Nearly two years ago, life threw me for a loop which resulted in some big life changes. 2016 brought me a divorce, financial issues, and an almost insane amount of stress…how was I ever going to maintain my “horse dreams” when I could barely afford to pay my mortgage? I was literally eating Taco Bell burritos and Top Ramen and cutting myself down to one meal a day in order to survive. I made a decision, though, in the beginning…I wasn’t going to allow my “new situation” to impact my “horse life”. Of course, my resolve was stronger than what reality was willing to provide me.
Month by month I went into survival mode, and I managed to create a budget that allowed me to keep my horse. I was working late into the night, missing days at the barn, and, I’ll just say it, I started to feel extremely guilty. I wasn’t able to do the things that I used to be able to do, and my beautiful horse who was built to be in the show ring was suddenly just another thing I was struggling to maintain. Time and energy to ride? Forget about it.
Now life looks a little bit different. I am doing better financially, I’m able to spend more “me time” out at the barn, and my horse dreams are starting to come back. Still, I can no longer afford to do the things that I used to do – horse show premiums flood into my mailbox and I still feel a pang of guilt and shame that I’m just not able to be “that person” anymore. Then I decided that “life changes” and I needed to “lose the guilt and get back to fun”.
Drop the Guilt
When you have a major life change, it’s easy to fall into a depression about not being able to do the things that you used to do. You get to the point where you almost want to say, “forget it all”. The thing is that just because life changes, it doesn’t mean that you have to give everything up, you just have to figure out how to fit into your new life. You can’t feel guilty for what you aren’t able to do, because that only leads to you not doing the things that you love.
Reevaluate and Regroup
So, I can’t afford to “show” anymore (at least not right now), but I have managed to budget in the expenses to keep my horse. I should be feeling GREAT about this. I should have zero guilt and have nothing except pride in what I’ve been able to accomplish. Instead of saying “forget it all”, I need to be saying “how do I regroup and get back to what I love?”.
So, I can’t show, that doesn’t mean that I can’t ride and enjoy my horse. Just because I can’t compete right now, doesn’t mean that I can’t go out to the barn and smell the sweet scent of fresh hay and delight at the nicker of my horse when she sees me. Just because I can’t get into the show ring doesn’t mean that I can’t get into the saddle. These are the times you need to reevaluate and regroup – don’t give up.
Get Back to Fun
I’ll admit, for a while my horse was more of a stress and burden than a pleasure. But this wasn’t due to anything except my guilt for not being able to use her to what I felt her full potential was. She was bred to show, but that doesn’t mean that she can’t fit into the space of simply being my riding partner. I nearly cried the day that I told my farrier that I wanted him to pull her slide plates and just leave her barefoot in the back – it was better for her health at the time, but it meant I was succumbing to the realization that I wasn’t going to be in the show ring. You know what? That’s okay. I don’t have to be a “show girl” to be a “horse girl”. I can have just as much fun, joy and stress relief from riding in the arena at my barn, oiling my tack, going out on the occasional hack, etc., as I can from preparing for a show.
Life Changes, but Your World Doesn’t Need To
Life changes, but that doesn’t mean that your world has to change. Be mailable, but like water…just because you aren’t in that fancy crystal vase anymore doesn’t mean that you can’t have just as much joy and pleasure being in a simpler container. It’s all about perception. So, if you find yourself in this position, don’t let it steal your horse dreams – where there is a will (and the ability to be creative and mailable) there is a way.
Cover Photo: Sharon Jantzen