An Equine Affair
A love story
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Horse riding isn’t a just hobby, it’s so much more.

With a new year comes new goals, new ideas, and new opportunities for us to explore – or return to – hobbies we’ve always wanted to try. For some people (hopefully many!) that might include horse riding. Whether you’re a happy hacker, riding once a week, or an experienced equestrian with Olympic dreams, this sport can never be just a hobby – it’s something that you have to enter into wholeheartedly, with passion and determination and a willingness to work on every aspect of your horsemanship.

Like any sport, horse riding takes a lot of work and practice to improve. There are tons of elements that we need to work on to be better riders, ranging from strength to balance to fitness.

It’s fairly obvious that there’s more to riding than staying on the horse (especially for those who’ve done a few lessons!), but it’s not always so clear that riding is a team sport. In the modern world, more and more people will talk about their relationship with the horses that they ride as being a partnership and this is a wonderful step forward in the way that we think about riding. But there’s even more to the team than that.

Riding is a team sport with more than two players. The list of people who keep you and your horse working together is endless, but perhaps the two most important players are you and your horse. It doesn’t matter whether you ride your own horse, a lease, or a different school pony every week; the horse is your biggest partner in your riding life.  

The thing is, unlike most teammates, horses can’t understand when you’re not feeling well, or busy, or tired. Human teammates might understand when you tell them that you’ve had a rough week and you can’t come to practice today, or that you’re feeling ill and can’t work as hard as you usually do. But horses? Horses can’t have things explained to them. All horses know is how their bodies and minds feel; and a lack of work and stimulation make both feel bad.

Consistently showing up for your horse is the first step towards being a good teammate. Making sure that you make it to practice, that you’re checking in and giving them love and attention, and that you’re riding them as often as they need to be ridden, especially if you’re leasing or own your own horse.

But if that was all it took, horse riding might still be considered just another hobby. Pitching up to practice is only one part of being an equestrian. As riders, handlers, trainers and competitors – and everything in between – we need to remember that every element of how we move and feel will impact the animal we’re working with. If we’re off balance, or not strong enough, or angry, or distracted, it’s the horse that suffers the consequences.

Your horse isn’t able to remind you to get your head in the game and put in the work. They can’t give you homework or ask you to work on your position when you’re not on their backs. That leaves it to us to realize that we need to do the work – not just on lesson days, but every day.

Horse riding isn’t a hobby. It can’t be because if the only time we’re working on our riding is when we’re paying for a lesson, then our horses – our teammates – will suffer and they don’t have a voice to tell us that we’re letting them down.   

Author: Rochelle Jacobs