I Should Be Riding

Last Sunday was one of those perfect Australian winter days just made for horseriding – clear skies, warm sun, a lovely crispness to the air but not so cold I can’t feel my extremities.

But I didn’t ride. I chose not to. I just didn’t feel like it – I think my big girls’ pants were in the wash.

I find that there is an immense pressure to ride and while it can come from other well-meaning riders, and outsiders, the biggest pressure comes from myself.

Sure, I have goals and dreams, things I want to accomplish with my horse. But do I have to be working on them every time I go to see her? Do I really want that pressure to perform constantly weighing on my mind?

No, I don’t. I don’t like it that pressure from others and I certainly don’t like it from myself.

I find it is easier to say no to others than to myself. Dealing with my inner critic is a lot harder – it just doesn’t want to go away some days: “You say you want to ride, you want to do this and that, but you don’t ride. How can you call yourself a horsewoman, a rider? You’re giving up, you’re too soft, you’re not strong-willed enough, you’re not tough enough to own a horse”. And so it goes…

I should be riding my horse.

I should be practicing what I learnt in my lesson.

I should be riding out with the others.

I should be working her.

I should be teaching her something new.

I should be cantering everywhere.

I should be brave and confident.

I should be competing.

I should be striving for more – bigger, better, faster, more.

But on Sunday I chose to ignore it. I chose to do what I wanted and needed to do for myself. Instead of riding, I took her for a walk. We didn’t go a long way but we took our time. I stopped every now and then to let her have some grass, a drink from the dam, to watch the cows on the hill and for me to simply enjoy the view.

And in choosing to do this, I got to learn her favourite grasses and weeds as I watched her search out the tasty green shoots she prefers.  I got to watch the Moorhens playing in the dam. I got to watch the comings and goings at the agistment centre. And I got to walk back through a heap of mud…

I like taking time off from riding – it doesn’t mean I don’t do anything with her, it just means that I take the pressure to perform off her and me.

I admit that, for a while, I bought into the belief that if you have a horse, you must ride it. Otherwise why have a horse?

Now I know there is so much more to owning and caring for a horse than riding.

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Allyssa Carlton

I’ve loved horses forever but only in the last few years have I owned a horse. Now I belong to a grey Arab mare named Aine. When I’m not horsing around, you’ll find me writing, cooking, reading and drinking coffee and wine. I share my home with my barista husband, one of my two daughters and her tiny dog Patrick.

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