5 Stages of Grief Related to Winter Riding

For all those who are similarly snowed in right now-  from Horse Junkies United.

The 5 Stages of Grief Related to Winter Riding

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Denial and Isolation:
This is the stage full of, “Of course I’ll ride! It’s almost a toasty 20 degrees today!” and wondering why there is no one else at the barn in the midst of a midwestern ice storm. You have fleece lined breeches and a quilted coat; there is no way this weather will get in the way of your Princess Pony’s training this year! Winter shminter, you’ve got a handle on this.

Anger:
The barn door is frozen shut. Your horse has icicles on his nostrils and has broken two blankets since New Year’s. Your fingers are completely numb. Basically the whole of the riding world lives in Florida, and you are stuck here in the ridiculous cold weather where you are never going to ride your horse again, and if you do ride you’ll fall off because you can’t feel your legs. How dare people post riding pictures on Facebook when the closest you’ve gotten to riding was watching the GoPro videos on Youtube.

Bargaining:
Maybe your school or job would transfer you somewhere sunny for a few months…and let you take your horse. What if you sold your car (useless in the ice anyway) and a portion of your soul to send your horse to training in California, just for a few weeks? You’d kill for a nice glove tan line and polo sunburn. What if you owned all the cool new tack products? That would definitely help you cope with your inability to ride. Probably buy two of each, just in case.

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Depression:
This is it. It’s never going to be warm again. Better just throw out those dreams of horse shows and palm trees; the cruel winter has come to stay. By the time the arena and trails thaw enough to work on anything you will be molded into this divet in the couch, in a Netflix coma and unable to ride any longer.

Acceptance:
It’s February folks, we can make it! It’s cold…but spring is coming.

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See Things as Your Horse Does

An interesting article over at Horse Collaborative got me thinking about how our horses view the world.  I have always wondered why horses don’t like certain jumps, or specifically, certain colors.

Photo from Horse Collaborative

As long as I can remember I have always wondered if horses actually see in color, or see in black and white, or in some other scale of color completely.  Despite wondering about this, I never actually took the time to look into and research it until I read the article on Horse Collaborative.

I have learned that in fact, horses do see color but do not view color as distinctly as we do.  To some extent, horses have a degree of color blindness, and it is easier for them to view shades of blue than shades of red.  This is why some horses may have more trouble viewing a red jump than a blue jump.

Image from Horse Collaborative

It is always good to take a step back and try to walk in our horse’s horseshoes, and see the world as they do.  This is a good reminder for me that my horse does not see the world as I do, and some things that don’t look suspicious or scary to me may look completely different to him.

To Have a Horse is a Gift

Found the following on the Chronicle of the Horse forum–  loved it and wanted to share!

Thumbs up To Have a Horse is a Gift

To have a horse in your life is a gift. In the matter of a few short years, a horse can teach a young girl courage if she chooses to grab mane and hang on for dear life. Even the smallest of ponies is mightier than the tallest of girls. To conquer the fear of falling off, having one’s toes crushed, or being publicly humiliated at a horse show is an admirable feat for any child. For that, we can be grateful

Horses teach us responsibility. Unlike a bicycle or a computer, a horse needs regular care and most of it requires that you get dirty and smelly and up off the couch. Choosing to leave your cozy kitchen to break the crust of ice off the water buckets is to choose responsibility. When our horses dip their noses and drink heartily, we know we’ve made the right choice.

Learning to care for a horse is both an art and a science. Some are easy keepers, requiring little more than regular turn-out, a flake of hay, and a trough of clean water. Others will test you – you’ll struggle to keep them from being too fat or too thin. You’ll have their feet shod regularly only to find shoes gone missing. Some are so accident-prone you’ll swear they’re intentionally finding new ways to injure themselves.

If you weren’t raised with horses, you can’t know that they have unique personalities. You’d expect this from dogs, but horses? Indeed, there are clever horses, grumpy horses, and even horses with a sense of humor. Those prone to humor will test you by finding new ways to escape from the barn when you least expect it.

Horses can be timid or brave, lazy or athletic, obstinate or willing. You will hit it off with some horses and others will elude you altogether. There are as many “types” of horses as there are people, which makes the whole partnership thing all the more interesting.

If you’ve never ridden a horse, you probably assume it’s a simple thing you can learn in a weekend. You can, in fact, learn the basics on a Sunday, but to truly ride well takes a lifetime. Working with a living being is far more complex than turning a key in the ignition and putting the car or tractor in “drive.”

In addition to listening to your instructor, your horse will have a few things to say to you as well. On a good day, he’ll be happy to go along with the program and tolerate your mistakes; on a bad day, you’ll swear he’s trying to kill you. Perhaps he’s naughty or perhaps he’ fed up with how slowly you’re learning his language. Regardless, the horse will have an opinion. He may choose to challenge you (which can ultimately make you a better rider) or he may carefully carry you over fences – if it suits him. It all depends on the partnership – and partnership is what it’s all about.

If you face your fears, swallow your pride and are willing to work at it, you’ll learn lessons in courage, commitment, and compassion in addition to basic survival skills. You’ll discover just how hard you’re willing to work toward a goal, how little you know, and how much you have to learn.

And while some people think the horse “does all the work”, you’ll be challenged physically as well as mentally. Your horse may humble you completely. Or you may find that sitting on his back is the closest you’ll get to heaven.

You can choose to intimidate your horse, but do you really want to? The results may come more quickly but will your work ever be as graceful as that gained through trust? The best partners choose to listen, as well as to tell. When it works, we experience a sweet sense of accomplishment brought about by smarts, hard work, and mutual understanding between horse and rider. These are the days when you know with absolute certainty that your horse is enjoying his work.

If we make it to adulthood with horses still in our lives, most of us have to squeeze riding into our over saturated schedules; balancing our need for things equine with those of our households and employers. There is never enough time to ride, or to ride as well as we’d like. Hours in the barn are stolen pleasures.

If it is in your blood to love horses, you share your life with them. Our horses know our secrets; we braid our tears into their manes and whisper our hopes into their ears. A barn is a sanctuary in an unsettled world, a sheltered place where life’s true priorities are clear: a warm place to sleep, someone who loves us and the luxury of regular meals. Some of us need these reminders.

When you step back, it’s not just about horses – it’s about love, life and learning. On any given day, a friend is celebrating the birth of a foal, a blue ribbon, or recovery from an illness. That same day, there is also loss: a broken limb, a case of colic, a decision to sustain a life or end it gently. As horse people, we share the accelerated life cycle of horses: the hurried rush of life, love, loss and death that caring for these animals brings us. When our partners pass, it is more than a moment of sorrow.

We mark our loss with words of gratitude for the ways our lives have been blessed. Our memories are of joy, awe and wonder. Absolute union. We honor our horses for their brave hearts, courage and willingness to give.

To those outside our circle, it must seem strange. To see us in our muddy boots, who would guess such poetry lives in our hearts? We celebrate our companions with praise worthy of heroes. Indeed, horses have the hearts of warriors and often carry us into and out of fields of battle.

Listen to stories of that once-in-a-lifetime horse; of journeys made and challenges met. The best of horses rise to the challenges we set before them, asking little in return.

Those who know them understand how fully a horse can hold a human heart. Together, we share the pain of sudden loss and the lingering taste of long-term illness. We shoulder the burden of deciding when or whether to end the life of a true companion.

In the end, we’re not certain if God entrusts us to our horses–or our horses to us. Does it matter? We’re grateful God loaned us the horse in the first place.

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