On riding

So here I am with two horses, and both of them are injured. Both of them have leg injuries, and that means I can’t actually do a lot with them. I can’t take them out for a walk in the countryside. I can’t really continue with the in hand work I was doing with Cassie. And I can’t ride. Since Cassie got injured, I have thought a lot about riding and I have asked myself how important it is to me. I am hopeful that Cassie will recover, but it is not a certainty and even if she does come right the vet has warned me that I have to be prepared for the fact that it is going to take a long time. Months. We won’t be riding this side of Christmas, that’s about the only thing that does seem certain. 

Minnie’s condition is even more complicated. I am worried about the recent deterioration of her left hind leg and the recurrence of inflammation of the suspensory ligament in her right fore.  My priority for Minnie is to get her pain-free and comfortable so she can enjoy life. At the moment it doesn’t seem likely that she will ever be sound enough for riding again and I have to bear that in mind, but I am still not prepared to give up just yet. If Cassie didn’t recover I would be devastated, it would shatter all the dreams and hopes I have for her, but when I think about riding, it is really Minnie I think of.

I have horses, because I love being around them. I love spending time in their gentle presence, and watch them doing normal horse things, like munching hay or rolling on their backs in the sand or gallop around chasing each other when they’re in a playful mood. I love sitting near them in the grass, and listen to their snorts of contentment and the swish of their tails. Riding is not the reason I have horses, but I do love it. There is nothing like going for a long hack with a horse to refresh the soul.

I think most horses enjoy hacking out too. Horses living in the human world are usually not in a position where they can roam at will and cover large distances, and a long hack offers a change of scenery and the chance to move. I know Cassie enjoys going out, but of all the horses in my life, Minnie is the horse who has always been the most enthusiastic about riding.  She loved it. If she saw me coming up with her bridle, she would greet me with a deep, throaty chuckle and she came to each ride with shining eyes and with every fibre of her body vibrating with energy. I loved going out with Minnie too. She made me look a much better rider than I am; I only had to think and Minnie responded. Minnie and I both like speed and we had a lot of fun on the gallops. A small shift in weight and we would be off, thundering along with the wind whipping her mane in my face and I could feel her joy in my own body. To experience that kind of synergy is awesome.

Minnie has a quirky personality and she is, in many ways, a very private horse. She doesn’t really like being touched and she is protective of her personal space. She is also highly strung and easily bored. Cassie enjoys grooming and massages, Minnie will only accept it if she’s in the mood. Riding was not an extra for us, it defined our relationship.  I think we balanced each other, it was a real partnership.  I always felt incredibly comfortable on her back; her nervousness and at times sharp reactions didn’t bother me, she never made me lose my balance and her pirouettes just made me laugh. Those couple of weeks this spring when we went out riding before she got injured again, Minnie blossomed, she was like a different horse. Recently, she has become moody and a bit withdrawn. Minnie is bored and it is obvious to me that she needs the mental stimulation and the freedom our riding out offered her. That is why I can’t accept that her riding days are over and give up on her just yet. Yes, riding is important to me, but it is not just for myself.



11 thoughts on “On riding

  1. I agree with you that horses do enjoy getting out. I think the more independent and adventurous horses really like it. I know you will find a way to help Minnie–just look at how much you helped Cassie!

    Best wishes your way.

  2. I totally agree with you that horses appreciate a change in scenery. Your partnership with Minnie is a close one and I am sure she understands that you are doing what is best for her, even if it means taking a break from something you both love. I am hopeful that you will both be able to go out on the trails again. But for now, the shift in what your relationship focuses on can only make it stronger, no? Positive thoughts from Canada coming your way for both Cassie and Minnie!

    • Thanks for that Wolfie! You’re right about the relationship growing stronger because of what happened, I haven’t been able to ride since November 2009 when she first got injured, apart from those few weeks this spring, and it brought our relationship to a different level. When the suspensory ligament gave out this spring, I think Minnie took the set back harder than I did, and now she is bored and fed up. She really needs an outlet for all that high energy of hers!

  3. I hope Minnie does start to feel better so you two can ride — even just lightly.
    I can agree with this post so much. Riding is not the reason why I have my horse either — but riding (in a kind, thoughtful matter that consider’s the horses feelings and input), provides a unique connection that I feel is lost when you only spend time on the ground. Having a horse that is not only premissive of you being on board, but really enjoys it makes it all that much harder to give it up.

    I am in similar shoes as you right now. I only have my boy Griffin and a second horse is out of the question for me. Griffin has struggled a bit with his arthritis this summer and I feel I have reached an impasse in our relationship in regards to riding.

    I could double his joint supplements and probably continue riding the way we have always been used to, but I do not want to cause further damage to his legs in the name of just being able to ride. His current dosage of supplement makes him comfortable just hanging out and taking short walks with me and I am starting to think it may be time to keep our rides limited to only the days he feels his best and then keep those rides VERY short (10 minutes or so).

    ….and then another part of me really wonders if it’s just best to give up riding my boy completely. Like you and Minnie, I truly do think Griffin enjoys the connection we have when riding….and even more so since I have been giving him choices. I keep going back and forth in my head — “what is best for us in our individual friendship?”

    • Hi Carol, great to hear from you again! I feel that even if Minnie and I could only hack out in walk a couple of times a week for short rides, it would make a major difference to Minnie. It is liked being cooped up in the house for a while and how good you feel if you can go outside for a while to clear your head.
      I agree that if you have a good relationship with your horse and you suit each other, riding brings a unique connection that you don’t have on the ground.

      Arthritis is such a problem for many ex-racehorses. I hope that you will be able to find a way to continue riding Griffin as long as possible, even if it is only for a few minute; if he enjoys it it will be good for him. My old dog has very bad arthritis in her hips, but we still take her out for short walks, we just let her set the pace. She’d be heartbroken if we always left her at home.

  4. When our old mare became ancient, she still loved to go out for a trail ride. Carrying me was out of the question, as I was too heavy – she’d let me know by just refusing to move. But a lighter person was welcome. Two weeks before she died, my daughter took her out once around the field. Everyone thought the poor old mare would drop dead from the effort, but when she came back to the barn, everyone realized how happy she looked and that she had really wanted to go.

    If the horse knows he/she is free to refuse, or to stop whenever it gets too much, then I think you can leave it up to the horse.

  5. My heart goes out to you. I’d like to “borrow” what your vet said about horses being over worked and not given “rest” anymore. I copied the whole paragraph and would like to use it on my blog … I would link back to your blog, of course. I’m going to do a post on how fragile a horses legs are… Do you mind if I use it?

    • Hi Margaret! Thank you for visiting, you’re welcome to use that paragraph on your blog. My vet said that most people who overwork their horse are owners who love their horse but that they just don’t realise how important a decent break is.

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