I feel like I have completely lost the joy that I once found in riding.
For several years now, riding has felt more like a chore to me than a source of fun. I love horses, they provide me with a sense of peace in my otherwise hectic and crazy life (nothing grounds you more than caring for a horse). But I can’t get myself motivated to ride, sometimes can’t even get myself motivated to go out to the barn. I’m part-leasing a WONDERFUL horse, but every ride on him, I find myself feeling a little more lost, and with every ride I feel more and more that my heart just isn’t into it.
I know this all stems from deep-rooted issues that I had with my previous barn, and “barn drama” that made me dread going out there, and screwed with my self-confidence. I took a few years off, hoping it would help heal me and help me take a step back from all the BS and find my love for it again, but I still have flashbacks to what my riding life “used to be” (both the good and the very, very bad) and it makes me terribly sad.
I’m no longer at that barn, not even in the same state anymore - but the effects are still with me, sucking the life out of me. I don’t want to be like this – I want to WANT to go ride.
I don’t know how to get that joy back. I want it back, so very much. But no matter how deep down I reach, I just can’t seem to grasp it. My fingers brush it, but I can't get a good grip to pull it out of the depths of my hardened heart.
Now, let's not get bent too far out of shape - In no way am I depressed in life or anything like that. In my day to day life, I'm the happiest I've ever been. My life is rich with love and joy in other aspects - but I just can't find it in this one place. And that, my friends, is frustrating beyond belief.
Has anyone else been through this? How did YOU find your happy place again?
I have felt this way with other hobbies and activities in my life too. Sometimes taking time off is needed, and sometimes just a change can do wonders - how about trying a new discipline? No showing and releasing yourself from pressure? What about doing just some trail riding, or if you do hunters, switch to jumpers, dressage or do some cross country schooling? Maybe just hack around? Find some horses at your barn you can help retrain? Do some groundwork or trick-teaching?
And don't put any expectations on yourself. After a period of not riding after riding as a teenager/child, I started riding again in my 20s andfelt so down on myself that I never really went to the big shows, or made it big in any way, and I felt as if I had "wasted" my potential riding career. After some more time off, and more maturity, I realized that riding unto itself was an achievement and something to be passionate about, and I didn't need to prove myself to anyone. Now, as a 30-something ammy doing local-only shows on my cheap-ish non-fancy draft cross, I am the happiest I've ever been.
Sometimes the harder you try to find your happiness, the more it evades you. Take some time off and then try some new things with no expectations. You just might get your groove back. I wish you luck!
I agree, maybe a change of discipline is in order? I felt burnt out after college and took a little break and when I went back wasn't able to revive my show career for a variety of reasons. It got to the point where I didn't even want to go to the barn to visit my retired heart horse. I had dabbled in foxhunting growing up but in the last few years have come to LOVE IT. It is so different from the grind of showing and has brought me so much joy. I have a totally new group of riding friends who are all low key and just in it to hunt and enjoy their horses. While foxhunting may not be for you, maybe there is something else that is? And if you even have an inkling that foxhunting is for you..TRY IT! Being out in the open country watching hounds work can do wonders for your mood and help forge a new and wonderful connection with your horse. In fact, I'm so excited about working with my horse that I have started considering going back to some local shows just for fun...something I couldn't imagine wanting to do just a few years ago.
In addition to changing the activity, it really helped me to have a goal. After I came back I felt like I was always practicing aimlessly because I wasn't showing or chasing points. I felt lost and board, and it made practice sessions unbearable. Once I found hunting, the goal was to move up to first flight, then to get colors, then to do a hunter pace etc etc. If I don't have something to work towards time on a horse can drag as I feel like I'm not making any progress so what's the point of tacking up? I think this is an affliction of former show people, these issues never seem to phase my hunting friends.
The bottom line: try something new and different that you and your horse can learn together. Set an achievable goal and a timeline to get there. Good Luck!!
What is the barn like that you're at now? Are you currently taking lessons or just putzing around by yourself? I agree that if you don't have some kind of goal, it can make riding a little purpose-less. And it doesn't have to be any kind of big goals, but its nice to have something to work towards.
I kinda went through that.. I burned out after a few years as a working student. Basically got sick of getting worked to the bone, not having enough money to really “play” in this sport – and even more, got burned out on people that just “used” horses, and treated them business, rather than a living breathing animal. - Out of the show world for a few years, and lost my horse to a trajic accident.
I stayed in horses – riding other people’s horses, mostly free leases / retraining projects. While they provided my horse fix, the lack of control, and my inability to emotionally invest in the horse – Made me not enjoy it any longer.
Then – I decided I needed a horse OF MY OWN again, to bring back that passion I had – and I went and bought a WEANLING!
It was the best thing I ever did. Brought back my passion and then some. I didn’t have to worry about riding for a few years. Training my youngster was very rewarding – and made it so I could set many tiny, achievable goals (rather than riding just to ride).
My mare is now 5 – just had a great jumping school yesterday. My passion is back – I enjoy the journey of training my own horse, and it gave me something to work towards, that wasn’t a show ribbon, or a resale price etc.
OP, I totally understand what you're feeling, although my lack of enthusiasm comes from a different source.
I do enjoy riding more these days, once I get started, and I've found that the trick for me is to focus on just doing one thing well each ride, whether its obtaining rythmic trot, a good bend in his bad direction, or sometimes just working on crisp transitions. And I've found that rather than having a huge, long term goal, taking joy in those small victories is not only making riding fun again, its also making my partnership with my horse better.
I also ride a school horse every week, and am finding that the same works for my lessons. I've found that I enjoy my rides better if I focus on just riding correctly to help each horse correct a problem or learn a new skill, rather than worrying about myself as a rider.
Sometimes we need to free ourselves of personal expectations for our riding and just enjoy the moment and the horse. And most of all, don't let anyone else dictate what your expectations should or should not be. Ride for you and the horse you're on in that moment and just focus on enjoying that moment. I think it's really that spirit and freedom of 'living in the moment' that horses posess that draws us to them. Experiment with putting yourself in the mindset of 'just being a horse' and see if it changes your outlook.
Some great suggestions above. I don't have any answers, just commiseration. I have 2 lovely horses, a bit more time to ride than in the last decade, a nice friendly barn, and fantastic trainer yet I can barely drag myself out to the barn. Let me know when you figure it out. In the meantime I am contemplating a winter "siesta" for me and my guys.
When ever I need a good cheer me up with my riding I go play on XC courses or enter an event. nothing like galloping and jumping. Or maybe a hunt for you (we don't have many in Aus). Another I love doing is cattle work so perhaps you could find a good ranch where you get to have fun riding, chasing cows, galloping across open lands.
I have felt this way before, and I took a break. I was a H/J trainer in Massachusetts for 5 years and I had burnout in all things horsie! I have my degree in education, so I worked for Huntington Learning Center for about 6 months. Then my husband and I moved to Florida, and I walked into a tack store with my friend. In that moment I couldn't imagine a life without horses in some aspect. I now have my life with horses, but I am very careful about burnout. Lesson learned here! Best wishes to you, and remember we can take a break if needed, and see where you are in a few months
I don't have, and probably never will have, the income to show like some of you guys on here do. I'm okay with that. I enjoy doing local shows and just having *fun* with my horse.
My friend's foxhunter lost her marbles over some cows last year. So we loaded everybody up and went to a cutting clinic! We had a ridiculous amount of fun. All of the things we did were super basic maneuvers that had applications in our normal lives. It was also a good trust building activity for all of our horses. Do I want to switch to cutting full time? Definitely not, I'm an English girl at heart. Was it an absolute blast to hang out with the cowboys for a day and learn something new? Definitely! Do we plan on going back this spring? Absolutely!
I also got bored and decided to teach my Arab to drive this year. I've missed driving the carriage horses downtown...so I decided to make mine do it! He knew the basics of being ground driven from his 3yo year when I was breaking him out. I spent about an hour refreshing his memory on that in his harness, hitched him to a cart and started playing around. Its a fun way to get him some exercise and add some variety to our routine.
I took up foxhunting this year. It is an absolute blast. Everyone dresses up (my hunt is quite traditional, but not obnoxious about it) and has a good time. Who wouldn't enjoy a good run through the woods?
Teach your horse some silly tricks. There are all sorts of silly things you can teach your horse to do. Most horses enjoy learning them.
So yeah, I would definitely try something new. Go on a trail ride with friends. Just *ride* your horse and have some fun.
My trainers of 10 years got fired from my barn two years ago. I miss them SO much, and unfortunately, following them was not an option. I do not enjoy riding at my barn anymore, nor do I like the trainer or the people there. All of my friends I grew up riding with left.
I've wasted two years now... My horse was amazing, athletic, and we were great partners.. He's going to be 17 this May, so I don't really see us ever making it back to the jr. A/o jumpers... I feel bad that I didn't take advantage of these past two years, but I couldn't make myself do it.. I still can't..My parents bought me an incredibly fancy Jr. hunter that I never rode either.
I haven't jumped since August, I refuse to lesson with the trainer. I have no desire to
Try a different discipline or change barns.. maybe it will inspire you, but I totally know how you feel.
Last edited by AlterHalter123; Dec. 10, 2012 at 10:35 PM.
I'm at a similar place. I think for me it is from doing self care for a very long time and now having a very demanding career. I am now at the barn of my dreams and the BO takes such good care of my boy. I decided that it is ok if I don't want to ride. It helps that I am working with a trainer that only comes into town at the most once a month, so there is no pressure to ride to get ready for lessons. I used to ride 5-6 days a week religiously. For the past two years a good week is 3 rides a week. Luckily my boy is mid-aged and has enough training in him that I can hop on him once or twice a week and he is fine. Do what makes you happy. If the horse is fine with limited rides and you are having fun, go with it. I have to say that spending time grazing/grooming/hanging with my horse is probably my most enjoyable time, riding is just icing on the cake for me.
What about just visiting the horse and lovin on him without pressuring yourself to ride or "do" anything? Sometimes I don't feel like riding but I still want to visit with my horse so we go for walks (him in hand) and he gets a massage and such.
I have felt the same way too. I agree with the other who said to give it time and take the pressure off. If you only feel like brushing the horse that day or hand grazing that's good enough you have no deadline to meet. I used to love to show, I no longer have ANY desire to show. I still like to ride and improve myself and my horse but I decided that there is nothing wrong with riding just to have fun or just enjoying being with my horse. Good luck!
The times in my life I have had the most trouble getting motivated to ride are the times I have been happiest in my "outside" life...the non-horsey parts. When I was busy and fulfilled at work, or pursuing another interest, I became less fixated on horses and riding.
Right now, I feel like I am at a bit of a crossroads in life. I am in my mid thirties, my job (with my father's company) is important to me more as a family obligation than a career, my husband would really like to have a child, and neither hell nor high water could keep me from the barn every day.
I'm not saying you should go out and find yourself some misery to get your mojo back...I'm just saying maybe you are finding your satisfaction from other parts of life and it is making horses seem a bit less necessary.
I agree with others. Sometimes a change of pace is necessary. I had some burnout a few years ago, and ended up joining a western drill team. What a blast! It got me riding again and I made some great new friends. Although the team folded, I still am friends with those riders. And most important, just riding regularly again helped me, and I am now passionate about my jumping again. Another thing, do you have any good friends where you are riding? If not, maybe a change in venue is in order. There's nothing else like a friend to help make you more accountable in your riding. Maybe find someone that enjoys trail riding, and just go trailer out and ride and have a "social" hour. That can be a good thing. You don't always have to accomplish something. Good luck!
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
¯ Oscar Wilde
We all feel like this at times for a number of reasons...it's too cold, I'm too tired, I don't feel well, work was too hard today, or the proverbial favorite, I just don't feel like it. I think a huge part of the apathy is good old boredom. Whenever I feel like that, or my kids are whining about not wanting to go to the barn and coming up with every excuse in the book, our amazing trainer figures it out and throws out a curveball, like something totally different to do that you thought you already knew, or something new for the horse (who is also bored btw) and all of a sudden there is something new to work on, something new for you and the horse to "get" , and all of a sudden your mojo surfaces, saying "hey I want to be able to do that, i CAN do that, just watch me (my DD's fav saying)". Get yourself a fantastic trainer, take a lesson from someone new, go to a clinic, find something to try for. Or.......go to Florida for a quick visit if you can wrangle it and wander around the shows there. Big motivation factor!! Don't worry you're not alone.