Here’s why I ride horses and how I came to realise the answer. We all have at least one close friend that does not share your love of horses. You know the type.
She has perfect nails, and by perfect I mean there is no stable dirt underneath them. She has perfect hair, with no trace of a crimp circling her head, where the riding hat has sat for hours.
She owns clean, open-toe shoes, jewelry not in the shape of snaffles or horseshoes, and more long gowns in her wardrobe than you’ve owned since childhood.
Take pity on this friend. She must be a sad little creature, spending her days shopping or decorating.
Maya is that friend for me. She was born in the city and has lived there her entire life. For her, the countryside is any piece of land that isn’t paved over. The closest to livestock she has ever been is her house cat.
She asked me once why I ride horses. In her words they are big and smelly, and their hair gets everywhere. My explanations always sound inadequate when I hear the words spoken aloud. “I love the outdoors”, I tell her. “Then take up walking”, she’ll say. “I enjoy the competition”, I’ll counter. “So play chess”, she’ll recommend. “It’s the quiet time I enjoy”, I smile. “Read a book then”, she’ll smile back.
It was after one of these conversations that I had an epiphany. I asked myself, “Why do I ride?” Is it really the quiet ride in the countryside? Is it really wanting to get a better score on my Dressage test? I thought about what types of horses I have ridden and owned.
Was there something similar between them? I have always loved Andalusians. I have owned two. Why did I choose this particular breed? What are the traits that drew me to them? First of all, they are beautiful. The long wavy mane and tail. The gorgeous line of the arched neck. The graceful movement of their paces. They are athletic and excel in all disciplines, it’s true, but I had discovered why I love horses and riding. I always felt like an ugly duckling as a child. I was large, clumsy, and shy.
Horses were my polar opposite. Beautiful and graceful, they possessed the traits I wanted for myself. I realized how much attention I got for my horses’ beauty. I was taking those compliments as my own. I was living vicariously through my horses, becoming a swan any time I was with them. This self-reflection put me at ease. I love horses because they are beautiful. I wasn’t embarrassed to tell Maya this and I knew it was the truth when she said, “Oh, that makes sense”.
We all have our reason for riding. Maybe it’s power, strength, or speed. Maybe it’s the rush of the cross country course or the thrill of winning. Maybe you just look good in your riding clothes. Whatever the reason, the universal truth is that for horse lovers, you know you can’t live without them.