Friday, January 2, 2009

Why Do I Ride?

I ride. That seems like such a simple statement. However as many women who ride know it is really a complicated matter. It has to do with power and empowerment. Being able to do things one might have considered out of reach or ability. I have considered this as I shovel manure, fill water barrels in the cold rain, wait for the vet/farrier/electrician/hay delivery, change a tire on a horse trailer on the side of the freeway or cool a gelding out before getting down to the business of drinking a cold beer after a long ride.

The time, the money, the effort it takes to ride calls for dedication. At least I call it dedication. My ex-husband call it ‘the sickness’. It is a sickness I’ve had since I was a small girl bouncing my model horses and dreaming of the day I would ride a real horse. Most of the women I ride with understand the meaning of ‘the sickness’. It’s not a sport. It’s not a hobby. It’s what we do and, in some ways, who we are as women and human beings.

I ride. I hook up my trailer and load my gelding. I haul to some trailhead somewhere, unload, saddle, whistle up my dog and I ride. I breathe in the air, watch the sunlight filter through the trees and savor the movement of my horse. My shoulders relax. A smile rides my sunscreen smeared face. I pull my ball cap down and let the real world fade into the tracks my horse leaves in the dust.

Time slows. Flying insects buzz loudly, looking like fairies. My gelding flicks his ears and moves down the trail. I can smell his sweat and it is perfume to my senses. Time slows. The rhythm of the walk and the movement of the leaves become my focus. My saddle creaks and the leather rein in my hand softens with the warmth.

I consider the simple statement; I ride. I think of all I do because I ride. Climb granite slabs, wade into a freezing lake, race a friend through the manzanita all the while laughing and feeling my heart in my chest. Other days just the act of mounting and dismounting can be a real accomplishment. Still I ride, no matter how tired or how much my seat bones or any of the numerous horse related injuries hurt. I ride. And I feel better for doing so.

The beauty I’ve seen because I ride amazes me. I’ve ridden out to find lakes that remain, for the most part, unseen. Caves, dark and cold, beside rivers full and rolling are the scenes I see in my dreams. The Granite Staircase at Echo Summit, bald eagles on the wing and bobcats on the prowl add to the empowerment and joy in my heart.

I think of the people, mostly women, I’ve met because I ride. I consider how competent they all are. Not a weenie among the bunch. We haul 40 foot rigs, we back into tight spaces without clipping a tree. We set up camp. Tend the horses. Cook and keep safe. We understand and love our companions; the horse. We respect each other and those we encounter on the trail. We know that if you are out there riding, you also shovel, fill, wait, and doctor. Your hands are a little rough and you travel without makeup or hair gel. You do without to afford ‘the sickness’ and probably, when you were a small girl, you bounced a model horse while you dreamed of riding a real one.

Julia Dake 2006


  1. Oh yes!
    I felt like you were writing about me. You have a lovely way of writing.

    I have the sickness and I only just started my horse ownership adventure last Spring. But already I've done more than I thought I'd do in one year on my horse. And I can't wait to reach more goals and enjoy more hours on the trail together.

    But that will have to wait a while until I heal up from my knee injuries that happened from my fall during my Christmas Eve ride.

    I look forward to getting my horse-riding fix from visiting your blog again.

    Happy 2009 abd Happy Trails,
    New Mexico

  2. If we trailer anywhere, you are in charge of backing up. I tend to take out my share of flora... :)

    wonderful post - do you know about the trail ride in Seguin this coming weekend?

  3. I have to work!!! We do want to do a planned trail ride at some point, but I sure do have fun just riding with my friends! I like riding in smaller groups of people, but we will have to do a big one just for the experience ...Our first BIG trail ride was sketchy and we ended up turning around with a small group but we've come a ways since then....

  4. I love this post! I have the sickness too, and can totally relate to a lot of things you listed there.

  5. I ride. I rode the other day and had the same goofy smile my 12 yr old has when she plays her clarinet. It's the most wonderful natural high. No drugs needed (except the painkillers when you get bucked, thrown, dumped, or spooked).

    By the way. I live north of Bryan and was thinking... us girls that blog in Central Texas need to have a girls night out (with the horses of course). I think a trip to Canyon Lake sounds good. :)

  6. C.--
    Yay! Yes! We need to get together. I will check out your blog! So good to find folks near me! I am excited!

  7. Right on..I feel exactly the same way.

  8. great post, and i think you'd like my very first horse blog entry:

    ~lytha in germany
    p.s. i'm afraid to take the "what breed am i" test - cuz it's probably not gonna be arabian

  9. Hi, glad to see you in my followers. I seen this poem on a yahoo list and just loved it! Sums it up doesnt it.


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~Slainte' Mhath!