Owning a horse isn’t something to be taken on lightly. I want to get that little disclaimer out of the way first. I’ve seen far too many terrible stories in the news lately regarding horse owners who by intent or their own failings have collected and mistreated horses.
Having said that, I’ve also had far too many conversations lately with successful, balanced individuals who have every intention of owning a horse after one thing or another happens. When they retire, maybe. Or perhaps once they have a nice piece of land. There are a lot of really good reasons to wait.
This is what I have to say to suggest you not.
There is never a good time for a city-dwelling human to own a horse. I know that sounds bleak, but it’s true. Living in a major metropolis means you’ve got at least a half hour before you can drive to the barn. Mine is forty minutes if I obey the speed limit (plus 10 km or so) and have no traffic. In Toronto, the grace of no traffic is rare. More often than not my trip out to the barn takes me an hour to an hour and a half; a long time when you factor in both directions.
If I’m being particularly honest, I don’t have time in my life to own a horse. I have a husband and toddler, not to mention my job. There’s also daily chores, my dog, and the fish. Oh, and a moment or two to myself to keep sane. I also occasionally sleep. The three-hour block of time I have for simply dealing with traffic to and from the barn is three hours I do not have to give. And yet give I do.
One of my employers’ has ridden western for years. She’s lovely, and has a property outside of the city where horses could be kept. We had a conversation about riding, and how once it’s in your blood it never really leaves. She admitted she hoped to have a horse of her own once retired, but almost instantly also admitted that retirement may never come.
“Don’t wait,” I told her. “I don’t have the time to have a horse. I have too much in my life already. But spending time I don’t have has made me a happier, saner person.” She seemed startled at my words, but understood as well.
I’m a better wife and mother because I’m allowed to ride a horse of my own at least four days a week. My body thrums with energy and I ride tired, hungover, and occasionally a bit sick. Sometimes Star treats me as little more than a moving salad bar who offers food, but other times she sniffs and cuddles me like I’m one of her herd. Regardless of her attitude, being around her makes me feel like myself.
I half-joke about how poor I am. The punchline never quite lands, because I always finish with, “but I have a horse.” Maybe that’s irresponsible of me, but anyone who knows me was nothing but supportive when I admitted I was thinking of horse ownership. Do it, they encouraged.
I’ve had a few people reach out to me since starting this blog. Some are just being kind and telling me they liked the story I told. Others asked advice. They want a game plan, and hope I have the blueprint for them.
I don’t. I can’t list steps for you to follow. I wish I could. All I can say, with an absolute certainty, is if there is any way at all for you to live your dream of having a pony of your own then do it. Maybe it’s not technical ownership, but a part-board or lease. Maybe it’s volunteering some time working at the barn in order afford lessons every week. Think outside the box in order to live your dream.
There will be sacrifices. Whether it is a money issue or simply a time issue, there will be moments where you have to choose between the equestrian path and the every-day-life path. From personal experience, I can tell you that there will be times when you choose wrong.
There will be days when you are convinced you’re only going out to the barn to do a quick feed and lunge. At most you’ll be there for an hour. But then you arrive and see your horse is completely covered in mud. (Note the photo above.) You realize that nothing will be quick or easy, and your hour at the barn morphs into two or three with very little warning.
Years ago when my ownership of horses extended purely to Breyers, my best friend and I were watching something on TV. As often happened between us, a certain phrase caught our ears and made us think about ponies. “I’m waiting for inspiration,” the actor said. My friend turned to me with that particular glow that meant horses were involved, “That would be a great name for a horse: Waiting for Inspiration.”
From that moment onwards, whenever we pretend to be horses or ride horses, Waiting for Inspiration was my primary mount. If I ever breed a horse of my own and a “W” name is needed, that will be my obvious choice.
I’ve come to realize, though, that waiting isn’t always so wonderful. Waiting sometimes means you never get what you’ve been waiting for. Sometimes you wake up and realize you’re older than you expected and still don’t have something you’ve always wanted. Other times, well, you simply don’t wake up at all. I’ve quite literally spent most of my life waiting for inspiration. I was done waiting, and Rockstar Royale took on the role of my primary mount.
Somehow in my darkest days, Star lights me up. We have bad days, of course. Days when I think I jumped the gun. More often than not, though, we have simply days of good. The feeling of going to the barn and not having that wonder of “who am I riding today?” Of routine and, as weird as it may sound, the quite unique feeling of level normalcy. Even on the bad days, I can’t complain too much. Because, after all, I am living my dream. I am a frazzled, sometimes terribly amateur rider, but I am happy.
No matter what happens from here onwards, I’m no longer waiting for inspiration. Whether good, bad, or something in between, being at the barn with Star leaves me feeling centered in myself. I suppose the simplest explanation is I don’t have to wait for anything anymore. I have Star; as far as my equine lifestyle is concerned, she’s my inspiration.
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 new Thoroughbred mare, Star, toward the Trillium Jumper Circuit in 2016. She struggles daily to juggle family, work, and her equine lifestyle, with occasional success.