Anybody who knows me knows that I love horses.
I grew up riding – I was a total “barn rat” as a child, spending every available waking moment at the barn. When my parents couldn’t afford riding lessons, I worked out an arrangement with my coach: I cleaned stalls, painted fences, raked leaves, picked rocks in the outdoor arena – whatever it took! When I was fourteen I started helping with beginner lessons, when I was seventeen I started teaching by myself, and when I was twenty-one I moved to Alberta to attend the Equine Science program at Olds College. I wanted to live and breathe horses – and for awhile, that’s exactly what I did.
Then real life happened.
My $10/hour stable hand job didn’t cut it when it came to paying off my student loan so I quit in favour of a job that paid better, with more regular hours. I spent my days in the office and my evenings and weekends at the barn, taking lessons and auditing clinics.
In September 0f 2009 I found out I was pregnant, and two months later my doctor told me to stop riding. Nathan took lessons so I was still at the barn at least three times a week – but life wasn’t the same. Being grounded was hard. Riding was something I had always loved and something I had always done, but I took my role as a new mother seriously. I wanted to do everything I could to protect my unborn son so I behaved myself and waited (albeit impatiently!) for the okay to ride again.
Topher was born in May and after a lot of complications with his delivery, I had to wait to start riding again until the first week of September. My horse was injured in a bizarre pasture accident on September 8th – and on the 9th I made the hardest decision of my life when it was time to have her put down. I leased one of my coach’s old school horses for awhile, shopped around for a new horse for awhile – and then I just … gave up. My heart wasn’t in it anymore. I was struggling with the loss of my horse as well as adjusting to life as a mother. I wasn’t sure if I was going back to work when my maternity leave ended – and if I didn’t, there wouldn’t be any room in the budget for a horse. I loved horses and I loved riding – but I decided it was time to take a break. It was time to focus on my family.
* * * *
That was four years ago.
A lot has changed since then: Nathan and I were able to scrimp and save and pay off approximately $30 000 in debt (student loan, car). We added another little one to our family. I quit my cushy office job in favour of working from home.
I love my life, but I’ve always felt like something was missing.
Like a part of me was missing.
Last summer Kim offered me a horse. A sweet, beautiful thoroughbred filly – but I said no, because the timing wasn’t right.
In September, I had the opportunity to have another horse – this time a paint filly – but again I said no, because the timing wasn’t right.
But then I started to ask myself (and my poor, patient husband!) – when will the timing be right? When the kids are older? When they’re both in school? When we have a house? When we have a second car?
The timing will never be right.
* * * *
On October 10th I had my first riding lesson in three years and ten months. It’s the longest period of time I’ve been out of the saddle since I was seven years old – and believe me, I felt it! Walking was painful until Wednesday after only twenty minutes of walk/trot work and transitions.
But I felt like me again, for the first time in a long time.
For the time being, I’m taking lessons once a week, though there’s the possibility it could turn into more since the owner of the horse I’m riding wants someone to ride him a few times a week over the winter.
It’s going to be hard. I’m the most out of shape I have ever been in my entire life (!!) – and it’s already proving difficult to juggle my crazy schedule with my coach’s.
It’s hard to leave Topher and Ellie at home with Nathan when I know they all want to come with me, and it’s hard to have them at the barn because they’re city kids who are not remotely horse savvy and I’m worried they’re going to get killed.
And it’s expensive. We’re still trying to save for a down payment on a house, and at times I feel guilty for spending money on something as frivolous as riding lessons.
But horses aren’t a hobby, they’re a lifestyle – and one that I don’t feel I can give up.
So I’m taking a tip from my fifteen-year-old self: I’m going to do whatever it takes.
* Photo by Right Lead Photography