First of all, let me be clear here. When I say horse crazy, I’m not just talking about a person that loves horses. I’m talking about a person who loves horses to the degree that their friends and family are literally like, “Um…are you okay?” Maybe it’s the bumps and bruises. It could be the time commitment and/or empty bank account. One way or another horse crazy begins to slip into Horse Psychotic.
It does take a certain kind of crazy to get on a living, thinking animal that’s 100 times your own weight and assume nothing bad will happen. I’ve heard it compared to skydiving, or rock climbing as far as level of craziness. The thing is, the sky and the rock don’t have a brain to disagree with you. With horses, sometimes their flight response means you’re in the way. That’s a very special kind of crazy. My grandmother wishes I’d take up motorcycle riding instead.
I overheard a conversation between two young riders the other day, discussing a third. The rider they were talking about had a fall not that long ago, which led to an arm break. Apparently the rider had stated she was never going to ride again. This may or may not turn out to be true, but I remember thinking that if the rider was that scared/defeated it was good she decided to stay grounded. This sport is not for everyone, and everyone should not be expected to do it. Or love it, for that matter.
People joke about barn time like it’s funny. It’s not really. I can’t tell you how many times I was literally just going to the barn to do a 20 minute lunge and, next thing I know, two hours later I’m finally in my car making my way home. It might be someone that stops to ask advice on a horse matter that turns into a discussion about pros and cons. Maybe your horse has somehow discovered the square foot of wet land and has managed to cover his/her self in a thick patina. It could be a fall or loose horse that is entirely unrelated to you, but you go and help because this is what horse people do. Sometimes it’s just someone who’s had a day, and needs a good ear. One way or the other, your “quick barn trip” is now a much more major event.
We apologize for the lateness, for the change of plans. Because we are sorry that it didn’t go down the way we thought it would. But we’re not sorry that we did what we had to do. Because we’re horse crazy.
My last lesson was attended by K, who happily sat on our grand prix ring fence and took photos/videos “for the blog!” I like having her around most days, but in a lesson, it was doubly interesting. B, my coach, and K both seek a certain perfection, but they see and speak that in different ways.
After a particularly bad run at a gymnastics combo, B told me I was slouching. Slouching? K suggested I come over and watch the video. I instantly saw the problem. I was using my entire body to half-halt the speeding freight train that is my mare. It was pulling me down and forward. So again we went, and this time I focused on using my elbows and not my body.
I’m getting away from my point here, though. The real thing about being horse crazy is that we do the same thing over and over and over again. We push ourselves and our horses. Star was a foam covered, wet mess of mare after the lesson. For my part, I was glad I’d pushed extra water in the hours before.
We, of the horse crazy sect, push too hard. We force ourselves into pain. We fall, we get up, we do it again.
In the above header photo I couldn’t help but laugh at B’s expression. I realize you can’t see her face, but to the initiated you can easily see the “Meh, do it better” set of her body language. I sent this photo to her, amused.
Me: I love this picture of you. It makes me happy to have my disapproving coach standing close by. (Also Star trying desperately to pull up her knees.)
B: THOSE KNEES!!! If she can locate her brain on a more daily basis OMG 1.20 here we come
It occurred to me after this particular lesson that I have to be crazy. There is no way any rational thought or logic would have told me to keep on with Star. So many times it would have been easier, and much more rational, to have sold her on. So why didn’t I? Why didn’t my coach and horse friends like K tell me to give up and move on?
Because we’re horse crazy. We don’t just look and see what is, we see what can be. We know that work, sweat, bruises and tears just might bring us something amazing.
If doing a thing again and again and expecting a different outcome is crazy, then all athletes are crazy. We all, often daily, repeat the same skills, the same routines. And maybe that’s why the majority of us all keep doing the crazy. We all have seen what doing it again, and again, can bring.
Saturday I hacked out with a barnmate and her new part-boarder. The part-boarder commented on Star’s nice headset, build, and calmness. (I will admit that last sentiment didn’t last the full ride, but it worked for at least 7/8ths of it.) It has been so long since I talked with someone who doesn’t know Star from her early crazy, that I was a bit surprised. I just kept repeating, “you know, we’ve come a long way.”
And I think that’s the point of it all. We are horse crazy because we come a long way. Because we continue to come a long way. Last year’s poles are this year’s gymnastics and next year’s jumps. Not that we don’t go back and do it all from the beginning on a regular basis, but at least the progression grows.
If it ever stops, I don’t want to be there. I don’t want to experience the moment where I’m done and I have become the best rider I ever will be. I hope to be 80-years-old sitting on one of Star’s descendants, wondering if I just can get my shoulders a bit more back and quiet…if said descendant will move up better for me. If I stay balanced and quiet, if the descendant would be kind enough to fly over a nice vertical with old lady me.
But that’s probably just me being crazy. 😉
Christine Sharpe is a Canadian who grew up riding Hunter/Jumper in the Southern USA. Now living in Toronto, she is a thirty-something who is recently back to riding after four years off and having her first child. Christine is aiming her Thoroughbred mare, Star, toward the Jumper Circuit and Warmblood Breed inspections. She struggles daily to juggle family, work, and her equine lifestyle, with occasional success.