Why do I ride? Because I always have? Well, I did start when I was three, and pretty much rode solidly (almost every day except in the depths of winter) from there through to the end of High School in the UK. I even managed to fit if riding when I was at university studying for my veterinary degree, which is no mean achievement. In those days, I was an eventer, and it was all about the speed and the jumping.
But when I moved to Australia I was horseless for 3 years. I never thought I missed it all that much, but as soon as I knew the move was going to be permanent I went out and got a horse. Before I got a dog, a husband, a place of my own or even a permanent residency visa, I got a horse!
SO… not just because I always had, then.
Because it gives me time to myself? Well, that’s part of it. Combining a full time job, raising 2 children, finding time for my relationship, and building a house (can anyone say overachiever?) means there’s not a lot of “me” time. But I do have more than one way of finding it: I run, I walk the dogs. But even then, that itch comes over me to get out there and ride my horse. Not just for a bit, but for hours, in a straight line, over new country, sometimes in the company of others, but often on my own, just me and him, no one else to talk to.
Because it gives me a sense of achievement? Well, there’s no doubt a lot of endurance riders are a bit obsessive (and yes, I do keep a spreadsheet to log my miles, average speeds, and recovery heart rates..). There’s a HUGE sense of satisfaction in just completing a 50 mile ride – in anyone’s book, it’s a really long way…
So yes, all of the above, But also, and mainly, because (in my book at least, and I know there are others who will disagree) is that endurance riding has built a relationship with my horse that I have not previously experienced. Maybe it’s because I’m older and less impatient nowadays, maybe because, somewhere along the line, things have shifted and the relationship is more important than the actual riding, but Joe and I have a meeting of minds that is an endless joy to me. Throwing a leg over him and having him say with his body language, “OK Mum let’s GO!” never fails to bring a smile to my face. Riding 50 miles and never once having to consciously decide about the aids I use and the commands I give (I think it, it happens) is something that is special, that when I am sitting in my office on a glorious autumn day, makes me burn to go back out there.
But someone has to earn the money for the damn hay bales, and the feed, and the gear…