Why Do You Ride?

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Why do you ride? This was a seemingly simple question posed to my classmates and me by our instructor during a riding class in college. Most of us answered how I imagine most riders would, with some variation on it being fun, challenging, good exercise or a way to spend time with horses. One student took a more intellectual tack, explaining how she liked being able to work with different horses, figuring out what made each one tick, their idiosyncrasies, their potential and their difficulties. She liked to be able to challenge herself to bring out the best in each horse she rode.

Our instructor told us that we’d all given answers that sounded along the lines of what the standard amateur rider would say, except that last student. She sounded like someone with a professional’s mentality. I silently kicked myself for not having given a better answer.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to ride for fun and exercise. We don’t all need to be pros. But it was a valid question to ask that particular riding class since most of us were there as equestrian science majors, pursuing a future in the field.

Snoopy
The author and Snoopy, not pursuing any goals. Photo: Erin Kimla.

I thought about this question the other day as I was taking Snoopy on a routine hack around the farm. I’m not 20 years old and actively pursuing a future as a horse trainer. I’m a grizzled old 30-something with a desk job. It’s even misleading to say I’m an amateur at this point since my last show was more than a year ago and my next show is a hypothetical situation at the moment. My horse is wonderful and perfect, but he’s developed a heart murmur in his old age, and the veterinary specialist prescribed “no forced work” for the rest of his days. That means light riding is fine, but I won’t be doing any conditioning work, long trail rides or traveling to horse shows.

So why do I ride these days? Is it fun? Sort of. I mean, it’s not the bugs-in-your-teeth cantering down the trail we used to do. It’s a nice, relaxing sort of fun, more appropriate for a horse-and-rider pair of our, ahem, maturity level, I suppose.

Is it challenging or good exercise? To be honest, not usually. Sometimes I’ll practice posting without stirrups, but the no-forced-work mandate limits the amount of trotting Snoopy can do at one time. I try to work on my posture and do some simple leg-yielding at the walk, but in general, our low-speed hacks aren’t very physical or challenging.

Is it a good way to spend time with my horse? Sure. I tend to think of our rides around the farm as quiet bonding time. But at this point Snoopy doesn’t need to be ridden. I could spend barn time doing a thorough grooming and letting him graze on the lawn. Or I could hand walk him around the farm. (I could use the extra exercise.) But something still compels me to throw a leg over Snoopy’s back a few times a week.

So why do I ride? I don’t have a better answer now than I did back in that college riding class. Maybe there isn’t a good reason. Maybe I don’t have to be seeking a thrill or working towards a goal or trying to pick apart my horse and put him back together as a better equine competitor. I ride because it’s better than not riding, and that just has to be good enough.

Why do you ride? Tell me about it in the comments.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. I ride, because of the feelings I get when I get on my horses back, that we are one. Neither of us, can do what we do, without the other. She is my soul.

  2. I ride because I love my horse. Not just horses in general (although I do), but because my horse makes the sun shine. For me, riding encompasses everything from bath time to sitting in his stall listening to hay rustle and jaw grinding to actual saddle time. “Riding” is just a metaphor – even if I never sat on his back again, we would always be riding. Moving through our lives together, one hoofbeat at a time.

  3. I ride because there is something special about looking at the world from the back of a horse. It’s something you can’t find anywhere else. Some people love thrill rides or running marathons: I love horses.

  4. having ridden most of my life for the fun, exhiliration, challenge, beauty of the horse, as I have grown older and faced the challenges of life
    I realized what was the most profound of my experiences with my horses:
    They ground me – not just physically but emotionally. They are real – they respond to my endeavors good and bad in a simple real way that makes me contemplate my methods, my thoughts, my challenges to communicate not only with my biomechanics but also with my soul, my inner joy for without the softness of the latter two the other endeavors aren’t complete. My horses have taught me how to face life with a responsibility to do my very best for them in care and riding in a simplified do no harm, do my very best, NEVER refuse to ask for help and instruction.
    If I become confused or egocentric in my life – I walk to the barn and experience reality, love, and the simplicity that The Good Lord has entrusted me to do my best for these magnificent creatures. I feel if I use this “rule of thumb” in every aspect of my life I will be a better human being.
    Joy is a GIFT not an entitlement. My horses have shown me this every day.

  5. I ride to forget the world! When I ride or taking my lessons, for that hour or so, the world does not exist, the job, family or anything. It is just me and my girl!

  6. My name is Rebecca Stoler. I am 24 years old. I have been riding since the age of 4. My parents originally provided me with horseback riding lessons as a way to help me with my fine motor skills. I ride English saddle seat.

  7. I think it starts out as something in the genes. It’s why some kids are drawn to horses while others take thing apart to see how they work or draw or put on plays.
    And if you immerse yourself in the world of horses eventually it becomes such a part of you that you can’t separate yourself from it. The barn is as much home as your house, the riding ring your battleground where you face your fears and challenge your limits, and the trails where you develop your independence. How do you isolate your identity from the countless early morning show starts, the hundreds of late summer nights lingering at the barn with friends, the thousands of times swinging a leg over a horse’s back?
    Eventually it’s not a matter of like or even love; it’s just who you are.

  8. When I ride, it makes me forget all the stress of life. When I ride, it forces me to focus on the horse. It takes me to a different world, where I am free from everything. That is why I ride.

  9. I am a 60+ rider and my horse is 23. I ride because I like the relationship between myself and my horse. I am present in the “now” when I work with him. I do grooming only some days but usually I go for short rides several times a week.We both really enjoy trail riding on horse trails in a local park. When I pull out the trailer he is very willing to hop on and go.

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