It's a question I've been asked a lot in the past week . . .
First let me say that my experience at the barn has been good. People have been friendly and welcoming. There are a lot more riders under the age of thirty at this barn than at Christensen's. None of them have so much as raised an eyebrow when I introduce J as my wife. None of them has said a word about T tearing around. There are a lot of kids there working their horses, which leads me to believe T would be able to find a fun place to learn to ride with kids close to his age if he wanted to. There are plenty of Arabs there and I can't count the number of times I've heard "he's so cute" in relation to Ashke.
However, the one reoccurring question I've heard, over and over, is, "What do you do?'
I didn't realize until I got back into the horse thing, how prevalent the concept of "doing" with a horse really is. At Christensen's, the "doing" was western pleasure, cutting, reining, etc. At TMR, the "doing" is dressage and show jumping. There doesn't seem to be a slot for "just riding".
I fell into this myself when I first started suggesting I might be able to get a horse to J. I thought I had to have a purpose, that "I love them and want them" didn't seem to carry enough water to justify the expense. That's why I gravitated to endurance, because it's basically riding for a really long time. I like that and want to do more. I also want a good, solid relationship with my horse. I want him fit and eager and sound when we ride. I want him to enjoy our companionship and adventures. I want the trust and love. I want him to be completely healed and ready to ride for six or eight hours at a time, without pain or fatigue. I want him to enjoy the gymkhanas, based on how he reacted last year, and develop balance and agility with me on him. I want him to feel safe and taken care of and to let go of his past. Those are my goals. But they aren't really my "do".
In talking with the young woman riding her 17.1 warmblood mare around and around the arena on Tuesday night, I told her I was interested in trail riding. She sneered. I'm sure she didn't intend it the way it came across, but it is in effect what she did. I asked her if there were people who liked to ride trail, and she sneered again and communicated to me that TMR was a "show barn" and although there might be a few people who ride trail, most of them were serious equestrians, with trainers and scheduled shows and a PURPOSE. All spoken in a reasonable, but a touch condescending, tone.
I've ran into this a lot. Trail riding is not a discipline, unless you wrap it up in the terms "endurance riding", and doesn't seem to qualify in the eyes of most horsepeople as a real reason, a real "do". I did admit to her that I was interested in "doing" endurance, but was waiting to see how Ashke's right hamstring came along, which garnered a lot of verbal support and comments like "well, don't give up on it yet" and "you could still DO it". But I wasn't able to really communicate to any of the people I have talked to that it really doesn't matter to me if we never DO anything other than trail ride.
I didn't have a purpose when I had Queenie. Or a "do." She was freedom and movement and the thrill of being on a horse. Some days we were the pony express. Some days we were the Lakota at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Some days we were soldiers in the Civil War. Some times I was the ape in Planet of the Apes, armed with gun and rope chasing the other kids in the neighborhood. It all depended on the book I was reading. And the games I was playing in my head. We did work on the things that would make us successful in 4-H, but that was not really the reason for having Queenie and was never really our focus. It was part-time work at best. What we did best was just be. And to just be everywhere it was possible for us to go.
I have always loved going places I've never gone before. I love exploring. I used to do it in my car. I have done it on my bike and on rollerblades. I love doing it on horseback. I would die to be able to camp and ride at the same time. I would love to take Ashke to Wyoming and explore Vedauwoo from horseback. I would love to feel the Wyoming plains disappear beneath our feet, to chase antelope, and pretend again that I am a Lakota warrior, wild and free. I want to ride all the way to Boulder from the barn in Golden. I want to find a way to ride to Sloan's lake. I might want to participate in a fun ride at Kenlyn Arabians or their poker run. I want to spend time with my horse exploring and adventuring.
For me, I don't want to "do", I just want to be.