Many of us grew up riding. Indeed, I first had my leg thrown over a saddle by my dad, before I was tall enough to mount on my own. I can still remember the weekend and afternoon trips out to the barn, the scent of the hay, the friendly nicker of horses that seemed to speak a language only I could understand. Those were the days when things were easy – simple – and all that I had to do was ride and care for my horse (though in truth, my parents picked up a lot of the slack). As I grew, things began to change, and suddenly I was an adult and I still had horses in my blood. I had to learn how to keep horses in my life while I was attempting to go to college, living out on my own, and eating Top Ramen for dinner. Riding as a Grown-Up is a lot different than riding as a kid, but we make it work!
5 Things Riders Learn as Adults
#1 Horses are Expensive
I never realized as a child just how much my parents sacrificed financially for my horse habit. It wasn’t just the cost of the horse, the board or the horse shows, it was all the little things, like grain, supplements, farrier appointments, polo wraps, saddles, grooming products, etc. When you get right down to it, horses are expensive – likely one of the most expensive hobbies that an adult can have. I had to do a lot of sacrificing, trading (working horses in exchange for board), etc., in order to keep my horses in my life, and I’ll admit that there were days when I went without food just so that my horses could have a that new blanket they needed for winter or because my farrier appointment fell two days before I got my paycheck. Here’s to all the adults who figured out a way to make the financials work and kept horses in their lives!
#2 Age Changes Your Body
Yeah, it’s a tough fact, but the older that we get, the more careful we have to be with and around our horses. I can remember the “good old days” of galloping headlong across my grandparent’s ranch with little thought for holes or divots that could have sent me headlong into the dirt. But the truth is that in those days, I seemed to bounce much more easily than I do now. Now, if I simply turn my shoulder the wrong way, step strangely or have a “rough ride”, I can be paying for it for days. Ibuprofen has become my new best friend. Riding as a Grown-Up means taking our lumps, but keeping them to a minimum.
#3 Things Are Scarier
Hearkening back to the fact that my body has changed over the years, it’s impossible to discount the changes that have happened to my mind as well. When I was 15 years old, though I was primarily a Western rider, I wouldn’t hesitate to hop on my friend’s Jumper and have a go at a 3’ course. I was also the one that everyone called when they had a “problem horse” that needed schooling. Age and injuries have undoubtedly increased my caution in terms of what I will do with a horse. I do things more slowly and with more thought; I plan out my actions and execute them as safely as possible. Gone are the days of running out into the field with my friends and jumping on our horses bareback with just ropes around their necks and having a go around the pasture. Riding as a Grown-Up means that things are scarier and more caution is necessary.
#4 Grown-Up’s Can Become a Little Horse Obsessed
Okay, so when I was a kid, I was horse obsessed. I got a Breyer horse for every birthday, I walked around school with books on Equitation and Horsemanship and read them between classes, and I spent just about every spare second I had at the barn. As an adult, this obsession hasn’t really changed, it’s just evolved. I’m constantly reading articles, researching new methods on horse care, learning about new products, worrying about my horse when there’s a storm raging outside (and yes, sometimes driving to the barn at 2 am with the wind howling just to make sure no trees have fallen down near my horse’s stall), etc. For our non-horse friends, we often seem a little bit “crazy” in this regard, but Riding as a Grown-Up means being a little horse obsessed – it’s almost a string drawing us back to our youth.
#5 We Appreciate Things A Lot More
8 am lessons as a kid were always a little difficult to stomach. No matter how much I loved my horses and showing, I always gave the “kid groan” when I had to roll out of bed and get in the car on the weekend before most of my friends were even awake. This isn’t to say that I didn’t love my lessons or early horse show mornings, because I did, but I didn’t necessarily appreciate them like I should have. I also didn’t appreciate how expensive that show bridle I sometimes left hanging outside of its bridle bag was, or how amazing it was to get all of my horses “clothes” laundered at the beginning of the season and not have to think about it for another six months. Riding as a Grown-Up means seeing the true cost of things, both in time and money, and understanding that we are lucky to be able to be doing what we are doing.
In the end, for those of us who grew up as “horse kids” and managed to figure out a way to translate that into the rest of our lives, we really have to give ourselves a pat on the back. Riding as an adult is not as easy as it was when we were kids. Now we have to juggle a life, a career, a family and a horse habit, but we make it work because we love what we do. So, let’s give ourselves a round of applause for keeping the dream alive!