I was hooked the day I looked into a horses eyes, that is when the love affair started. I would beg my mom for lessons and horse camps in the summer. She would buy me the riding boots and helmet. I even worked mucking out stalls one summer so I could ride. My horse trainer was an amazing trainer. She taught me everything, how to catch them, how to properly brush them, how to clean their hooves and then she taught me to ride. She taught me jumping. She taught me how to respect this huge animal but take no crap either. Summer camp built on those skills and at the end of the summer I was jumping my horse like it was no big deal. But I won’t forget when I first got bucked off my horse and flew into a fence post. I remember what my horse trainer said, “you can rest today but remember, if you don’t get back on that horse, you never will, because you will have become afraid of them.” A lesson that I have applied in so many things in my life to this day.
When my PCOS kicked in, before I was diagnosed, I stopped riding. I stopped everything. I stopped softball, riding horses and anything that I once loved. It is hard to want to do anything when your body is changing so rapidly. But that wouldn’t stop my love affair with horses. I would ride my Aunt’s horse, go on a trail ride with my mom and ride my friends horses all over the place but I didn’t take lessons anymore or go to horse camp. Then I stopped all together when I moved to the city and became a college student. It was too expensive of a hobby and I didn’t have time anymore.
After my divorce from my ex husband, I told myself to get back to me. I had spent years being consumed with being his wife, dealing with everything I had to deal with and constantly battling his money issues. So when we split, I made it my goal to get back to what I love. Back to what makes me feel good again. R encouraged this a lot and helped me try new things, like kayaking. As I was driving past a pasture full of horses one day, all I could think is, damn do I miss horses. The smell. The feel. The big horsey eyes. Determined, I spent weeks looking up horse riding lessons and barns that I could take day rides out on. I asked about weight limits (since I am still plus size), got turned down many times for being bigger and them not having bigger horses to handle the extra weight. I got discouraged. I got frustrated. But R hunted with me and he found a woman who wanted work in exchange for riding lessons or leasing horses. So we met with her, she had some bigger horses, so we set up our first day to work.
My first day back at it, I was so nervous. Slowly though I realized, being around horses again was amazing. As I brushed down Chet, smelling him, brushing him, cleaning his hooves, watching his ears and body language for discomfort, everything went out of my mind. I didn’t think about the bills or work or any of the other stressful things I have been battling lately. I just concentrated on this horse and what he needed from me.
That smile is genuine. I was truly happy to be with that horse even if I wasn’t happy about the camera angle.
The next weekend I volunteered at a horse rescue. Not for riding. I wanted more experience dealing with different types of horses. They rescue a wide range of animals from horses, to mules, to donkey’s, to mini horses, to chickens, to goats and even an alpaca. R and I donated a few hours of our time to spend with the horses that need extra love and socialization. I mucked out stalls happily. I brushed down an older horse that was going to be put down soon but his owner didn’t want to have to deal with it. I made best friends with a horse that was sick and just wanted to be loved on non stop. I socialized with the two foals they have that came from the wild. I charmed a donkey into being my friend and had him following me around the pen while I brushed out its mule pasture mate. I got my face puffed on (which is a sign of affection), nuzzled, a bit of attitude, leaned on and lots of horsey love. I didn’t take my phone with me or check social media or stress out or even worry about anything else going on. I was so focused on the animals around me because trust me, they will let you know if you aren’t focused on them. By the end of the day I was sunburned and covered in hair/dirt but I was so happy.
Today is another lesson. Next weekend I am volunteering more time to the horse rescue. I enjoy the hard labor of mucking out stalls. I enjoy brushing down the horses. I enjoy that they keep me active. I feel it is important for me to focus right now on anything that helps my anxiety. Lately I have been battling tough work days, my anxiety and a few other things that have left me drained. But when I go out and spend time with these beautiful creatures, I am myself again, I am not the anxiety ball that I tend to be other days. I get my focus back after a few hours with a horse.
How do you get your focus?