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You don’t have to tell me it’s irresponsible to ride right now, I already know.

The past few months have been rough on the entire world as a whole. People are dying, people are getting sick, losing their jobs, losing time with their friends and family, unable to celebrate birthdays, weddings, or even have funerals. Schools are closed, shops are running out of supplies or their workers are being assaulted for enforcing purchase limits. People are stuck at home, trying to make things work while also terrified they’re going to be the next statistic. Hospitals are overcrowded, short-staffed, and under-supplied. I’ve seen stories of people who haven’t seen their beloved lesson horse, lease horse, or boarded horse in weeks and are desperately missing their time with these calming animals. The world seems scarier now than almost any other time I can remember, probably right up there with the 9/11 attacks. 

I am blessed that I’ve been able to go to the barn every day and see my horse, spend time with her, brush her, feed her, give her a kiss on the nose. I think about the people who can’t see their horses and my heart breaks. I wish every day that this crisis would pass so that life can go back to “normal”- or at least as normal as it could possibly be after what we’ve been through in this awful time. 

The past few weeks have been incredibly stressful for me and I haven’t been handling the trauma well. I spent two weeks worrying that my best friend had the virus, waiting desperately for her test results to come back, taking over the duties of caring for the horses every day, and also taking over walking dogs that needed care. I was also making store runs for her and for other families we know who couldn’t go out because of health issues. And though I’m happy to help out those who need it, every trip to the store came with a bucket-load of stress.

What if this is the time I get sick? What if I come into contact with something and take the virus back to those I’m trying to protect? If I get sick, who’s going to take care of the horses? 

A simple grocery run turned into paranoia. I already don’t like crowds, now I’m turning into a germaphobe on top of that! Every time I have to go to a public place, I worry about if I have enough hand sanitizer (I don’t, I’m nearly out and can’t find any in our area) or if I’m going to accidentally touch my face before I can get somewhere to wash my hands. I’m an anxious person anyway, but all the uncertainty has added heaps of stress onto my shoulders- to the point where I’d lay down at night and have to force my shoulders to un-tense so I could actually get comfortable and fall asleep. 

And during this time, because of my best friend being in isolation, I’ve only ridden my horse a handful of times. But I have ridden, and every time I tack up I feel immensely guilty for it. There are people out there not able to see their horses, and who are forgoing riding so that they don’t have an accident and end up in the hospital and taxing more of the resources that are needed for the sick. I’ve read the articles about not riding, I’ve seen the sacrifices other riders are making, and I have intense guilt for saddling up and getting on. 

But I do it anyway. Because being with my horse, getting in the saddle and riding is the only bit of “normal” that I have right now. Because horse time is my therapy time and right now I desperately need it. Because the time spent brushing, tacking up, and riding is the only time I’m not thinking about getting sick. It’s a much needed mental vacation right now that I probably shouldn’t be taking but I feel like I’m going to lose it if I don’t. 

So, yes, I know that I shouldn’t be riding right now. I know that other equestrians are making the sacrifice of not putting themselves in danger so they don’t potentially make things harder for the doctors and nurses that are fighting right now. But I also know that without riding I’m going to be an incoherent ball of anxiety in a padded room before April is over. Besides, I could slip and fall in the shower and end up in the hospital, but you’d better believe that I’ve been washing my hair. I could walk to the mailbox that’s fifty feet from my front door and get hit by a car. I could be in my kitchen cooking dinner and cut my own finger off by accident.

I’m going to continue doing the one thing that still feels somewhat normal because without a bit of sunshine in my life my mental health is going to be worse than ever. If it makes anyone fell any better, I’ll be wracked with guilt about it the entire time before I ride, because I’ll know that I should be making that sacrifice. 

I truly hope that soon those who are separated from their heart horses will be reunited with them, and that all this madness will be a bad memory. Until that time, do whatever will help you make it through, so long as you do that thing as safely as possible. Make sure you’re washing your hands, covering your mouth whenever you leave the house, and staying home as much as possible!

Buy a “Please Clean Your Hooves” sticker in my shop!
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Top Three Horse Myths I Used To Believe

I didn’t realize until I became a horse owner just how many myths there are about horses. Many of those myths I thought were true until I actually gained experience riding and working with horses because I didn’t know any better! So here are my top three horse myths that I believed until I had a horse of my own.

Horses do all the work when you ride them

I remember watching old movies where some rich, old, overweight man would say “The doctor prescribed horseback riding for exercise,” and I would think that made no sense. Surely sitting on the back of a horse and letting it run around couldn’t possibly be exercise for anyone but the horse! It didn’t make any sense to me at all when I was younger.

Then I started learning how to ride and I realized just how wrong I was. Horseback riding is a full-body sport that develops strength, provides cardio, improves balance and flexibility, and requires a lot of coordination to do well! Even riding at a walk requires a lot of balance, lest you slide right off and hit the ground. Posting a trot is a leg workout plus cardio for me as well, and oh boy do my thighs let me know if I’ve done a lot of trot on my ride the day before. Riding canter has improved my core and back strength as well, and I’m always out of breath and my heart rate is up after a good ride. So yes, horseback riding IS a workout and the horse does not do all the work!

On a related note, I also had no idea how much work I’d have to do and how long it would take to be able to walk/trot/canter. I was three years into my riding journey before I did my first canter!

Only the super-rich can have a horse

Don’t get me wrong: horses are EXPENSIVE. Between feed, hay, farrier, vet, dentist, tack, blankets, grooming supplies, and everything else you need for a horse, they are definitely not a cheap animal to have. However, there are ways to make having a horse more affordable for a regular person, so they aren’t just for the extremely wealthy (as I used to think!).

One of the best ways to reduce your horse expenses- and your carbon footprint- is to buy some items second-hand. The internet has made this much easier, and I’m part of several Facebook groups where people can sell, buy, and trade tack and apparel they no longer need. If you choose to blanket, you can find all sorts of blankets being sold online, and second-hand saddles can be much more affordable than buying one new.

My first riding lessons were ones that I paid for by volunteering at the riding school. When Glory first became mine and I wanted to move her to a boarding facility, I worked out a deal with the owners so that I could exchange my board fee for stall mucking five days a week. I have exchanged custom horse portraits for tack or other items that I needed. These trades all made having my horse possible, even on a budget. There is a great blog and YouTube channel called The Budget Equestrian that has a ton of ideas for keeping a horse on a budget as well!

Something that we never skimp on, however, is hay. Our horses get the best quality hay we can find. We do save a little money per bale by going to pick up the hay ourselves though instead of having it delivered. 

Horses Don’t Lay Down Unless they’re Sick

This myth is so prevalent that I’ve even heard it from people who don’t have horses or have never been around horses! Some people just think that horses sleep standing up all the time and they don’t lay down unless something is very wrong. This is very wrong, apparently!

Horses can sleep standing up, but they do also lay down to sleep. They lay down to sleep only when they’re very comfortable and feel safe, though. Glory likes to have an afternoon nap if she has something nice and soft to lay down on, preferably in the sun. I have also caught her and Raven napping in their stalls as well when they’re bedded nice and thick and they can get comfortable. 

Me with a napping Raven


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What’s the First Horse You Ever Rode?

The subject of which horse was the “first” I ever rode is a tricky one. I never took lessons when I was a child, but one of my cousins owned horses while I was growing up and I remember getting pony rides on them when we would go there for Easter and Christmas. I know there were other pony rides as well, most likely at the Maryland Renaissance Festival and carnivals. So the answer to the “first” horse is not very clear-cut at all! 

Instead, I’ll write about the first horse I ever took riding lessons on. I had just turned 30 years old that year and found a local riding center to volunteer at. In exchange for volunteering for the summer camp sessions, I got a few free lessons. Plus my parents paid for me to take a session of lessons as well, which was awesome and was something I was very excited for – despite the fact that I was the oldest rider in the beginner’s class by a few decades!

Since I’d been volunteering at the riding center for a few weeks already, I was familiar with the horse I would be riding for lessons. She was a gentle giant named Ivy, a 16hh-ish Percheron/Hanoverian crossbreed with the slowest gaits ever. Her show name was “Island Time” because she did everything at her own slow, plodding pace. I’ve always had a soft spot for big draft horses, so the moment I met Ivy the first day I was at the riding center I fell in love with her, and I was seriously excited to start riding her.

Ivy was an amazing teacher, patient as could be and just lovely to ride. She was also comfortable to ride bareback because she was like straddling a couch with her wide, flat back! I am not a naturally gifted rider, so having a patient teacher who could handle a six-foot-tall adult was a real blessing. I’m sure that Ivy hated my inability to post the trot, but she never acted up or stepped a hoof out of line, no matter how much I bumped around on her back. She was big enough to carry an adult, but gentle enough to teach a child to ride. 

The most “advanced” thing I ever did on Ivy was trotting over small crossrails. We were supposed to be trotting over those crossrails, but because I was such a bad and inexperienced rider she would get right up to the poles and stop suddenly before gently stepping over them. I don’t know if I was incapable of keeping her in trot or if she thought I’d go flying off if she went over any faster than a walk! 

Riding Bareback at Christmas

My lessons on Ivy went for a little over a year, until I got my own horse and started my first barn job. Because I was working at another barn in exchange for board for Glory, I didn’t have time to continue volunteering at the riding school. A few years ago, Ivy passed away suddenly. It was a huge blow to me when I found out, because she wasn’t very old and it was out-of-the-blue. I hadn’t been down there in quite awhile, so I hadn’t seen my old teacher before she passed. I was extremely upset about this, and I admit that I cried several times over the next few days because of the news (and I went and gave Glory some extra hugs). 

Ivy taught me how to brush a horse, how to pick burrs out of manes and tails, and how to tack up. She taught me how to ride the walk and trot, both posting and sitting, and how to go up in two-point jumping position. I hated posting the trot on her because her trot was so slow that in required a lot of work, and because of that I learned that I have muscles in my thighs that I didn’t know could hurt so much! She taught me to be proud when I made progress, and how to be grateful for a patient horse who would deal with teaching me to ride. I do wish I’d been at a point where I could’ve cantered on her, because apparently she had a lovely canter, but I wasn’t at that point when I stopped taking lessons there so it didn’t happen. I am forever grateful for the things she did teach me, however. She gave me a steady foundation for my riding, and even though I am still learning every time I climb into the saddle, I know that my basics are strong. 

What was the first horse you rode, and at what age did you first start riding? Comment below and share your story!

Me With Ivy