I Want To Ride!

Jacquie Taylor photo. Jacquie Taylor photo.

“I want to ride.” The scariest four words in the English language to a parent! And probably among the first sentences I spoke as a toddler. It is still a sentence I utter, in fact, it’s what prompted this post today — sitting at work waiting on something slow, I looked out the window and thought, “I WANT to RIDE.”

So many things, throughout my life, have interfered with the object of that sentence. When I was a child, it was time, money, and opportunity. Now that I am an adult, it’s time, money, and opportunity!

While I don’t stand in line to ride the pony at the campground horseback ride concession any more, my life is equally as restrictive in terms of saddle time. By turns, I envy and hate professional riders who post glowing little captions to pictures of them riding horses over big jumps or dressed up and shiny from head to toe, competing in the nation’s biggest and most prestigious events. I love and despise the gift of time that my retired and non-working friends have, and I do not have.

I know that eventually my body will give out, and I won’t be able to ride any more. But I am spinning quickly toward the point of retirement and less quickly toward my life goal of riding once again at the upper levels. Had I known THEN that it would take over 30 years to get back up this ladder and that life and many challenges would stand in the way, I certainly would have done things differently.

I would have stopped allowing life to happen to me, and been much more insistent about horses being my life in the way I wanted them to be. I would have stopped wishing and done more working. I would have listened to my heart, and not my wallet or people around me. But that’s enough of the wishing and hoping. What I didn’t have then was a plan. And truth be told I still really do not have a plan. And the reason is very simple.

Horses are delicate beyond all reason and common sense; the instant you even think about formulating a plan, the entire universe that contains your horse goes right to hell in the handbasket. This is sort of a given.

So what I have ended up with, sort of, is a way to wind among the trees in the forest of my life with horses. Letting them dictate the journey. Being given the ability to see, beyond the trees, a small place, perhaps a mental platform, that contains one small piece of the goal. Letting the injured horse heal, or giving up when bad weather stops riding. Standing on the mental platform, thinking about what the forced time off teaches you about goals and then stepping off that platform to continue the journey.

Along that journey of 35 or 40 years, I’ve found so many wonderful, exciting, good and kind people and things. I have been around to see many, many events, some old, some died, some new, some still going. I’ve been able to meet really significant people who have changed my life for the better.

I have had the good fortune to ride many many horses of all sorts of breeds and dispositions, all of whom gave me an incredibly diverse knowledge of this animal. I’ve done a classic three-day at a time when that was the pinnacle of the sport and we never thought it would be different from that. I rode stupid and survived. I rode smart, and survived.

My horses saved me many more times than I can remember, and, on rare occasions, I’ve declined to ride a few horses based on some kind of gut feeling that turned out to be one hundred percent right. Horses have hurt me, and I’ve probably disappointed a few horses, too, in ignorance or irritation, by being impatient or not having the proper tools to understand what I was doing. Of this last, I am the most sorry, and constantly strive to better my riding and care for my horses.

I’ve wandered from platform to platform, searching for that upper level goal, but I did something else. I mastered the journey. I made it mine. I loved and lost. I failed, learned, and tried yet again. I woke up early and stayed up late. I worked until I literally could no longer stand up, and I won when I shouldn’t have, when I got lucky and my horse found a way over something tricky that no one else could negotiate cleanly, or had a heaven-sent dressage test on a day that others had the umbrella, the barking dog, or the wrong bridle to contend with.

And I’ve had all those happen to me, too. I’ve been on the wrong side of a bad rules decision by officials, and on the right side of bad horsemanship by others. I have spent a vast amount of time on cross country courses sized below about 3 feet, more time than anyone should without moving up to spending time on courses measuring OVER 3 feet, and it’s taught me a lot about life.

And that is as it should be. Wishing it were different doesn’t work. Even planning to “get there” isn’t really the right way to go about this, as I have learned. It is the life you lead and the work you do everyday that makes you the rider you want to be. It has nothing to do with competing.

“I want to ride,” the mantra of my life, now means “find the time to ride”, and not “ride to compete” or “ride to win” or “ride to accomplish something”.

I want to ride means I want to live the journey and enjoy what I have learned, maybe pass on a little of that knowledge, maybe write about that life with horses so others also gain satisfaction in the journey, or at least, understand they are on a path, and that riding will enrich their lives in many ways and in years to come regardless of plans, goals, wishes. Horses give you that. Receive the gift in the spirit in which it is given. Keep wanting to ride.