Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Not Exactly Picture-Perfect

Don't Let Your Abilities Affect Your Enjoyment of New Activities

...and when you've read that, here's the article to which it links:

How to Enjoy Being Bad at Something

"That can't possibly apply to riding skills!"  I can hear you hollering from here, so take it down a notch, please.  Sure it can.  In fact, it probably will be a relief for the majority of horse owners to read that they need not be perfect in order to enjoy their horse life.

If there's one thing that grates my lemon, it's the stuffiness and judgmental attitude that often pervades the horse world.  There has been an undercurrent of "Thou Must" for decades, and that undercurrent has swept some very nice people out to sea and left some very nice horses without people to own them.  The fact is that we are not all going to the Olympics, and not all of our horses are photo-ready and headed for stardom either.

I'm an okay rider.  I'm a little better than average, mostly because I've been at it for so long.  Most of the time, one can't help but improve with practice, particularly when one has access to instruction at a level that encourages improvement rather than discouraging attempts at it.  The more I talk to (some, not all) horse folks, the more I realize that depression seems to be part and parcel of belonging to this elite crew.  Breathes there a rider with soul so dead who never to herself has said, "Damn!  I really suck at this!"?
Fun finds its own level.

My regular readers are, by now, aware that I am on top of the unwanted horse problem as far as whining and moaning go.  I don't have the muscle to do anything about it besides writing letters and donating money to groups that are more muscular than I.  But I'm on it in my own way.  And part of the problem, as I see it, is that there are an awful lot of perfectly nice horses going by the wayside because they are not "quality" projects.  They're just horses.  They're less-than-handsome, perhaps.  Maybe they're on the small side (the 16+ hh mount is de rigueur right now, dontcha know) or a bit knock-kneed, or too short-coupled for high jumping or too long-backed for dressage.  Maybe they're not the right color (grey) or breed.

The thing that's irksome is that there are a whole bunch of would-be owners who are just as not quite as the horses I just described.  Talk about a match made in Heaven!  But the not-great riders are discouraged from owning the not-great horses because together they'd meet with ridicule and derision at the local Equestrian Enclave du Jour.  I know this because I've seen it happen.

What else has happened is a drop in spectatorship at equestrian events at all levels.  There's no one watching anymore while we primp and  priss and trot out our mortgage-on-the-hoof because we've cut off the adoring noses of the not-quite horsemen to spite our many faces.

Recently Jim Wofford (loff him, by the way, for his ground-breaking thought processes about this very topic and many others) espoused the idea of much better outfits for competitors.  I'm all for that.  Honestly, there's little to recommend the way "great" horsemen dress for competition or in the folds of magazines.  We look stuffy in English and sparkly-but-pointless in Western.  Sharp and comfortable and athletic would be better looks, but we seem to feel the need to mark our territory with painfully man-tailored clothing and glitter that would be laughed off the ranch.  Just today, in fact, a post on Facebook brought some very interesting off-topic comments regarding cleanliness and the acceptability of certain items of equestrian clothing.  We need that kind of discussion.  It's important to see that there are some true nitwits calling the shots and some great horsemen lurking in the background.

But do you know what?  It's okay!  It's okay for a rider to hack out on his or her favorite substandard horse with neither of them looking like they stepped out of the pages of a magazine.  It's okay for us to learn by the seat of our britches.  It's okay if we never progress past the hacking around level.  It's all okay.  And it's okay if we have horses that are not the sharpest noodle in the box.  Really.  It's okay.  And there's a lot less pressure at the bottom of the heap than one might suspect.

We need to enjoy more and nit-pick less, and the depression I hear in the voices of some of my fellow horse folks might be lost in the joy of just plain having fun.  Yes, we all need to at least have enough training (even if it's at the hands of a willing grandparent who rode as a kid) to be safe in the saddle.  We need to know enough to wear a helmet and boots with heels.  And we need to know how to tack up our horses so the tack won't fall off or come apart in mid ride.  But we don't all need to progress to any particular level other than the one that our horse is best at.  Mine range from Very Good to "Why in the hell did you buy that animal?"  They're all fine.  We have a great time together, they soak up my crazy with abandon and without rancor, and we look forward to our days.  That's all we need to do.


PBM969 said...

AMEN! I host an open level show for that grass roots level of competitor I believe you are speaking of. Not olympic bound, just wanting to have a great time with the horse they've got. Sharing this link.....thank you for the words. Wonderful message!

PBM969 said...