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Riding and sacrifice

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    Riding and sacrifice

    This has been brewing in my head lately and I'm not sure how to explain it but here goes...

    I have been riding for years and years and am unhappy with my progress - specifically how slowly I improve. I know that I have potential (as much as anyone else) and I have some good solid skills, but there are goals that I want to acheive that always feel just out of reach. I also know what I need to do to reach those goals: I need to invest more of myself into working towards them. I have the opportunity to do so (they aren't lofty goals at all) but I feel like I am never able to take full advantage of my current circumstances (I have time, a bit of money, good instruction and some nice horses).

    I used to think that it was a combination of a busy life and my own inherent laziness, but now I'm not so sure. All my life I've been grateful to be involved with horses at all, and it's like I have an internal glass ceiling with 'be happy with what you have and don't try harder' on it. I don't think I'm scared of failure anymore - I see myself as a life-long student and accept that failure is part of growth and change. But something is still holding me back from really committing myself to my dreams and maybe it's guilt??

    I've read a few things lately about how important your 'crowd' to being successful - having people around you that motivate you and encourage you. A while ago a friend of mine complained that I was picking horses over her too much, in way that was very hurtful and I think uncalled for. Especially as she owns horses herself, and I always thought she understood how much time and effort they take just to keep them happy and healthy (especially if you do DIY boarding like I do). I know I've failed in the past by not having a balanced life and burning out from unreaslistic ambitions with my riding, but now it feels like even my nearest and dearest don't believe that I am capable of doing what I want.

    In practical terms it comes down to things like people discouraging me from riding in less than perfect weather, or wanting to cut a trail ride short when I could go on for hours, or being upset that I want to ride on Friday night instead of going to their (boring to me) dinner party, or whatever. I feel selfish when I'm out at the paddock all day and my laundry isn't done, and I haven't seen so-and-so for ages, and my tax return is late.

    How do people drown out all that noise and prioritise their passion over everything else???? I don't want to neglect my important relationships or behave irresponsibly, but I want to bust my guts at working towards something that matters to me or I'll always feel like I've let myself down.

    I sympathize with you but it sounds to me like you are setting huge goals for yourself and then beating yourself up because you haven't climbed Everest, i.e. achieved the impossible. That's not how success happens. It's all a matter of setting small goals every day and doing them. That's the only way you will gain enough confidence to set even bigger goals and achieve them. Determine your priorities: boring pointless dinner parties are low on the list, keeping your taxes up to date is HUGE!

    You are fortunate to have friends who want to be with you. Make time for them as much as you can but DON"T let them guilt trip you. Most of all you need to forgive yourself for what you see as failures. Tell yourself, "I did the best I could. That's all I can do. I'll do better next time." Then DO IT! Seize the day!

    Forgive yourself for failing. The best way to do this is to refuse to entertain negative thoughts. Just quit it. This is finally working for me. I used to replay troublesome events over and over in my imagination. I was too busy berating myself about the past to live in the present. Now, I don't give old troubles room in my brain. Be gone! After a while and working at banning them, the negative thoughts give up and go away.

    Constantly give yourself positive reinforcement. Then you can face the future in a wholehearted way and enjoy yourself.

    I pray that God or your higher power will bring you strength and peace.


      Frosty M setting impossible goals and then beatig myself up over them has been a speciality of mine in the past for sure! But now my goals are smaller - I'd be happy putting in a solid 5 riding sessions a week.
      Thanks for the kind words - also my taxes are now up to date (that one was certainly bad of me).


        I've found it isn't easy to find people with similar riding goals. All of us are at different points of life. Some are just getting interested in showing. Some have been there/done that, some want to hit trails, and everybody has their private life stuff going on. You have to do what makes you happy. Nobody is going to do that for you except you. There is nothing wrong with enjoying an extra ride while the dirty laundry piles up or telling your friends that you still want to do that trail ride even though there might be a few showers. I'm guessing you are not in your 40s yet since all that beating yourself up magically dissolves away for most of us. You start taking care of yourself and not feeling guilty about it. It's a little secret nobody tells you.
        "Do what you can't do"


          @thchick84 I can't wait to turn 40 then!



            You wrote, "I'd be happy putting in a solid 5 riding sessions a week." If I were you, I'd dial back your expectations even more. Tell yourself something like "weather permitting, I'll ride tomorrow and achieve thus and so." Then plan your goal for the next day, building on what you achieved today. Pretty soon, you'll be so busy building a future for you and your horse, you'll forget about those bad old days. Congrats on improving your tax situation. Yay for you!


              Dialing back my expectations feels like chickening out


                I'm a loner, enough said other than I set my goals, my priorities and I figure out plans A, B, C & D to go for it. The rest takes a back seat. I've lost friends and family due to my focus; but, those are the sacrifices I'm willing to make and have for many, many years.
                Ranch of Last Resort


                  Originally posted by -Buckshot- View Post
                  Dialing back my expectations feels like chickening out
                  Quite the contrary. It takes great courage.


                    I have been a multi horse owner for the last 24 years, with one nine month hiatus between losing #1 and aquiring #3. I had three for 16 months. Three was too much even though one was largely retired and one was a foal/weanling/yearling. I was also riding a horse for someone else as well for part of that time.

                    My point being that even without DIY care, multiple horses are a lot of work and demand a lot of time.

                    I have learned to compromise on some things some of the time. Short knock-the-dirt-off grooming. Short 20 min ride (with or without tack). And more recently, with the loves to grind his self into the dirt and needs 10-30minutes in the ring before I can think about mounting up horse, a longe work session. These things were hard for me to consider acceptable, but I have found value in the "half-assed shortcut".

                    Can you reduce the DIY care? Can you permit yourself to consider shorter options acceptable? Don't answer here if you don't want to, they're thinking about questions for your own benefit.


                      I ride almost every day because I physically miss it if I don't.

                      I find the whole concept of a "balanced life" baffling and boring.

                      I've spent my life being involved in things that seemed absolutely compelling at the time, including grad school, professionalizing a creative talent, and jobs that were absorbing. I've left family and friends behind to do these things. And I've made new friends that share my interests.

                      Interesting that could look like being selfish, but it has never felt that way because its always been about getting immersed in something much larger than myself.

                      Short of the landlord coming over for a suite inspection, I have never felt any urgency about cleaning my house.

                      Anyhow as a teen and then for the last decade horses have been a compelling interest. I decided my goal is to maximize my saddle time before I age out entirely from riding, and see where that takes me.

                      If you ride daily with intention and focus your riding will improve globally. You won't necessarily meet an external goal of "successfully compete Miss Dobbin in the two foot nine jumpers before the end of August'" or similar. Horses don't follow our timelines.

                      On the other hand I believe that whatever we try to tell ourselves, we tend to set things up so that we do what we really in our deepest hearts want to do.

                      By that reckoning you don't actually want to ride every day or perhaps at all. That's fine. So if you don't, then don't beat yourself up over it. Don't make goals that are intended to force you to ride more. Dont feel guilty about not riding. Just do what you want to do.

                      And don't blame other people either your whiny clingy dependent friends or the weekend warriors at your barn. They aren't holding you back.

                      No one is holding you back, because you are choosing to ride exactly as much as you actually want to.


                        Originally posted by -Buckshot- View Post
                        Frosty M setting impossible goals and then beatig myself up over them has been a speciality of mine in the past for sure! But now my goals are smaller - I'd be happy putting in a solid 5 riding sessions a week.
                        So what is keeping you from doing that?

                        Kids, job, spouse? (You haven't mentioned any of them yet so....? not sure?) You've mentioned friends, and in my opinion those are the easiest to deal with because none of them live with you. And you can always make new friends if the old ones don't share your interests (e.g. if you prefer to ride instead of a boring dinner party.)

                        The first thing I would suggest is finding a new trainer (or getting a trainer if you are not working with one). Their job is to help you meet your goals. Your first session(s) should to start to define your goals and decide if they are achievable, and then how to get there.

                        Do you have a trainer?


                          I'd love to get in 5 rides a week but I have a full time job and a husband and sometimes life just gets in the way. Balance is important.

                          Goals are good but should be realistic and attainable. At one point in my life I would have said I'd love to go Training someday. Now I know that a) I'll probably never own a horse $$$ of that caliber and b) I have the worst eye to fences ever and that will probably not improve THAT much. My goals now are much more realistic- mostly I just want to ride my horse and enjoy doing it!


                            I think there are some things you *have* to sacrifice riding time for.
                            1) Kids -- they didn't ask to be born. If you made 'em, you need to make time for them. But they can help around the house, be taught to be self reliant, and understand that they share Mom with Dad (or other Mom) and the horses.
                            2) DH/DW or potential one. If being in a relationship is important to you, then you have to demonstrate you value the other person by prioritizing them. Sometimes. Not all the time.
                            3) Job. Let's face it. Unless you're a lotto winner or trust fund kid, you need to work in order to feed yourself and the horse.

                            EVERYTHING else is negotiable. There will be pop ups that require more time away from riding (e.g. sick parent, family visit). Those will pass.

                            Making friends with similar interests (riding) means that you can multi-task by riding with them. You enjoy each other's company, and you still get Dobbin worked. And that low key walking trail ride isn't a wasted ride... no horse can drill in the sandbox (or whatever discipline you choose) every ride. Getting out and being relaxed, dealing with terrain or environmental challenges, and taking a mental break from schooling endless circles or over jumps will pay dividends when you next lesson.

                            Make weather a consideration. Look at the forecast. Is it going to be raining Tuesday? Then that's the day to accept you won't ride. Catch a movie or dinner with a non-horsey friend or family member. Do date night with DH/DW. Clean off the junk table and file all the bills. Then when you spend the next 4 consecutive days at the barn, they don't feel as left out and you're not feeling guilty about housework.

                            As for riding goals, having a good trainer or coach that you trust and can work with regularly makes a huge difference. Due to budget, I can't lesson every week. But I am good about doing homework, and my coach is happy to answer questions via text, or even watch the occasional video (if I can find someone to take one).
                            Talk to her (or him) about realistic short and medium -term goals for you and your horse. Break those into manageable chunks. And something as simple as signing up for a clinic or schooling show is often enough to motivate you to ride on those 'iffy' days when you'd rather be at home in PJs with the dog on your lap.

                            Keep a journal -- just something that lets you track your rides, what you worked on and how it went, and if you didn't ride, why not. Also, take a hard look at what makes a ride productive, or not. And then work around that. For example, if Dobbin is a little spooky, and it was super windy that night and your whole ride was circling and recovering from spooks, then maybe don't ride every windy night (again, grab pizza with the boy/girl friend or something). If there's a boarder who's chatty cathy, and you spend more time gossiping with her than riding, then schedule your rides for when she's not going to be there.
                            If you have a riding friend with similar goals, make a pact. This is why workout classes are often more successful than individual gym time--other people help you stay committed. So sign up for lessons together, plan for the same schooling show or clinic, and help eachother stay on track.
                            Vice versa: what makes you feel demotivated? Is it cold? Heat? that time of the month? taking an active look at contributors to your motivation means you can plan around, or address them.

                            I think if you address these (potential) obstacles, you'll set yourself up for more success, and feeling better about yourself. In summary:
                            1) Time management.
                            2) Realistic near and medium -term goals.
                            3) Support structure (coach, friend, even us!)

                            Be objective and logical (NOT emotional) when considering these.
                            A good man can make you feel sexy, strong, and able to take on the world.... oh, sorry.... that's does that...



                              Originally posted by tbchick84 View Post
                              I'm guessing you are not in your 40s yet since all that beating yourself up magically dissolves away for most of us. You start taking care of yourself and not feeling guilty about it. It's a little secret nobody tells you.
                              Oh crap, I’m doing my 40s wrong!


                                Originally posted by -Buckshot- View Post
                                A while ago a friend of mine complained that I was picking horses over her too much, in way that was very hurtful and I think uncalled for. ...
                                I agree with you, it was hurtful and uncalled for. It was selfish, childish and pretty much sums up your friend's lack of empathy towards you.

                                She wants "your" attention not your friendship. It doesn't sound like she wants what is best for you but what is best for her. Sounds like you are a giver person and she is a taker.

                                The only takers I personally want in my life are people who are family, or... horses, not friends.

                                However, if she said that at the end of a compassionate conversation where the main gist was how she missed you and that you were running yourself ragged and not taking care of yourself, maybe that would make sense but, I do not suspect this is the case.

                                I think your friend needs even more of a back burner, unless she wants to come out tot he barn and enjoy your company doing things with you that you want to do versus you "giving" her all your attention doing what she wants to do.
                                p.s. edit to say, your friend sounds like drama, you choosing to continue with her means you are entertaining drama and distraction and that might be something to ask yourself why, (is it a way to keep yourself distracted and avoiding what you say you really want to do?)


                                  Originally posted by TWH Girl View Post

                                  Quite the contrary. It takes great courage.
                                  I have been dealing with something similar since I broke my leg in 2017. In my case, I had to dial it back because of physical limitations--but it still felt like "chickening out" to me. Which is to say: I know the feeling.

                                  You don't mention what your goals are. Are they show-related? Being able to keep up with an Irish fox hunt? Being able to take a horse out on a trail alone and have fun? Do you want to jump 4 feet? 2 feet?

                                  Riding 5 times a week suggests--to me anyway--that you might be working toward show goals. If that's the case, I would suggest that you take a good, hard look at what they are and how badly you really want them. If the answer is YES, I WANT THIS, then that is your right and you should pursue it to whatever extent you think necessary. Your friends and family should be supportive--not guilting you into spending time with them.

                                  If they're not show related, perhaps you are over-focusing on them and could make compromises here and there--at YOUR discretion, not the demand of others.


                                    I would second the poster above who said that the only 3 non negotiable things are job, spouse (if you have), and minor children (if you have).

                                    And spouse and children can adapt to giving you time for your hobby, just like they give you time for your job.

                                    No harm in letting friends slide a bit, as long as you are honest with them.

                                    If you have a whiny dependent friend just say, "it's true. The horse stuff is almost like a second job at this point. I have a show/ clinic/ lesson this weekend but I can schedule you in for dinner in 2 weeks. Does that work?"

                                    Are you in a world where there are lots of non working well off wives? Because in my experience, after everyone aged out of wild days at about 26, all my friends were enmeshed in jobs, spouses and/or children in some configuration. No one was on constant call or expected anyone else to be.

                                    The other thing, are you again suffering burnout? Are you mildly depressed? Or anxious? Are you unhappy with other aspects of your life? Is this really about horses, or is this just an emotional or cognitive problem that is coloring everything in your life?

                                    Realize that you will attract the friends who mirror what you are putting out. I've known riders who say they have big plans but on a day to day basis they get to the barn and then dither around and don't ride. I'm polite to them but I don't bring them into my inner circle or share my own goals with them.

                                    If you were riding seriously and with focus: first, you wouldn't care about the laziness of the rest of the barn, except to say yay! The arena is empty again! And second, you will then start to find the other serious people who don't have time to listen to you waffle and moan.

                                    In your current headset you cannot surround yourself with focused people to act as a motivating force *because focused people don't have time for you.*


                                      I'm 52 and the beating myself up part hasn't disappeared but I will admit to being my own worst enemy. I do think the older you get, the better you get at prioritizing and letting a lot go in order to find a happier life balance, but it's still a struggle unless you are independently wealthy, don't have to work or are lucky enough to work from home and able to set your own schedule.

                                      I have said many times over the years, that if I waited around to have someone to ride with, I would never get to ride. Either my friends are stay at home wives and/or mothers who can do all of their riding while I'm at work, or they are friends that like to talk about riding and armchair judge, but rarely fork a horse themselves; or they own horses but almost never ride. So, I ride almost always by myself unless it's with my coach. You get over it if you want to get somewhere.

                                      I am my own worst enemy in that I tend to get bored with whatever I'm doing. I spent my youth trading up horses and changing disciplines and dabbling in horse breeding, all of which while rewarding, was a huge time suck. I'm now older with better horses, but keep them at home, have a job, long commute, husband, daughter, blah, blah, blah, and a coach who actively competes herself. Unless I want to run myself ragged, I've learned to just ride my own ride and I make the progress I make. I'm not going to the Olympics.

                                      I've found that while showing can be rewarding, it can also be time consuming, exhausting, expensive and frustrating. Often I question my sanity of why I want to bother and feel most content out on a trail in the woods astride a good horse in good weather. But then I get a bit bored and I hit the sandbox again.

                                      Make yourself happy. No one else will. If you have above-average riding goals, it will require sacrifice across the board: money, time, relationships and circumstances. It can be hard; and it can be lonely. Only you can decide what is most important.

                                      You certainly are not alone. I think an awful lot of adult amateurs struggle with this constantly. You want to be successful and attain goals but you are tired and it can be an awful like having a 2nd job. Depends on how bad you want whatever goal you've assigned to yourself and the sacrifices you are willing to make in the process of getting there.
                                      Fat Cat Farm Sporthorses on Facebook


                                        This is a lot of whining about first-world problems. You said you have time, money, a good trainer, and nice horses. So many of us wish for just that. And you are only upset about how slowly you are improving? Well then, push yourself. Ride without stirrups (a lot). Make a plan for every ride that is demanding on your current ability. Go to a horse show and compete in a higher division ( that is within your ability and your confidence level; if you want to move on, move up). If you’re making slow progress, and you want to improve it, make every ride count, and get out there and do your flat work in the rain. Progress on a horse is within your control. You sound like you are having trouble compartmentalizing your life. Make a schedule. Block out time for taxes, errands, laundry, and friends. Put it on a calendar, and when it’s written there, do it. I would love to spend all day Saturday at the barn, and I can go there pretty early to get a lot of rides in, but from 4:00 on is husband time. This is feasible. And I am saying that from the perspective of a full-time attorney with a difficult mare, a husband (kids are grown but still there too), and a fair amount of commitment to community work.