Because it’s Fun

In my last post, I touched on this just a little. But I’d like to dive a little deeper. I am a very goal oriented person (shocking, I know) and I tend to get super focused on the training aspect of riding. That may be partly due to the fact that in the past, I’ve almost exclusively ridden as a “trainer.” Not as a pro per se, but I’ve always ridden sale horses or horses that needed some issue fixed, and I’ve rarely had a horse that was mine to do whatever I wanted with. Of course I ride because it’s fun and I love it, but I don’t usually get to do things just because they’re fun.

I’m getting better at that though. Yes, most of the time, we should have the horse in mind and think about what is best from a training stand-point, but when it’s your own horse, there is less pressure to always make the smart choice. Yeah my horse was fabulous in our last lesson and jumped the oxer at 4′ great. Did we need to put the jump up another hole in order for him to get what he needed out of the grid? Definitely not. But it also wasn’t going to hurt, and I wanted to do it, so with my trainer’s blessing, up a hole it went.

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And everything was OK.

Some days, it’s really hot, and I have no motivation to pull out tack and actually do anything hard with my horse. If Val was still a horse I was riding for someone else, I would buck up and do it anyway. But he’s my horse. So sometimes, I hop on bareback, and we putter around. I still work on lateral work, but the pressure is mostly off and we just have a good time. Do we have major training breakthroughs on those days? No, not usually. But we do have a nice ride that leaves both of us happy and relaxed, and I get to spend some quality time with my boy. And I’m starting to find that those days are just as important as the days where we put in the work to improve our flat work or our course work or what have you.

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Sometimes, we even do something as silly as galloping across a field, just because we can. It pretty much undoes my horse for the rest of our ride, and it definitely doesn’t teach him anything super useful (for our purposes at least). But every now and again, I just like to go fast and let my horse really open up. And that’s ok too, because we’ve got the time to go back and fix it in the next ride if it turns him into a run away (definitely an exaggeration, all you really have to do is sit up to stop this horse). Since I’m the only one riding him, I don’t have to keep him ready to be tried by a buyer at any point in time.

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Are you more of work work work all the time rider, or do you occasionally do things just because they’re fun, even if there is not particular reason to do so from a training stand point?

26 thoughts on “Because it’s Fun

  1. I LOVE those fun rides. I tend to get caught up in all the milestones and goals I want to reach, so taking at least one day a week to have a silly do-nothing ride has proven amazing for my and Frankie’s mental health 🙂

  2. For me, the work of riding is fun. So much of what I “work” on with Eli feels fun regardless. He seems to have an endless work ethic, so I’m not worried about boring him. But, no, I wouldn’t do something with him if I thought it would make him more difficult to ride. I prefer to set us up for success every time I get on him.

  3. Since I’m not getting ready to show, the point of my rides is to destress. I’ve found that a 45 min long, more intense ride will give me that same therapy I’m looking for, as a 15 min bareback ride down the drive. I try to enjoy the whole experience: being outside, being ALONE, listening to my music, feeling the wind, getting my hands dirty, knowing my horses are groomed and fly-sprayed when they go back to their pasture… It all feels good. So it’s all fun.

    1. That’s something I’m definitely working on. No matter what I did at the barn, I always feel happier for it after I’m done, but sometimes I don’t remember how much even grooming my horse can be therapy.

  4. I swing back and forth between the two, and I’m finding that a lot of what I don’t consider “work” (hacking on the trails, playing at liberty in the arena, etc) has strengthened our bond so that when I do ask for real work, she trusts me enough to try hard even if she doesn’t understand what I want.

  5. Abby F

    Great post! Recently, I took my fancy 1.35m a/o jumper on an all day trail ride and took him swimming in the river. People thought I was nuts to take him when I had a barn full of less valuable creatures to trail ride with. But you know what? He freaking LOVED it! My spooky, hot, sensitive, 17.2 hand WB loved every moment of it and led the way on a loose rein without peeking at anything. With my crazy show schedule, I couldn’t remember the last time I had trailered anywhere but a horse show. My horse and I thoroughly enjoyed the change in scenery. Sometimes I forget that I started riding because it’s FUN.

  6. Jenn

    Yet another GREAT post 🙂
    I think striking a balance between “work” rides and “fun” rides is really important for both the horse and the rider. IMO, you never want to constantly be in work mode 24/7, even if you’re working towards a specific goal or timeline….that’s the fastest route to burnout and boredom. I think the days you spend galloping through a field or toodling around bareback are equally as significant to a horse’s training and development as the days spent improving the technical aspects of coursework (or whatever else you’re working on), and those “brain reset days” help the horses enjoy the work that much more. Like Val, Roger has an endless work ethic and loves to be in a consistent work program, but I do try to schedule low-key flat work days or toodle sessions just to let both of us chill out and remember that this sport is fun!

    And hey, sailing over a 4’3″ oxer is nothing to sneeze at!

    1. I’ve definitely hit burn out on several occasions, especially in my working student days. I agree the the brain reset days seem like they make a difference. For me at least.

      And thanks!

  7. Gina is a workhorse who can handle every single ride being “on” and working toward something. She does just fine when we’re confined to the indoor for the winter and will happily (well, as happy as she ever is about anything) do dressage work every single ride.

    Moe cannot handle that type of schedule, so he has many more “fun” days built into his weeks. I frequently take him on a walk around the hay meadow or let him have a gallop or set up a little jump to pop him over. Dressage is definitely his weakest point, so it’s easy to want to work on it the most, but his brain just can’t handle it.

    For that matter, I can’t handle drilling on dressage every ride, so having some fun rides makes me feel good, too!

  8. I try to make sure that I have a good balance of relaxing rides and business rides. That said similar to Karen I think all rides are fun most of the time and I try to make sure I work on the right combination to keep Annie happy and making progress.

    Sometimes our fun rides are hacks around the farm, sometimes they are trail rides at local parks, and others it is just a bareback ride. Lots of different options 🙂

  9. I am the queen of doing fun things. I will regularly sacrifice actual training or progress to do something enjoyable instead. Ride to the winery instead of practicing dressage? Yes, please. Do coon jumping instead of lunging? I’m on it.

  10. I mostly work. I like trail rides, but with my young horse’s injury, he probably won’t be doing those any time soon. He does get prescribed days off, and eventually I’ll probably get on him bareback and wander around a bit. But I can’t help but to want to work on something every time I’m riding. I’m lucky he’s got a great work ethic and doesn’t mind doing the same thing every day given how boring I am!

  11. Great post! This is what I miss most about having my own horse! Somedays you just need a bareback hack, or to spend 20 minutes herding the barn cats–whatever floats your boat. 🙂 Glad you two are having so much fun!

  12. I’m not a work, work, work type of rider since it’s always been the thing I do for fun. Sometimes that works really well, because obviously I’m having fun, but sometimes it’s difficult to buckle down and really work on what I need to. I honestly think the best amateur rider is one that can balance work and fun… as elusive as that is!

  13. I would say I’m more of a fun type rider, and if some training gets done along the way-great! Training a verrrrrry interesting baby OTTB can lead to a lot of melt down days, so I noticed if 2x a week are the work work work days (1 flat, 1 jump) and the other days are more fun activities like hacking, XC jumps out in the field, bareback rides, swimming or trails, then he’s happiest and still getting miles and still learning new things!

    We also weren’t sure what he was going to be best at (eventing, jumpers or dressage) so we played a lot with everything THEN tried eventing him. NOPE. Jumpers it is! Now that we have a focus and he’s more settled into his OTTB life, its easier to focus up and work those work days.

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