I’m pondering whether to continue riding dear old Santa. He’s a terrific horse. No dirty spooks, sound, calm in many situations other horses would take advantage of. A good equine egg. The issue is on the rider end. The barn is an hour away, and to get 45 minutes in the saddle means half a day shot.
By shot I mean, the energy is spent and I’m not sure that what I have to show for it justifies the expenditure. The good rides, where I get into the zone, become absorbed in the task, and communicate effectively with the horse are fewer and fewer. I’m simply not fit enough to achieve that anymore. So riding has taken on an aspect of duty, of hoping for the no-longer-possible.
I realize though, that my identity as a horse lover has been consistent clear back to early childhood. More than that, it has been an unabashedly positive identity–unlike lawyer, mother, wife, and some other labels I’ve worn. Horses have never betrayed me, in part because my expectations of them have always been reasonable.
Riding is the only sport where men and women compete head to head all the way up to the Olympic level. If you can communicate with a horse, you have something rare and powerful. The first horse I bought for myself stood eighteen hands at the withers, meaning when I was on his back, the world looked UP at me, and I did not feel fat.
When I ride, I cannot be all up in my head. I have to be in my body, and that body can do stuff. I can get a three-quarter-ton beast to listen to me–wow. Riding is a passion I’ve shared with my daughter, and I do believe that horses saved her life and my sanity.
But I’m afflicted with the nagging sense that it’s time to let this go. To use that time and energy elsewhere, at least for now. That’s the sticky part. If I knew for a fact that hanging up my spurs would be permanent, I doubt I’d do it. I would hang on in hopes that my energy well would somehow fill up, or my fitness ambitions would find some traction. I suspect I will ask for a leave of absence, which is my way of trying on the decision to quit without closing the door.
How do you approach complicated decisions? Is there a question you put to yourself, a process you observe? To three comments, I will send ARC files of Erica Ridley’s debut title in the Siren’s Retreat Novella Quartet, An Affair by the Sea (on-sale March 15).