A Horsing Practice Is Different To A Routine & Different Again To A Schedule

A large number of people who come to me for help with their riding motivation, lack of time or feelings of self-doubt or lack of confidence are looking for a prescription or a formula that they can apply that will fix their lack of ‘not riding’.

Some arrive with the belief that the accountability provided by our relationship will be the cure to the problem. That maybe if I tell them exactly what to do on what day, if I give them a precise schedule, or the right things to action that things will once again feel ok– that time will open up, they will become unstuck, they will once again feel motivated.

Often, if they perceive that they ‘aren’t doing enough’, scattered in amongst our conversation are their own ‘solutions’ to the problems…

Perhaps if I got up earlier? Or when this situation at work changes? Or once the kids go back to school? Maybe I can take this out and slot this in? Try things at a different time of day?

It’s not that I don’t have things to say, and I certainly offer things (I hope) that people will find helpful.

But more and more, I am faced with a reality which is this:

Most people I work with are not professional riders. They are riding or have horses for the love of it. And in amongst this, the fact they are custodians for their horses, they are also many other things.

They are often working full time, some are caregivers, many are mothers, or mothering in ways that we don’t socially recognize. The days are full to the extent of asking for 30 minutes of their time feels the same as asking them to lasso a woolly mammoth.

And beyond that, the real truth?

Most people are exhausted. Not just a little bit tired, but chronically so. Tired to the inside of their bones.

And that tiredness is not just an individual ‘issue’; it’s part of a wider, social narrative, the same capitalist system that trains us to treat how it is we are with our horses, how we take care of ourselves, the same way it wants us to engage with everything else:

As a schedule of production.

One that leads us to harbor unreasonable and inhumane expectations of what’s possible, and then gets us to turn around and beat ourselves up when what we’re able (or unable) to do falls short.

A practice of any kind- and this is different to a routine or a schedule- is an energy that we are in relationship with. Riding is not referred to as an art for no good reason. To my mind, good riding and good horsemanship are subject to the same creative muse, the same inspiriting forces as any other creative medium we are involved with.

If we think of our riding and our horsing adventures this way, our interactions become a part of a wider ecosystem; it becomes something we are in collaboration with, not in control of in the way that we might traditionally think.

Which leads us to the question:

How are you in collaboration with your riding and with your practice of the art of horsemanship?

Do you only feel ‘successful’ if you’ve ridden or worked your horse(s) ‘x’ number of times? When you have done something that the outer world will tell you means you’ve done something that is good? Where you are given two thumbs up by someone other than yourself?

If we are going to throw our relationship with riding and our horses in the same basket as any other that relates to productivity and output, then pretty soon we are going to find our relationship with our horse producing the same pressure as work, as anything else that can be both bought and sold.

And what’s more, it’s like pouring concrete on the soul.

A horsing practice is different to a routine and different again to a schedule.

Practices are fluid and responsive. They change with the seasons; of the year, but also of life. Is it not to be expected that your horsing practice will change, adapt to children, work, the fact you have been sick, the lack of available light?

This is not an individual failing; it’s something that’s to be expected. Practices are molded and informed by the complexity and fullness of our lives; often they exist not in spite of them, but because of them.

A riding and horsing practice is not a schedule. It is not a fixed routine. It is not you grinding yourself into the ground, martyring yourself to a riding schedule that leaves both of you feeling depleted instead of nourished.

What would it look like to approach your riding and horsing with a playfulness, the spirit of creative venture?

What would it look like if you lay down your beliefs about productivity, the tight schedule you might have around when and where you show up and what exactly that needs to look like?

What if you treated your riding and horsing practice like someone you loved, treated it the same you would a treasured friend?

What would it mean to step out of riding (and beyond that, how you look after yourself) as a ‘have to’ and treated it as a creative practice?

What would things look like then?

xx Jane