Have you ever been so deeply entrenched in something that you don’t even notice you no longer enjoy it? Or that at least you lost the reason for doing it in the first place and replaced it with this new drive?Have you accomplished your goal and then felt a little deflated because the only reason you were doing this is now gone and you have no clue what to do next?
That has been me the last 10 months.
I started endurance because Gem hated everything else I tried with her. She excelled in it and was happier at rides than I had ever seen her, so I kept going and put in the sometimes awful conditioning time because it was needed in order to compete successfully. Some days out on trail were magical and some were so terrible I questioned my sanity for continuing on.
There was always some future goal to achieve throughout all this madness: completing a 25 mile ride, then a 50, then a 100. With each step up, I had to become more focused, more strict with the miles we rode, the pace and the terrain. Every ride was pre scheduled and my GPS was glued to my wrist. I never went more than a mile without checking in on our pace and distance. It was a necessity if I was going to get her conditioned enough to do the 100 with the limited trail time I had available.
It all paid off too. We got our completion on a respectable course in a respectable time, neither chasing the clock nor rushing and causing harm. Gem had all As all day and looked just as fabulous 18 hours after the start as she had the night before it. I was proud of all the work that I put into getting a horse nobody thought could even go a mile safely on trail through it and I was proud of my mare for never giving up.
After the initial high of the completion, I felt empty. I took the entire summer off then halfheartedly prepared for the Ride and Tie Championships and then promptly took the entire fall off. I thought perhaps it was a lack of a goal that was leaving me wavering on my rides, but every time I looked over the AERC schedule for 2017, I felt nothing. No excitement at picking out a ride. No nervousness. Just a little bit of dread of all the time away, the money spent and the long hours in the saddle fighting a horse who thinks conditioning is a waste of her time and why not just use competitions as her training instead? (Because, Mare, I can’t afford to do that)
I didn’t even renew my AERC membership yet for this season. I haven’t chosen a ride. I haven’t made conditioning plans. I haven’t done anything towards getting a 2017 completion at all. When I rode last weekend, my friend asked what I was planning and I just looked at her. I wasn’t planning anything. She was shocked. I’ve always had a plan. Always another ride to work towards, a schedule of how many miles over what terrain and at what pace on each day available to me to ride.
And you know what? Right now I am having more fun and have been happier while thinking about, during and after a ride than I have been in years.
I’ve been on Gem, on Ralphie and on Pete.
I’ve been on trail without my GPS or a plan.
I’ve been taking dressage lessons on my beloved mare.
I’ve been taking jumping lessons on a new to me gelding.
I’ve been on Pete watching Gem teach the love of the trail to a beginner.
I’ve been carefree, learning and exploring all the different facets of riding and I have been basking in the glory of it along the way.
It really hit home this past Wednesday. I had a jump lesson scheduled that got postponed a week and I was shocked to realize that a) I had been feeling like a kid on Christmas morning all day waiting for the lesson and b) I was really disappointed it would have to wait. I haven’t had either of those feelings in a long time.
I love Gem, all she has taught me and all we have done together. She isn’t going anywhere and is still my main mount, but I am also really really enjoying riding Ralphie and Pete and having absolutely no set in stone goals or plans at the moment. I may make a 50 mile ride happen this year or I may not. It doesn’t actually even matter to me.
What matters right now is how much fun I am having doing a hobby that is pure indulgence. If I’m not having fun, what’s the point? I already don’t have fun 50 hours a week at work plus another several hours a week cooking and cleaning and doing laundry, running errands and grocery shopping. I darn well better be having fun on my horse and for the first time in a long time I am.
I am having a blast and I intend to not stop again.