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  • Writer's pictureKathryn Christensen

A Day NOT to Ride

Some days are a day not to ride.

Our horses are so sensitive to our mental states that if we're mentally stressing or in emotional turmoil, it just isn't fair to them to climb on and make them deal with us in that state. We're not going to be riding our best and they're going to feel that we're stressed and upset and not know why. It can lead to disaster in numerous ways. We might ride sloppy and undo our own training by compromising on our usual standards. We are also likely to have a shorter fuse and less patience, and that's not fair to them... especially because mistakes that they make are likely due to our extra tension anyway.

Yesterday was an adventure. A water hydrant broke the evening before, and I had been

trying (in vain) to fix it until 9:30pm.

Property water was shut off, so 9:30-10pm was spent cracking ice on water troughs outside and using buckets and a wheelbarrow to bring water inside to top off stall waters for the night. I repeat, property water was off. My farm had no water. Yes, the horses were OK for the night and morning but it needed to get fixed before we could turn water on. So... I didn't sleep much. Then, yesterday morning I went to the hardware store to get a new hydrant, messaged with the plumber who had been gracious enough to text me back at 8:30pm to say he could probably come, and I called a worker from a farm I used to be at years ago and asked him if he would be on backup call if the plumber didn't manage to get us in.

At that point all I could do was wait... and it was just about 9am, so I felt like we had time and it would be ok, so I managed to set all of that aside mentally and get light rides in on most of my horses. I had my best ride yet on a little 4yo that I've been working with. The plumber came, we got it fixed. I rode one more. My groom headed out. I just had one left.

There was something about my groom leaving and me suddenly being alone at the farm that just made all of the stress and exhaustion catch up with me. I lunged my last guy and then got ready to climb up. And I looked at him and thought, 'Nope. I'm just not right right now. It's not going to be a good ride. That's not fair to you.'

I put him in the cross ties for a minute under the heat lamp and sat down in the aisle across from him and started crying. Just a release of all the stress of the night and day and the lack of sleep and the whole thing. I let it out for a few minutes and then I did a little self-inventory to figure out what was most on my mind in that moment. What was I going to be distracted with while I was riding? I realized that "the thing" in that moment that was most on my mind was how I was going to explain to our Spanish-speaking workers what had broken the hydrant so that we could avoid it in the future. (Side note, it wasn't their fault. They did what I asked them to to prepare it for the freeze... I just missed one important step because I didn't know as much about hydrants two days ago as I do now)

So I took a few minutes to write out an explanation, I put it into Google translate, and then I sent it to a wonderful Spanish-speaking friend who had offered to help. He proofread it and said that it made sense and covered what I was trying to convey. So I sent it off to my lovely stall cleaners who will be happy to do it right now that we all know what "right" is... and then I found that in that moment I felt OK and my mind was much more clear. I grabbed my lovely, patient horse out of the cross ties, and we had a great ride, practicing all the things from our lesson earlier this week.

To continue the "some days are a day not to ride" theme, later that evening, one of my clients came out to ride. She had been on vacation and was looking forward to getting back in the saddle. She spent a while grooming, and then she did a little self-inventorying of her own. She said she'd had a migraine all day and she was hoping it would have gone away by evening but it hadn't, so she wasn't feeling her best. She said she had decided a while back not to ride when she wasn't feeling 100%, because she's learned that when she does, she and her horse both just wind up frustrated. She spent some quality time with him but decided not to push for a frustrating ride... Totally smart decision in my opinion! We have to be fair to our horses and not make them deal with whatever other things we have going on.

Mom and I are working on addressing this idea with our next recording too... It's going to be a short meditation that we can listen to right when we're getting to the barn to help let go of any stresses, worries, or other things on our minds, to help us focus on our horses. We have a first draft, so stay tuned and hopefully we'll be releasing it soon!


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