The answer to all of these questions is right in front of us—our horse.
We push through painful lessons because our horses push through their fears, worries, and own physical difficulties for us to get the thrill of jumping a fence.
We save our money to keep them in good health, because they grant us trust with their lives.
We don’t give up when we fail, because a horse does not understand failure. They only understand feelings. If they feel like we are disappointed, they feel disappointed. If we are willing to give our all, so will they.
We put our trust in them to carry us into the battle, and they trust us to point them in the right direction.
So, why do we do it? Because we love our partner. We love our horse like a best friend.
It’s not just because we enjoy it. We ride, because we love an animal who does the unthinkable for us. We ask so much of them. For us not to remember them in the process of working towards our goals is selfish. When you hold that champion ribbon, remember your four legged friend who put just as much effort into that round as you did.
Sure, things will not always go as planned. But, this sport is not just about us who ride. It is not about judging other people’s horses or being jealous of someone’s big win. It is not about wishing for money or a better horse. In the end, we all need to open our eyes and truly see how much our hooved friends do for us. Whether that be taking us to horse shows or listening to us when no one else will. They are here for us, so let us be there for them and remember that we joined this sport because we found a love and trust for an animal that captured our hearts.
So when you’re heading to the emergency room from a bad fall, angry after losing a big class. When you can’t help the tears during the stress of a tough lesson. When you have hay in your hair, and slobber stains on every t-shirt you own—Remember that your teammate is waiting by the stall door for you. Remind yourself of everything they do for you, and how they depend on you for their entire livelihood. Realize that, even on the bad days, they give you far more than a ribbon or a big jump. Everything you put into them, they give back.