This morning I got up before the sun to ride the mare before I had to go to work.
Early morning has always been my favorite time to ride...the world feels so new and fresh and full of promise. The horses are peppy and eager to go. When I was younger (high school age) I remember getting up early during the summer to get on my mare just as the sun was beginning to peek over the horizon. I loved, and still love, that quiet alone time, that softness of the world before it rubs the sleep from its eyes.
But as I was riding this morning I realized something was vastly different from when I rode in the morning as a teenager.
My reasons for riding had changed. I wasn't on Calypso purely for the joy of riding, exploring and being with her.
I was on her with a purpose: Get X done then work on Y.
And I started thinking (I know, scary stuff!). When was the last time I got on to ride just for the pure pleasure of riding? Nothing more, nothing less. When I get on now it's with some sort of training goal in mind: I'm going to accomplish this today with Gabe, or that today with Calypso.
And I ride until I achieve the goal and get off, content that I had achieved that goal, happy that I had ridden. I still get pleasure from riding but it's different than it was.
Have my reasons for riding changed over the years? I don't really think so. I get an indescribable joy, comfort and contentment when I ride. I relax and let the world go as soon as my foot hits the stirrup and all the tension and stress of my day melt away when my butt hits the saddle.
But the purpose has changed in ways I've never really considered. I get on to work my horse, get to that next level of training, accomplish a goal.
When I was 13, 14, 15 I got on with no real goal in mind...I just got on to ride and off I went. I didn't have any desire or need to work on perfecting a circle or fine-tuning a halt. We had stop, go and turn perfected and I saw no need to ever require anything more than that.
I just rode, over hills, across fields, out into no-man's land where it was just me, the horse and the Kansas prairie. I was content with just being one with my horse for however long we happened to be out. We'd trot, gallop, mosey along, pop over ditches and logs, gallop up an down hills, forge new paths, wade through creeks and sometimes get lost. I didn't worry about my hips being loose or my heels down...as long as I stayed on (because I typically rode bareback every where) there was nothing else to think about.
My little quarter horse mare, Sundancer, became the most broke, responsive, willing beast I have ever sat upon. Why? Because we went out and DID everything. I didn't get stuck on some goal about training her to trot better or getting her on the bit properly, we went out, we rode, we tackled tough terrain and just had fun. And the entire time, by doing nothing more than enjoying the ride, I was training her to be exactly the kind of horse I wanted without realizing I was doing it.
What changed over the years? How did I go from a rider who rode purely for the joy of being with her horse, to a rider who got into the saddle a specific goal in mind?
I can't even trail ride any more without throwing some kind of training goal into the mix...work on laterals, fine-tune the halt, get a really good walk.
What happened to JUST RIDING? I have no lofty expectations or goals of ever doing a lot of showing. Sure, I'd like to show again, it's fun. But I don't NEED to show.
I just want to ride. I love to ride, but somehow, somewhere along the way I have forgotten WHY I ride.
I need to rediscover that pure, simple joy that is horses.