I’m Tired

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Having two horses in work wears me out.

I’m not complaining.
I’m not humble bragging.
I’m surprised. Again.

When I don’t have a horse to ride every day, I whine, I fret, I bitch [so many links, where do I start?]. I miss it terribly. I also forget. I forget how much mental space riding my own horse takes up, way out of proportion to the hours involved.

It’s not an issue of time. When I say both horses are in work, I use the term loosely. Rodney is proceeding at his standard glacial pace, finally learning to walk around the whole, entire field. Just because it’s been eight years this month … frustration alert, move on, move on. For Milton, walking and a bit of trotting in our pasture constitutes learning to work outside of a ring, which is progress. So, I go out, dust off a horse, ride, come back into the house, and collapse.

It’s not a physical issue. I’m not exhausted, the way I am after Nationals boot camp [Progress Report]. I don’t nosedive into bed for an afternoon nap. I just have no motivation to DO anything. There are things that can rouse from my stupor. Blog? Yes. The trickle of work I have left? With heroic effort. Dishes? Laundry? It is to laugh.

A rider has a responsibility to any horse they ride. With the Stepping Stone Farm school horses, my responsibility ends when I hang up the bridle. I love Sam [MSSP 2018]. I don’t spend time wondering if he is getting the right amount of food for the work he is doing, or how today’s ride fits into his overall training & fitness plan. With my own horses the wondering never stops, analysing from specific to general and back again.

I go to the barn. Are they in or out? If they are in, are they sweaty? Do I need to turn up the fans? I catch a horse. Does he come up or run off? If he turns away, is he expressing an opinion about his job? Do I need to work less? More? Tell him to suck it up, Cupcake? Pick up the feet. The blacksmith is coming in how many weeks? The shoes should be okay until then.

Brush. Any bumps or lumps? Does that look like a kick or a bite? Poke. Poke. There’s a lot of horse here. Should I lower his feed? Or do I not want him losing weight as we swing toward winter? Brush. Skin feels shiny. Dust is sliding off. The new flax supplement seems to be working. Saddle, bridle. Everything still fit? Looks good. Need to wash the saddle pads.

Walk to riding area. How does he look? Lethargic and reluctant? Yeah, that’s about normal. C’mon horse, time to make the donuts.

I haven’t even gotten on.

Riding is all of the horse care questions – is he moving well? Is he tight anywhere? – plus all of the training questions – Which way is Milton going? Racing direction versus non-racing direction? Has Rodney suddenly switched “good sides”? – plus all the hopes and fear and dreams represented by your show goals. Some of these questions occur on lesson horses. On your own horse, everything is in stereo, with knobs on eleven. Then reminding yourself how d*mned lucky you are to be on a horse at all. Maybe you should stop and smell the horsehair?

After, does he run off when I let him go? For Rodney, this is a big tell for stress. There goes Milton, licking his salt block again. Is he getting enough electrolytes, or is this his stress move?

I will adapt. Eventually. For now, excuse me, I need to go stare at kittens and let my brain reboot.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Categories: Horses, Riding

3 replies »

  1. Mental space. And stress. And worry. And there’s a whole other thing that rarely gets mentioned – emotional attachment. You get bucked off by a horse at the riding school, you (and your instructor) say something like “Something caught his eye and spooked him” or “He’s being a wally, get on with it,” and you dust yourself off and climb back on board again (well, if you can stand you do!). You get bucked off by your own beloved Ned and there’s a whole pile of sh*t goes on in your head.

    “I’m asking too much.”
    “I’m not consistent enough.”
    “I’m not asking properly.”
    “He’s getting too much/the wrong sort of food.”
    “He’s not getting enough/the right sort of food.”
    “I’m crooked.”
    “He’s crooked.”
    “He’s in pain.”
    “I’m not good enough for him.”
    “He hates me.”

    I’ve seen really good horseless club level riders who took the ride on anything they could get and boy were they hardy! They’d ride and show 4 and 5 year olds for owners who were not brave enough or just had too many horses to deal with, and they’d cope with all sorts of shenanigans. Finally the day comes when that rider gets his/her own horse, and suddenly they turn into the person described above. And with all the worries described in your post.

    Our first horse (which was totally not the right horse for us, but that’s a different story) was kept in a riding school for the first year we had her. Then we moved, and found a neighbour who allowed us to use his field. As we trundled down the drive of the riding school, with Trixie in the trailer behind us, I felt the same overwhelming feeling of terror and responsibility that I felt when I took our first daughter home from hospital!

    It’s a weird thing. It’s like when the dream finally comes true, you immediately see all the ways in which it can turn sour. And because you’re worrying about it – or maybe because you don’t have the right people around you, I dunno, maybe that was our issue – your dream horse becomes a nightmare (haha, see what I did there??)

    Anyway, I reckon there’s a PHD there for some psychology student who’s willing to listen to a lot of horseowners list off their worries.

    And yes, I totally get what you’re saying. I still feel guilty from time to time because “Aero’s too good for me” or “Aero is wasted with me.” Along with all the feed issues… although I’ve given up worrying about work levels, I just do what I’m able for, which I don’t think will ever be a whole lot again, so I’m definitely not over-working them!

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