I went out to breakfast with a couple of my long time friends on Sunday. We go back a long way. Kathy was (and still is) my running buddy, she used to be my assistant at the barn and long time client. We have been friends for 25 years.
I met Crystal when she brought me a scrubby little 3-year-old arab/QH called James to break out. We became friends through the years as we progressed through many new experiences and the joy and heartbreak of horse ownership.
We were talking about horse-keeping in general, finding time to ride and making sure we took advantage of the time we could find.
"For the first time in my life with horses I've been wondering if I should have horses at all," Crystal said.
"I know what you mean," Kathy replied,"except every time I start thinking like that I remind myself I've got Rosie for the rest of her life. But it's hard. The weight of owning a horse is starting to get to me."
"Quit it you guys," I said, "here I am finally getting my butt in gear and riding regular and you two are telling me you want to quit. This is a scary conversation."
"I keep thinking Kathy is going to move to your barn and then everybody will be back up the pass except me," Crystal looked like she might cry.
"The reason I'm riding again is I've started riding with the barn owner," I told them, "we only get together every now and then, but it still gets me going out to ride more."
We realised much of our riding and being with our horses was also a social thing. We are all good friends. We trust each other, know each others faults and can move around them and have common interests with our horses.
Our group began to splinter when I went to work with the Big K. We had all been at the same barn through a couple of moves. We had formed a co-op and took care of our horses, rode together and tipped back more than one margarita on a pretty summer evening after a good ride.
I had been their instructor and horse trainer for quite a few years. They were ready to be on their own, I was ready to move on and grow. Still, it was hard.
Most of my group still came for lessons and training, but it was different. Kathy moved to a self-care barn closer to her house and Crystal became the barn manager at our old place.
When I quit training completely we really lost touch. I had never realised how my job had held us together as friends.
Kathy and I began running again. We simply scraped up the time in order to keep in touch. We were both getting fat, we have run it off more than once and it keeps us in touch.
But this rare visit with Crystal hit me. Horses are what connects the three of us and also what inspires us to ride.
So we started small. We are planning a monthly ride. Sometimes in the mountains, sometimes the prairie, but we're giving each other our time and the joy we feel when we ride together.
I love riding with friends. I love the anticipation of a planned outing. I am starting to realise how important it is to cultivate the connections I have with the people who ride as much as it is to train my horses.
It's going to be new for me in a lot of ways. I won't be in charge. I'm not their trainer anymore. If Kathy and Crystal want to tell me to shut the hell up, well they can jolly well do that.
Of course I no longer have to behave in a trainerly, responsible fashion anymore. God help them. This is going to be great.