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  • Elaine Sanders

A Pain in the Ass

The winter is over and spring has officially arrived! I did not get as much riding in this winter as I would have liked. The weather was up and down, so that when it wasn’t freeze-your-ass-off-cold, it was fall-on-your-ass-slippery. Either way, it was a pain in the ass. 😜

So my horses and I have had quite a bit of down time this winter.

But when the stars did align and I was able to get a ride in, it was a real treat.

After every ride, my husband would ask me how the ride was. He would ask me where we went on the ride and what we did. If I would tell him that we went just around the pasture today, nothing too exciting or major, he would look a bit puzzled.

He’s not exactly a horse person, so he doesn’t know that not every ride is the kind of ride where you jump on after a month without riding, and canter through the snow in slo-mo like they do on the movies.

I needed a way to describe to him how it really works. And they way I described it made a lot of sense to him. And as a bonus it felt really good to me too. So that’s why I’m sharing it here.

Some rides, you have to put in the work. And some rides, you get to enjoy your hard work.

Isn’t it true?

Sometimes those rides, experiences, or interactions are golden. I have literally asked my horses out loud what they ate for breakfast that morning to make them so awesome. It’s those rides where you know why you have horses even though they’re a ton of work. It’s this interactions where you know that every moment leading up to it was worth it. It’s those rides where the goal is met and you feel like you might have been dreaming.

But then there are the interactions and rides where you’ve got to put in the work.

You can’t really enjoy your hard work, unless you do the hard work. So learn to love the hard days. The hard days don’t have to be a pain in the ass. They really can be a ton of fun - and I’m not being sarcastic!

Here are some tips to make those hard days easier.

Reassess success. What does success mean to you? Does it man that you reached your goals and accomplished the big task? Or is success when you’ve stayed calm. Is success when you handled everything your new horse threw at you with calm composure? Is success when you laughed at yourself and your old horse just a little bit? Is success when your horse sticks to you even after you’ve taken the halter off? Find out what success means for you.

Small steps. No, even smaller. I’m amazed at how some days my horse seems to read my mind and understand exactly what I’m asking the first time. But for the other 99% of the time, it’s all about itty bitty steps. How can you break down into a million little steps the big thing you’re trying to accomplish?

It’s not about the goal. When we get goal-oriented, we can take a hard day and turn it into World War Three. Whatever your goal is, don’t make the interaction about the goal. or about accomplishing the goal. Readjust your mindset to make the new goal listening to your horse.

Do what works. On a hard day, don’t work on something new, or something your horse doesn’t like, or something that your horse isn’t good at. Skip that. Save it for later. What can you and your horse do today? Do that.

Pause. Pause. Pause. Pay super-close attention to your horse’s anxiety levels. The moment - and I mean THE MOMENT - you start to see it going up, pause. That might be when you see his/her head just start to come up, or just a hint of tightness around the eye, or a change in the breath. Pause. As long as you need to until you see their anxiety drop. Not just drop a little bit, but come right back into relaxed. Then proceed. You might have to pause a thousand times. But it’s worth it. And you might have to wait 15 minutes. It’s worth it.

For whatever reason, we decided on horses. We could’ve had a four-wheeler. It would’ve been easier. And cheaper. But, no, we decided on horses.

And that means there are going to be days you have to put in the hard work. Days when you have to practice patience like someone’s (your horse’s) life depends on it. Days when you have to remind yourself your horse’s approval matters more to you more than other people’s approval. Days when you have to freeze your buns off waiting patiently for 15 minutes for your horse to come back to earth from an anxious spell (personal experience). Days when you have to do whatever it takes to honour your horse’s emotions.

But then there’s the next day when all your work pays off, and every single ounce of patience was absolutely worth it.

Some rides, you have to put in the work. And some rides, you get to enjoy your hard work.


Here's to You and Your Horse!

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