Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Friends and Horses

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.


  1. Hooray for good friends, horse outings and margs... I'm glad you made plans with them even if it means you don't have to be responsible and trainerly anymore! Sounds like trouble is a'brewin.... oh. I mean, fun. Yeah, that's it, FUN is a'brewin!

  2. I have a feeling that a few, "Hey guy, watch THIS!!..." moments are comming....


    Good for you, I hope you guys have an absolute blast!

  3. With horses, came a new circle of friends. Some casual friends and others who have become very close. Horses are what we do together but if they were gone tomorrow, I hope the friendships would endure.

    I love having horses as a thing "to do" with these friends. It keeps us active, it challenges us to try and/or do more things with our horses. It's a sisterhood of sorts & we speak our own language, different from our non-horse friends.

  4. I just hope you guys have fun. :)

    The only thing I'm not crazy about at my barn is there just isn't too many people to ride with. I'm still shocked sometimes how few people ride... How can people afford to pay board for a horse they take a carrot to on occasion? And why?

    Anyways, there's a 17 year old who's got a cute Appy mare who is all about trail riding with me. Seems sweet but we've got a 10 year age gap. I'm hoping she isn't just looking for a 'friend' who can buy her beer... :) Then again many of my horse friends are that much older than me so maybe she really wants a riding buddy. I hope so.

  5. We had a crew where I board my boys. We didn't know each other until we met up there; we all gravitated to each other as "woman of a certain age". :) We called ourselves "The Pussy Posse". :)

    One of us has moved out to another barn but we still keep up and have periodic get-togethers at the Hong and Kong, home of good strong drinks and passable Chinese food; and witness to much laughter and commiseration.

    As a matter of fact, we're getting together this Thursday... and indoctrinating another member into the Posse. :)

    Barn friends are the best.

  6. autumnblaze - I'll bet the 17-year-old is simply excited to finally meet someone who wants to ride....

    Scamp - you do live up to your name. I had a friend many years ago who wanted to open a bar...she was going to call it the "puckering pussy."
    I was supposed to design a logo with a cat eating a lemon. snort

  7. Yup, girl friends who ride are the best--I do an annual "week in the wilds" trip with my good friend and our horses in August...mostly an excuse to get outta town and ride and drink rum. We live in different states, but this trip is a priority!

    AUTUMNBLAZE: riding with teens can be great--don't underestimate them! A lot of teens would LIKE to hang out with adults who aren't their parents, but can't find any common ground....horses can provide lifelong common ground!

    Also, I figure that my teen riding buddies will still be able to push my butt back up on my horse when I am 80 and they are 50!

  8. It's nice to have friends for such a long period of time, I have friends that I have known and cherish since childhood. I swear I know what they are going to say sometimes before it comes out of their mouth! We live in different states now so we don't get together very much but email constantly.

  9. I have a core group of friends with horses. We make dates to meet and trail ride,we camp and ride new places, we pool our money and resources and attend clinics together. We go to shows together and compete against each other but also help each other out.

    We even have 3 reliable "husband horses" between us that we share when we have others join us who want to ride but but can't afford to keep a horse. The husbands and significant others often come along whether they ride or not. One trailer has the ability to haul the trail bikes and scooters for the guys.

    Our riders ages vary from 20 to 72.
    We have alot in common, we love horses and we love to ride. It doesn't get much better than that!

  10. Ya I see a "hold my beer while I do this trick" moment, J/K. I am just now having friends who I ride with now after years of being solo. Trying to do it more also. I have made more horse friends now due entirely to the internet ironically. Who would have thought? It makes me work harder!

  11. Sorry, I'm behind too. I wanted to say thanks to Horse of Course for stepping in on my question about outside rein contact. I was kinda hoping you would because it was a very dressage based concept. :) It was a very helpful description and I think at home we're doing it. Its when we get to the trainer's barn and he gets so excited he forgets to pay attention. That's probably partly an age/experience thing so we'll keep working on it. Sometimes I think I can actually see his little TB brain leaking out of his ear.

  12. I have two horse buddies who I just don't see often enough, and I miss them! We used to make a point to do one ride each year, at least, but life and lack of money & horse trailers, jobs, kids, keep getting in the way.

    They're both about 15 years older than me, by the way- never let age differences stop you from forming a friendship through your horses. Age doesn't mean much when you're all on horseback. Good friends will accept you no matter what, but your horse friends understand that part of you that needs a horse!

    Except that I've learned SO MUCH from those girls! I don't think I've given them so much back. Well, in my 20s I think I had enough spunk to keep all of us going... now I think we'd all rather plod down a dirt road. And I'd like that.

  13. Yep that's it! Let down your hair and have some fun. You've earned it.

  14. Autumnblaze, she probably does just want a riding buddy. I ride with my mom a lot, but I also love getting the chance to ride with someone a little closer to my own age. None of my friends were ever into horses, so it's a nice change sometimes.

    Partly why I love Pony Club so much!

    Mugs, I hope you have a fantastic time with your buddies. Don't do anything I wouldn't do, which, well, isn't much ;)

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  16. Sounds like your going to have lots of fun. I can't wait tell March my good friend is due in February and said by March we should be able to hit the trails. Until its me and my trusty horse. Hmm this could get interesting my mare has never been on the road and its 30 minutes to the trail head each way!!! Nope I don't pull the trailer.

  17. Sadly my horse loving friends are mostly in another country. I just recently bought my first horse and it is hard sometimes, riding alone always. Especially when 90% of my horse related experience has been at a barn, in group lessons or volunteering as a groom. I hadn't realized how much of my love for horses is backed up by my love for horse people. :) However, we are making new friends, my Harry boy and I, and when all our horses are sound at the same time, there will be group rides! Finally! I look forward to it greatly. Enjoy your horsai friends, all of you

  18. Friends and horses are the best.
    Tansy said: “I hadn't realized how much of my love for horses is backed up by my love for horse people”
    How true.
    We put our horses out on pasture every summer.
    Every summer I plan to ride them, to keep them and myself a bit more fit.
    And every summer it ends with both parties getting fat as they do nothing but eat ;-)
    I know that much of the reason for that is that I don’t have my friends from the stable there.
    It’s just not the same.

    It is so nice to enter the stable and have someone to talk horse with. Watch trainings. Have a laugh. Discuss things.
    I find that age doesn’t really matter much, which is one of the good things with horses if you ask me.

    But I like the company of my horse too.
    Riding out alone or together with someone are two different things.
    If I am riding out with someone, we chat and have fun, but it goes at the expense of the communication with my horse.
    When I am out alone, I tune in to my horse and I like that. I see more of my surroundings. Get closer to the wild animals.
    Many times I prefer to ride out on my own. I like the silent company of my horse. It is restful.

    We are a bunch of old friends that go to watch shows and clinics, and we always have a good time. We are not in the same stable anymore, so it is nice to get some time together and catch up.
    Many times it is more of an excuse to take a trip. It is the socializing part that is most fun!

  19. It sounds fantastic! Be sure to bring a flask. :)

  20. Haha - I was mostly joking about the buying beer thing! :)

    I think she'll be a blast to ride with. The day Gator and I had the trailer accident she hung out with me until the vet left. I was a mess. That alone proved to me she's a good kid... er person. I think you guys are totally right. She's just happy to have a potential riding buddy.

    It's just sort of weird to me... I've always been the one with the 'horse friends' who are much older. I think that makes me feel slightly responsible for her if we're out and about together. Plus, I've just always ridden Gator alone. Horses have been a relatively solitary act for me... I've never even taken a group lesson (always rode at small barns). So, it's just new on several levels - but probably a good new. I'm just a curmudgeon when it comes to change. :)

  21. Very timely piece. I just went to my horse buddy's wedding reception and we were talking of this very thing. Not getting rid of horses but how we became such good buds and what keeps us together. Jen is 31, Laura is 40 and I am 48. We all come from different backgrounds, education, religions, etc. Jen just got married, Laura is in the middle of a divorce- no children, and I have been married for almost 30 years and have 3 grown children. Jen rode jumpers on the A circuit, Laura trail rode an older Arab mare (I have converted her to quarter horses) and I have always ridden quarter horses and shown western. If we had met on the street or in any different environment, I don't think we would have given each other the time of day. We only have our love for horses as a common bond. We have built a solid friendship. There is lots of talking, laughing, speculating, margaritas and lots and lots of Coors Light. Jen and Laura have moved to a new barn, I chose to stay where I am at. We have managed to see each other at least a couple of times a week. My husband just doesn't get it. I tell him "They make me laugh and it feels good".

  22. Over the years, I've had riding friends come and go. Life's circumstances are always changing; sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

    One of my very best buddies sold her horses to one of my other best buddies for her daughter. It's working out perfectly for everyone, but it's still hard to believe that Nancy no longer rides!! We rode for years together...drill team and trails.

    After moving to E Oregon where folks are few and far between, it's been pretty lonely. But, being involved with all the local clubs helps my social sanity.

    I have one neighbor that likes to ride, and we try to get together at least once a month...but I really miss my best riding friends who ride on (camping etc) without me as I change irrigation throughout the summer. It was a choice I made without regret.

    Enjoy your rides Mugs...every minute...and I hope we get a few stories out of it from you!!

  23. This is what having fun as adult horsaii girlfriends is - wouldn't trade it for the world. Check out this very short horseback video.

  24. There's nothing wrong with solitary riding. I became a very solitary soul during my last few years as a trainer. I rode by myself all day everyday except when the boss showed up after work and on week-ends.
    My entire social life was the people I worked for, the ranch owners, my students, my clients.
    This last year I've been letting my contacts slip. My friends, my fellow cowhorse folk, all of it.
    This once a month ride should help and I'm volunteering for my old cowhorse group. I figure it will keep me in the midst while I sort out my life.
    At the same time, I am kind of a loner and am OK riding on my own. It seems to make a difference in how much I ride if I have something to look forward to.
    Gttyup talks about missing her friends, I'm drooling over her cutting club.
    We have two out here. One is three hours away and the other has tougher competition than I can handle.
    I also have to stay out of the show pen until I get my finances squared away. I'd whine, but I dug the whole all by myself, so I'll just shut up and start filling it in.

  25. With no horse friends around, who notices what a good (or rotten) day you're having? Telling your husband just isn't the same.

    I'm late responding to Monday's "school session", but I had to go and try it out again first. I know you've discussed this concept before, and I tried it, but it "took" better this time. Very interesting to play with leg on/leg off, and to use the leg off as an aide, not just the absence of pressure. I love having my horse stepping towards my leg, and seeking contact with it; just hadn't thought of that being the converse of stepping away from my outside leg pressure. I found that I could move his hindquarters in or out equally well with leg pressure or by taking my leg off. Very cool.

    Wonder how many times I use pressure with both legs when I only mean to use one? Yes, one is stronger, but how often do I send conflicting signals?
    Hmmm. This may be another piece of the puzzle.

  26. stillearning - I love playing with pressure. I'll tighten my leg at the thigh, then off, then switch, then tighten my knee, then off, then switch, then the same with my hands.
    Push with my hip on one side then the other,make them crooked, then straight....
    I had all my students do the same. By experiencing our horses reactions to the selected pressure it really made us aware of what we were or weren't getting across.

  27. Got to do some trail riding in Brookfield, NY. Now it's back to the heat in Oviedo, FL


  28. Cool. I need to play with all that, too. I've been too mentally stuck in the inside-leg-to-outside-rein dressage mode. Those are "always and forever" rules, but it'll be fun to experiment, even if I eventually confirm those rules.

    I'm going to look for better "buttons" for his shoulder control, too.


  29. Good for you Mugs, hope you and your friends enjoy that ride and whatever happens on the trail may it stay on the trail :P I just moved from AZ to Ontario Canada, sold my QH and my best friend it seems like. There is a hole in my heart the size of a saddle that only those horsey friends can fill. I loved being out at the barn with the girls and just talking horses. Husbands just don't seem to understand it like the girls do. We would meet for coffee and once a month we'd have a girls night out where we would all get together, those who still rode, those that couldn't anymore and those who chose not to. Dear friends everyone and all different ages. One of the best groups. I'm praying that I will find at least a bit of what left behind. Enjoy while it lasts, in whatever form it takes.

  30. mommyrides - can I ask where in Ontario? I live in the Ottawa area and could use some horsey friends :)

  31. Hey RuckusButt! I'm in near Elora Ontario, which is about 15 minutes from Guelph. If I was in Ottawa I'd be calling ya up tomorrow. Ya, I'm pretty desperate but not in a creepy weird stalker kind of way, at least I don't think so, my kids may have a different opinion :0) My mom though is in Ottawa and she has the same problem as you (sneaked a peek at your blog by the way, very cool)! She would love to own her own horse but to stable anywhere reasonable she would have to drive an hour to an hour and a half. Right now she rides for friends when they need someone to exercise their horses while they are away. Sorry, I'm not closer.

  32. mommyrides - I love, LOVE, Elora! I went to grad school in Guelph and used to go to Elora to 'escape', especially Elora gorge. That whole area is so beautiful! I got my dog from a farm near Arthur (closer to Fergus). It's sad that in such horsey country it can still be hard to find people to ride with! Good luck!

    Small world...

  33. Ya, small world is right! Hey if you are ever in the area again let me know and (hopefully) by then I'll have picked up some horses and we can go for a trail ride!! I think I can ride to the gorge from my house.....

  34. Mugs said:"By experiencing our horses reactions to the selected pressure it really made us aware of what we were or weren't getting across."

    My inside knee is pushing his shoulders out on circles! Didn't realize that until I started "playing with pressure".

  35. Wish I had some riding pals...the only horse people I know right now are WP and all they do is show...I just don't do that. I like to have fun with my horse! I am trying to contact some trail riders on a Michigan Chat list...but it seems most of them are at home and ride during the week. I just don't feel comfortable taking her alone yet. Maybe I can just go and plan to walk her around with me leading her.

    Hey, Mugs...I have a area I work my horses in that is simply a roped-off rectangular pen. Sometimes when Starlette doesn't want to be caught, she heads for it and we have a liberty session (I have decided she is telling me she wants to do something different when she does this as she goes in her choice). I have a piece of rope I put up at the "gate" area so she can't exit at will, and we do "rectangle pen" work.

    Well, she didn't realize the "gate" was up, galloped up to it, saw it, and set up for a real nice set of "11's" about 2 feet long! Laughed because 6 months ago I would not have even known what they were :)

    Of course, now that I see she can do it...tucked her butt right under real nice and slid..hmmm...I know she's too tall (15.3) but it just might be fun!

    Also practiced my pressure tonight...it was just too hot to do too much work, so I slipped on her rope halter and rode her bareback walk/trot. Hmmm...I *do* do some interesting things with my weight/hips/legs. You all have to try it without a saddle holding you in a good spot LOL! I see more bareback riding this week with it being so hot...she needs a break from collection anyway!


  36. Riding out with friends are great, especially if you are supportive of each other's fears, riding styles and horsey quirks!

    Mugs you had a piece once on training stallions. Could you please add that as a label? Thanks

  37. Ok, So with all this talk about riding I decided I was going to jump on my mare who just foaled. Well I walked to the trailer to get my bridle and once I had I was walking back up the road. My mom's gelding was running the fence line nickering at me cause he wanted to go. So I told mom to grab her bridle and lets hop on him and her mare that is pasture with the gelding. Well I was standing in the pasture waiting for mom and her mare turn her butt so fast to kick the gelding that he jump pushing me into the line of fire and I took a solid kick right above my bad knee. So I shake it off and reprimand the mare and then mom comes in and catches her. So we get on and her crazy mare is all calm and relaxed okay that is a first. Her gelding is higher then a kite has not been ridden in 6 plus months besides mom jumping on him in pasture with nothing on. I have my mares bridle on him, because that was who I was planning on ridding. Its just a little different type of snaffle then his. So everything is going good until he decides that he is going that way and there is no stopping him, he is so round when I went to correct him I just rolled off. First fall since 2007, oh well it was time.