When did you start riding? It's a question I'm asked often and a question I often ask. The answer, mine anyway, is complicated. Actual riding lessons began when I was 10 years old. Before that, I rode the dog, the ponies at the fair, the neighbors' horse (without permission), my bicycle (which was a horse in my imagination), stick horses and my bouncy horse, horses on guided trail rides, the mechanical horse outside the Kmart that you could ride if you put a quarter in the slot, carousel horses, and I sat on horses as a baby with my Mom when she rode. I once even rode a cow.
I think some people are just born to ride horses. Many, many people love to ride and are good riders, but there are some of us that are just made for it. It's what we live for and think about constantly. Certainly, some of my passion came from my Mom who had horses and rode, and still rides once in a while. With that influence, or maybe genetic material, I had a head start.
Horses were always the one thing I was sure of. Throughout my life, during strife, confusion, uncertainty, the one thing that I was consistently sure of was that I loved horses and that they were the balance for everything. That thriving obsession lost me more than one friend as those friends grew more well-roundedly with mainstream interests. I continued on in my pursuit of all things equine and along the way found friends who shared my interest, or at least put up with it.
My riding is something I have both taken seriously and taken for granted. As I started teaching others, it was frustrating at times when students didn't get it. When they couldn't feel what came so easily to me or when I couldn't put into words how to do something that was a second nature in my world, teaching became exasperating. Oddly enough, it took finding an interest in something non-horsey to put the learning path of others into a new light. It was when I started ballroom dance lessons and struggled with something that I desperately wanted to do, that I discovered an empathy for those learning to ride. My patience returned.
It's not that riding always came easily for me! I struggled heavily, especially through college, but I persevered. Determinedly and doggedly I pursued riding horses. I'm sure there were times when my instructors wished I would pursue something else. Backgammon, perhaps. Or knitting.
In the times when I have had to think about a new career, panic sets in, complete utter choking panic at the thought of not working with horses every day. My horses are parts of me. They are like 1000 pound external vital organs, just more hairy and less squishy.
I do worry about what will happen when I can't ride horses anymore. When I am so feeble and old and decrepit (which could be next week at the rate I'm going) that I can not physically ride horses or care for them anymore, what will I do then? I'll be back where I started, reading horse books, looking at pictures, collecting model horses, but not riding the dog. Or the cow. There has to be a line drawn somewhere.