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I really think I'm quitting this time..for good?

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    I really think I'm quitting this time..for good?

    I honestly didn't know where to post this or whether I should post it at all but I had to write it down and get it out of my head. I think I'm done riding, possibly for good. I've taken lots of "breaks" over the last 7 years since I left my career in the horse industry and got an office job. But this one feels different, somehow.

    A little background. I've been riding since I was 4 years old and worked in the horse industry for 10 years as a groom for an upper level eventing barn and an exercise rider at the racetrack. One day I just felt burned out and walked away to an office job, which I've had ever since. Since then I have dabbled in various horsey ventures, including several resale projects off the track. I do own a horse, the love of my life who is now retired at age 15 due to unsoundness issues. I haven't been on his back in three years now, and I'll be honest, my desire to ride has been steadily waning since I retired him. I had big dreams for him and they seemingly died when he retired and I haven't found the motivation or passion for riding since then. Finally, I woke up one morning and thought to myself, "I could really be done with riding, I think". And that thought scares me to death.

    I don't know how to define myself if I don't ride. That's the part tripping me up. I've always been defined by the horses. And I still love the horses, somewhere deep down. I just don't feel a passion for riding anymore.

    Anyone else ever been in this spot? I could use some words of wisdom right now.

    What's wrong with loving horses, caring for your retired horse, setting riding aside for now just because that's not where your head is at--and not labeling it as a "for good" thing, just as a "for now or for however long until I feel like it?" It doesn't need to be framed. Plenty of horse people go through ups and downs with horses and life, lots of twists and turns (and yeah, especially right now with all the industrial-strength weirdness in the world). An old cowboy song says, "never sell your saddle because life's a long, long ride." I think that's a good philosophy when it comes to negotiating the horse thing. Most of us are born with the horse bug and it brings great joy and sometimes great pain and sometimes you just get tired. But many of us can't seem to get it totally out of our system, whatever form it takes. Sometimes it's all we can do to trail in the wake, sometimes we wrestle with it and we laugh at ourselves along the way instead of making big pronouncements about finality that don't always seem right. And that's ok. Good luck with it all. No one said horses were easy...


      I have no words of wisdom, but big hugs you are going through this. I have had friends face very similar and scary thoughts when their horses have retired and/or been lost suddenly. It's a huge step, and a tough spot to be in. They still enjoyed horses, as you can do, without the "rider" identity - there are many things you can do and enjoy in equestrianism without being a rider. I don't think there is anything wrong in putting down something you are no longer passionate in. You have to do what is best for you. Lots of hugs.
      AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012


        Take a break. Put it on a back burner, you can pick it back up. Or not. Nobody is going to judge your worth based on how you balance riding with the rest of your adult life and you shouldn't either. Horses will always be there and, at times, they are easier to enjoy from outside then buried under the responsibilities of personal involvement.

        Think when you sacrifice so much for so long to be in horses, you hit a point where the joy is just sucked right out of you because you HAVE to. Gone is enjoyment because you want to. Its OK to admit that you have arrived at that point.

        Reminds me of a friend who was a track guy for, like, 35-40 years, started walking hots then exercise rider, assistant trainer. Ended up a pretty good head trainer, BC runners, stakes winners, good percentage for years. He said he’d only hang it up if he didn't care. Well, one beautiful fall day he watched the sun rise on his shedrow at a major track. Everything was golden, horses heads out over the guards....and he realized he didn’t care. Finished out the meet and left. Still works in a closely related field but mostly from home. Never been happier.

        So don’l feel pressured either way, it is all about you right now and,again, horses will be around to enjoy, even if from afar.
        When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

        The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


          Originally posted by Happyhooves View Post
          Most of us are born with the horse bug and it brings great joy and sometimes great pain and sometimes you just get tired. But many of us can't seem to get it totally out of our system, whatever form it takes. Sometimes it's all we can do to trail in the wake, sometimes we wrestle with it and we laugh at ourselves along the way instead of making big pronouncements about finality that don't always seem right. And that's ok. Good luck with it all. No one said horses were easy...

          This really struck a chord with me. Horse ownership certainly is not for the faint of heart. I think we all have had ups and downs and moments of insanity LOL. Not to hijack the thread but I have been in a frustrating pattern of NQR with my horse since last fall and it is striking how much energy, effort and emotional wellness is wrapped up in that creature. I constantly wrestle with "am I doing the right thing?" "should I get a different trainer?" "why isn't this working?" "which professional's opinion should I trust?" and ultimately ending in frustration since I simply don't have the thousands of dollars needed for multiple imaging and treatment modalities. I'm all debt and no answers right now. Its a hard place to be and I don't know when I should throw in the towel and put him out to pasture at the age of 12.

          Horses are so all-encompassing that its easy to loose ourselves in them. In some ways, this is a tremendous gift. But its ok to put yourself first now. You have talents and gifts you have not even tapped into yet. Start exploring other hobbies, especially physical activities and see what gives you a thrill. I think there will always be a horse-shaped hole in our equestrian hearts, but that does not mean you can't be a well-rounded person and explore other elements in your life to the fullest, YOU will still be YOU.


            Original Poster

            BatCoach that is exactly how i felt with my retired guy. I didn’t have the money to go any further down the rabbit hole and had to retire him at age 12. You described the emotions very well.

            Thank you all so, so much for your kind replies. It means so much to me. Your words have given me a lot of peace. Especially knowing that horses will always be there if I decide I do want to go back one day. I think taking a step back and gaining some perspective is important right now for me.

            Thank you all again, seriously.


              One thing you said struck me - the bit about not knowing who you are without horses. You're still you. You still have the same values, the same characteristics, the same passion. You're going to bring these things to whatever else you do. Even if you can't see it now.

              Take the time to get to know you and explore what other things interest you. Everyone else is right - you can return to horses later. Have some fun!


                I understand exactly where you're coming from - not sure I have any words of wisdom, per se, but from the other side of things, you will find other things that define you.

                There's nothing wrong with just hanging out with your horse, letting him be a pasture pet, and defining yourself as the owner of a retired horse. That's where I am now. Down to just the three - one was never started (27 now!), and Alex and Fox aren't riding sound anymore. They hang out, they're happy, and I'm happy knowing they're safe in my pasture.

                I rode every day as a teen - sometimes 2-3 horses per day, on top of school and work. I worked to afford the horses. I showed every other weekend. But then I woke up one day, like you, and thought, "I hate showing horses. This isn't fun." And I stopped. And for about ten years, I didn't ride. My show horses were retired, and I focused on other things. Then I picked it back up in my late 20s, hit it hard for about 6 years as a working student, got Alex, did a lot of dressage shows - and then gave it up again. That was 2010. I haven't felt the need to get on a horse since. I'm done, and probably for good.

                It's okay to go pursue other things you might be interested in trying - running, traveling, whatever. I have a full-time job, a small business on top of that, the kitties, and a fitness routine. I write, I do research, I stay busy. I don't miss riding. You might leave it for a few more years, then come back to it with the right horse, or this might be it. Either way, it's okay.


                  My horse developed soundness issues. After battling for a while, I retired him. Then my mom got cancer and dad developed dementia. I visited my horse and dealt with work and family. I thought I was done with riding. Mom died,I retired and finally got dad into assisted living. By then I hadnt really ridden in six years. My horse colicked and died and I thought I was done. My former BO thought otherwise and bullied me into riding a horse at her place. Eventually I relearned how to ride (not easy when you are old!) and part leased. I thought that was enough. BO asked me to help her look for a new school horse. That is when I saw HIM. My horse. After some angst and false starts, I got my boy. And it was like coming home and reawakening a part of me I had nearly forgotten.

                  It is true. Horses will be there when and if you are ready again.


                    Original Poster

                    Thank you all. So, so much. Your words have honestly brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for understanding and for the encouragement. Y’all are seriously the best.


                      Life flows in different directions. We only get one shot, and if you're not happy riding, there's no shame in taking a break and just enjoying your pasture puff and exploring new avenues in life, new hobbies etc. Be kind to yourself. The barn door is always open if you ever feel like riding again.


                        Don't be judgmental of yourself as a horseman by what you do or don't do. Think of all the teachers who no longer ride, and race horse trainers that maybe never did... they are nonetheless excellent horsemen who have a rich horselife, sans sitting on the horse.

                        I have a good-sized boarding stable and have noticed more and more, over the years, that a lot of our ladies don't ride all that much, but have a wonderful time playing with their horses daily. Truth to be told, most of us are aging gently out of the horse biz, and so are a lot of our horses! So just because we don't school and show over fences any more, or ride a cutting horse, or gallop cross-country, doesn't mean we are any less legit to own (or lease, or borrow, or just enjoy) a horse.

                        There have been a couple of boarders here who did the 'natural horsemanship' thing, whatever that meant to them. At first, I sort of pooh-poohed their trotting around in the round pen with a longish whip, rope halter, and no sign of climbing aboard the horse, but it finally dawned on me that I was being judgmental, and that they were having just as much fun with their horses as anyone else. And the horses didn't really care, one way or the other, what their owners did with them.

                        Groom. Bathe. Wrap. Graze. Longe. Meander on a lead. Go hiking together. I have finally come to realize that some of the very best moments with horses have nothing to do with being in the saddle, but merely in the presence of a huge, quiet, soulful animal.


                          Originally posted by BatCoach View Post

                          This really struck a chord with me. Horse ownership certainly is not for the faint of heart. I think we all have had ups and downs and moments of insanity LOL. Not to hijack the thread but I have been in a frustrating pattern of NQR with my horse since last fall and it is striking how much energy, effort and emotional wellness is wrapped up in that creature. I constantly wrestle with "am I doing the right thing?" "should I get a different trainer?" "why isn't this working?" "which professional's opinion should I trust?" and ultimately ending in frustration since I simply don't have the thousands of dollars needed for multiple imaging and treatment modalities. I'm all debt and no answers right now. Its a hard place to be and I don't know when I should throw in the towel and put him out to pasture at the age of 12.

                          BatCoach , you and I are living parallel lives.


                            Like others, I rode multiple horses every day as a teenager and through college. Then I went to graduate school in the UK and there were no horses in my life, overnight. I still remember lying in bed the first week trying to figure out what felt so wrong and realizing it was the first time I hadn't been on a horse in more than four days since I was 15. I missed being away from them, but there were and are other things that came to interest me.
                            I have rather accidentally ended up with 2 horses. One is a retired companion pony, one should be many things, and could be now that I have worked the kinks out (mostly). But, he is happy being in the pasture. And I've learned not to feel guilty that I am shortchanging him somehow. That he would be a spectacular cart show horse is not relevant. That is not part of his understanding of life, horses don't measure their happiness in show records. So we go for a walk around the neighborhood and greet the little kids who are fascinated by a big white horse in harness and want to pat his nose. Which he loves and I love and count as a bigger win than any ribbon.
                            One of the hardest things actually are various elderly relatives who remember me as a teenager and still think that horses and only horses define me. That is frustrating. I always want to say, 'No. Horses taught me so many things and I will always love them; but they do not define me, they are a part of me, but not the whole of me.' And that is a good thing.


                              gertie06 hahaha want to start a support group? We can call it "Hand walks and credit card debt" or "empty wallets and empty saddles" or "If I could choose any superpower it would be x-ray vision so I could finally get radiographs for free!"


                                Yes, I got totally burnt out physically, emotionally and financially with the horse that was the best horse I've ever owned in talent and personality, but could not stay sound, and that was it. After 35 years of being all consumed by horses I'm done. I bought a labrador puppy from lines just as hot as the horses I like with the intention of getting in to dog sports instead.


                                  Yes I stopped. Lost my riding horse and my heart horse 2 days apart.

                                  I was given a horse, still had another one.

                                  I got an office job. It was years, they sat in the paddocks.

                                  When I wanted to start again I was afraid and no I had not had a fall. I started riding lessons on steady eddies.

                                  Then I started lunging the free horse.

                                  Then you suddenly turn around and another 10 years have gone past and now he is trained and lovely to ride, so I bought a younger one.
                                  It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.


                                    Horses will always be there. You will be one of us as long as you want to be. You don't have to be showing every weekend or pursuing a competitive goal.

                                    A lot of the joy we have in horses is from the human relationships with other horse people.

                                    If you want to put horses into your life in a different way, there are so many paths, and they don't have to have the daily commitment. Organize a trip with friends to some great horsey resort trail ride, local or not. Volunteer with a therapeutic riding unit. Enjoy the world of youtube. Discover the world of Breyer horses. Feed your horse carrots. Teach him some fun tricks with clicker training. Scritch his mane every day and get some horse snot on your shirt. Or all of the above.
                                    If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


                                      I struggle with the same thing, but I've had several longish spurts of non-ownership. In my case it feels like most of the horses I have owned have ended up broken for one reason or another, like the universe keeps trying to tell me something but I forged ahead. After the last heartbreak/wallet buster I said "enough". I then started biking (road and mountain, joined team/group, got really fit) but then crashed and spent two years now I am looking at a horse again (slow learner here!) I just want a nice trail horse that is sound, happy and problem free (lol). I look a lot but I can't quite jump into it yet, too scared something will happen to either the horse or to me-concussions are nothing to play with. I still go to a few clinics to learn, I read and watch videos, the siren song of the good times is hard to resist. I do miss the smell of horses and leather, their snorts and personalities. I don't miss large vet bills and barn politics.

                                      Finances are another concern as I have kids a few years from college, not that we know what college will even look like in the future but still, it likely won't be free.

                                      I also have a sibling that competes every weekend during the summer and I root for her (she is in a different discipline) and I would be amiss if I didn't feel a twinge of jealousy BUT she is kid-less and her husband is a trainer... her whole social circle is connected to the shows/horses/etc.

                                      No advice, just my $.02. The "other side" is not horrible, just... different.



                                        Don't worry about feeling this way, it happens to everyone many times over. There is nothing wrong with quitting for a while or forever. But breaks are essential, for financial sake and emotional sake. I quit about 6 years ago after financial loss and losing my current horse. I sold everything. I started doing lessons on a steady eddy show horse and swore I would never trail ride again. Here I am, owning my own horse place, showing and riding myself with some trainer help. I even have a trail horse I trust enough to load and ride all over by myself. You just never know.