Stable Advice: A Lack of Enthusiasm

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Editor’s Note: Stable Advice is a place for our readers to offer their advice on some of those uniquely equestrian problems. These aren’t the questions that you’d normally ask your vet or trainer. These are questions about horse life, like dealing with interpersonal struggles at the barn, juggling horse commitments and “real world” obligations, and generally navigating the challenges of living in the 21st-century horse world. Think of this as a place to share advice with a group of your best equestrian friends.


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Woman Not Riding

I’ve been riding for most of my life and it’s always been a big part of who I am. My horse has developed some medical issues and my vet has advised me to stop riding him. I’m fine with that; I’m happy to keep my horse as a pet for as long as he lives. The problem is that he costs as much now as he did when he was an active horse, and that means I don’t have extra money to buy or lease another horse or take weekly lessons. For a while I was occasionally riding friends’ horses or taking the odd lesson, but without being able to ride consistently, I’m losing my enthusiasm. I’m thinking about just taking a break from riding until I have the financial means to devote to it, but I don’t know if that’s wise. I’m hoping other readers who have taken a break from riding can tell me the pros and cons and whether it’s worth it to scrabble around for the occasional ride or better to just step away for now and be at peace with it.

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17 COMMENTS

  1. Perhaps you would have a friend with a farm, barn, pasture, even if a distance from you. You could at least rent a spot for your not rideable horses, and then have some funds to still ride.

  2. As someone whose first horse has become more and more “pasture ornament” and less “riding buddy,” I can tell you that enthusiasm will wax and wane. During the wane times, I find other activities to enjoy with my equine pal so that I still feel connected – my enthusiasm relies on him, not riding. We take walks to find greener grass, I groom him (for my own relaxation and his!), and I have picnics in the pasture while he grazes. Is it the excitement of blazing or meandering down a trail? Maybe not, but for me, its about the relationship. When I get the riding itch, I hop on and away we go! Continue looking for riding opportunities, but make time for your friend. The relationship doesn’t have to wither because the ride time did!

  3. I personally don’t own my horse (and am currently looking to lease one). The school at which I ride doesn’t have anymore riding lessons on the days I’m free so I can only squeeze in the occasional ride/lesson.
    Honestly the gap between some rides can be a bit off-putting but I think hanging on to riding is better 🙂 One way you can keep up your enthusiasm might be to hang out with horses more? Or just read/mentally go through riding stuff.

  4. What about teaching him tricks using clicker training; the relationship that develops when using R+ training is amazing and you can see your horses true personality come out.

  5. I spent the last two years looking for another riding horse when my pony developed navicular syndrome. I discovered in that time that I actually was able to take a breather from horses. I enjoyed it too. Sometimes it’s best to just step back and take a break, even if it is for two years!

  6. I lost my old mare after being together for 23 years…. only a month ago…. I hadn’t ridden her for 12months, due to medical issues for her. I have 7 other horses/ponies…… but I’ve lost that “must ride” enthusiasm…. Love all my other Neddies, but they are not “My Old Girl” who saw me through a lot of life challenges ( for me, maybe not challenges for others) I run a small riding school for Beginner & Nervous Riders… it is just me and my Neddies, and helping and teaching is fine. Looking after my Neddies is fine, I just feel…. I don’t want to ride! It is hard…….

  7. My quarter horse mare impaled herself under her right armpit with a tpost, in2013. Her rehab was 11 months. We had 3 other horses plus a colt. Our gelding was my mares rehab roommate, I started riding our broodmare. As my mare was rehabilitating I did ground work with her groomed her everyday and our bond now is stronger than ever. Just because a horse has a medical issue and cannot be rode dosent mean we have to stop training. Teach a horse.
    tricks, work and lateral bending, teach how to bow, pedastol work, even setting up a trail course with things laying around. Logs, tarps, swimming pool noodles, etc. Desensitize your horse to things that may or may not be scary. Trust building exercises are the best way to establish a bond stronger than just riding.

  8. Scrabble around for the occasional ride. Lots of people have horses and don’t have the time to give them the necessary exercise or attention they deserve. I am sure you could find someone willing to let you ride their horse once/twice a week.
    You don’t want to lose your riding strength and muscle, especially if it’s a long break. You might never get back to riding again!
    If you’re up for the challenge of riding under these circumstances you won’t regret it. So sorry about your own horse.

  9. 2 years ago, my 23 yo OTTB became lame and my husband and I began to share his horse that became my horse. Turns out, my husband knew before I did that my horse would soon become a pasture pet and got his horse with the full intention of him being mine.
    I still can ride my 23 year old horse on easy rides late spring, cooler summer days and Fall and I still graze him. I get strange looks from bikers in the park when we’re just hiking through the trails together. Sometimes, people ask about him and sometimes I joke and say, he’s really an oversized Great Dane (he’s 16.3).
    We now half lease a horse more suitable for my husband. the lady that owns the horse doesn’t have time to ride and wasn’t ready to sell. So, now we just share the costs.
    I belong to a adult pony club and I’m amazed at the amount of horse sharing there. It’s really a special group of people.
    Watch the ads on Craigslist or even the local equine advertisement.

  10. What would happen to your horse if you took a break?
    Have you thought of doing some barn chores in exchange for rides?
    Is your horse healthy enough to be able to do showmanship and/or trail-in-hand?

  11. This winter, I was incredibly busy. For awhile I tried to keep up a schedule of riding every night, very late into the evening, but that became exhausting. I opted just to take a break for a few months, just coming to longe my horse on the weekends and check in on him. Both of us got out of shape, as was expected, but we’re slowly getting back to where we were last fall. I think it was more beneficial to both my horse and myself to take that break, rather than to push myself to keep riding and exhausting myself. Now, I’m back and more passionate than ever. Sometimes it’s necessary, especially when you’ve been doing it for so long. Just make sure that your horse’s needs are well attended to while you’re taking a break.

  12. I was forced to take a break when my horse and myself went “lame”… I have spinal issues so sometimes it is hard to ride when I am in pain… I took a break from riding English for a month and am so greatful that I did. I was able to focus on what riding really is : having fun with your horse… I had become so caught up in the seriousness that I was so stressed I could not enjoy riding … I am now doing trail and am reminded that in all things God has a perpose and all thing work together for those who love and serve him… It is refreshing

  13. I think breaks from riding help boost enthusiasm. I’m an Equine Science major at a small college, and we only have two instructors. I rode with the first one last semester–big mistake. This instructor doesn’t really teach, but just tears you down when you’re not riding correctly, and as a result I picked up several bad habits. After Christmas break, I was ready to come back and deal with fixing those bad habits with the other instructor (who is very good at what she does).
    After a much better semester at the barn, I’m still looking forward to having the summer off so that I can focus on strenghthening my weak body and letting my compounded back injuries heal (no horse-related injuries, just a lack of medical attention for back pain and muscle strains when growing up). I’ll still find someplace to ride so that I don’t lose my current level, but a break will allow me to work on myself from a medical standpoint and let my mind have a chance to recharge.
    Not being able to ride for a while doesn’t necesarily have to be a bad thing! It can let you focus on gaining strength, and refresh your mind for a new start.

  14. Taking a break from horses is never easy, but it can serve as a useful tool to get things into perspective. You can take a break from riding, but you can also do other things with your horse to enjoy it. You can teach your horse tricks and work on groundwork or maybe even just enjoy time with it. To afford lessons, consider working for them and paying a discounted price. With a bit of negotiating, you may be able to get free lessons in exchange for work or exercising horses. There are plenty of opportunities out there for horses that can’t be ridden or exercised much, you just have to look for them and see what works best for you!

  15. Losing a horse due to an injury can be tough. The expenses can get pretty high. Maybe if you’re losing your enthusiasm, see what other horsey things you can do. If you can, ride your friends’ horses when they’re out of town. This is always a good option, plus it means that you can learn more about other horses’ personality types, because, chances are, you’ve gotten used to how your horse does things. If that doesn’t work out, see how you can help out around the barn. If your barn is a lesson barn, like mine, volunteer to help out with lessons and maybe you could use a school horse or pony to do a demo on. If you’re losing your enthusiasm, remember to remind yourself why you became a part of the horse community.

  16. I am so sorry to hear about your horse. if it was me, I would try to keep riding, so that you don’t lose your practice. I am in that situation with my horse, who has ringbone. I am trying to get her old owner who loved her very much, to take her back I want to learn to ride bigger horses. but if you love your horse and wish to keep him, I think you should. if riding is your dream, follow it, while loving your horse. if you want to take a break, that’s fine. I think you should realize your dreams, and decide what is best thing for you. and don’t forget to pray!

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