For the last few months, the only horse I’ve been riding is Candy. Work kept me busy in the fall, and I was focused on getting Candy ready for hunting. Gina and Moe were being ridden a couple of times a week by their lesson students, so I didn’t feel like I needed to add to their workload. While riding Candy is exciting and satisfying in its own way, it’s not always that fun. Candy is still very green; she’s not a very confident horse, and she’s a slow learner. Spending a couple of hours trying to sit quietly while she jigs down a trail or attempting to persuade her that ground poles are not horse-eating monsters isn’t my favorite activity. Riding her is often as exasperating as it is enjoyable. That’s not to say she’s a bad horse or that I dislike riding her; on the contrary, I felt so much joy while galloping her out hunting and total satisfaction when she nailed canter to trot transitions in this month’s lesson. She’s just a horse who’s a lot of work, and sometimes that work is frustrating.
As I headed out to the barn yesterday, I realized that I was feeling like riding was something I had to go do. It felt like a chore. Go chase down Candy, see how anxious she’s feeling today, try to have a productive ride while she’s having a panic attack about all the jumps in the outdoor arena. I didn’t want to go ride. So, I decided to saddle up Moe instead of Candy. I haven’t ridden him since his EPM diagnosis, despite him finishing treatment and responding well to it. I’ve seen his lesson students ride him, and he’s looking just as good as ever. I was nervous about getting on him myself, though. I was nervous he would feel off, or different, or just…not like the horse I know and love so much. But I knew that even if Moe did feel unlike himself, it wouldn’t really matter that much. I would have a nice time tooling around on my favorite fat and fuzzy Thoroughbred.
I shouldn’t have been worried about Moe. Sitting astride his short, narrow body was like settling into a favorite comfortable chair. He marched away from the mounting block feeling enthusiastic and energetic. I had a great ride on him. We didn’t do a lot- after all, he is fat and old and out of shape. We walked and trotted and cantered in a reasonable frame, practiced leg yields, and had an exciting time trotting over the wooden bridge that’s part of the working equitation course. (By “exciting”, I mean Moe trotted up to it, jumped on to the middle of it, and cantered off of it.) It felt really good to ride him- it was fun! And it’s always nice to be around a people-oriented horse, even if he’s constantly mugging for treats.
It was good to remind myself that heading out to the barn shouldn’t feel like a chore. Sure, riding won’t be rainbows and sunshine every day- the struggle is part of the process. But horses ought to bring us happiness, too.