Let’s admit it, when it comes to the “horse lifestyle”, we are all a little bit obsessed. We make sacrifices, change our schedules, deal with extra expenses, and worry like parents about our four legged friends, and all so that we can live and maintain our equestrian dreams. I’ve been asked more times than I can count “why I do it” – especially when things get tough – and I’ve had to explain my motives so many times that I know them by heart. This week, I spoke with five riders who shared with me why horses are their number one obsession.
Brandon – Santa Barbara
“I got into horses sort of by accident. I grew up in the country and a friend of mine had horses, so I started to ride with her. I think my parents realized it was ‘my thing’ and got me my first horse. It’s been a way of life ever since. I started training when I was about 18 and now I show Reined Cowhorses; it does take up a lot of my time, it’s expensive, but I get to go to work every day and do something that I love. Who could ask for more than that?”
Charla – Los Angeles
“I spent most of my life as a wife and a mother, so there came a point when I felt like I didn’t have anything that was really all mine. A friend suggested I start riding at a local stable – taking lessons – and that turned into a full time obsession, I guess. Now I have a Reining horse and I try to get to as many shows a year as I can. For me, this is the one thing in my life that belongs only to me, and despite the expense, the time it takes, and the effort, it has really built up my confidence. I feel like I can do anything after I’ve been out to the barn and ridden my horse.”
Nancy – San Luis Obispo
“Trust me, horses aren’t an easy hobby. It’s not like have a bicycle that you can put in the garage for a week and forget about if life gets crazy, but there is honestly nothing I’d rather be doing with my time. Riding keeps me fit, helps me focus (I grew up with severe ADHD), calms my mind and lets me take care of an animal that relies on me. I guess it’s a partnership thing too; I enjoy learning new ways to communicate with my horse and build a better relationship.”
Jordan – Nipomo
“Wow, why am I horse obsessed? I don’t know why, I just know that I am! I was always the little girl who wanted to ‘play horses’ instead of Barbies, and that just turned into a full time thing. I have a full time job, but I manage to get up early and get to the barn to ride before work (or after if it’s a lazy day), and I can’t tell you how many boyfriends that I’ve had who just haven’t understood my ‘hobby’. My horse is my best friend; she nickers for me every time that I pull into the barn, and I guess it’s nice to have someone who is always happy to see me. I also think that learning to communicate with my horse has helped me in business; I relate to people better, and I understand that when you want something bad enough you can never give up.”
Tonya – Arroyo Grande
“Well, I was in a really bad place a few years ago. I went through a divorce, my kids went off to college, and suddenly I didn’t know what to do with myself other than go to work, get home and sit around. I was out of shape and I was seeing a therapist for depression. It was actually my therapist who told me about ‘equine therapy’, and I thought I’d give it a try. I started as a participant, and then I moved up to a volunteer ‘coach’. Now I have my own horse and I help other people with depression get through their feelings by interacting with horses. It’s really a beautiful thing – you learn trust, that you are actually important in this life, that you can take on a challenge and think your way through it, etc. I can’t tell you how many people who I have seen ‘saved by horses’. I’d never be without a horse in my life now, even though it does get tough at times. I can’t say I never have days where I feel like it would be easier to just lay on the couch and veg-out, but I know my horse needs me, and that keeps me going.”
As equestrians, we all have different stories, but we also share something very unique and special in common. Equestrians are dedicated – maybe a little obsessed – and the benefits far outweigh any extra work, time, or money that it takes to keep our dreams alive. I know that having a horse has helped me through a lot of rough patches, and I can relate to Tonya’s inspiring story of pulling herself out of depression through horses. Some say horses are the best therapists in the world; they don’t speak a word, but they communicate better than most people do!
What’s YOUR story?