Keeping your horses at home may not be an option for you. But perhaps boarding your horse close by your home and not being a full time, full service client of a “professional coach and trainer” and paying the big bucks for that might allow you relax and do your own thing might be more relaxing for you? And cheaper. Input from a good coach can be helpful and useful. But working on solving your own problems is also a valuable skill to learn. It’s a step in becoming a horseman in your own right. Eventually, most of us reach a point where you have to spread your own wings, and find your own way. You are usually forced into doing this, it’s easier to be dependent, and be told what to do by someone else.
I’m in a somewhat similar boat, a little older but not nearly at the jumping height
I had some significant personal trauma last winter in addition to work struggles which compounded feeling like a failure for not reaching my riding goals. Feeling like we were poor. Feeling like everyone else is just moving right up and doing all the things.
As I’ve been processing this year (it’s been an up and down journey) I’ve realized what I now want in life has changed and that’s ok.
I’ve also realized we are not poor (quite the opposite, but when social media is full of 6 figure horses even the top <5% doesn’t cut it) - but that I personally do not see the value in spending 3-4k a week to show or dropping 50k or even 20k on a horse or spending 2k+ a month for board and that’s ok. I have plenty of friends who do find the value in that and that’s ok. Maybe something changes in the future and I then do see the value in doing one of the above, that’s ok.
For now, I’m fortunate to have a lovely little farm and horses at home, I trailer out for lessons and honestly it’s so much less stressful than going to a show, whereas all I wanted to do in my 20s was show and move up. Maybe I’ll do a show here and there. I feel much better having allowed myself to accept change and not be burned out chasing a old dream. What works for me may not work for you…figure out where and when you are happiest, and focus on how to prioritize that.
FWIW I found it very helpful to reduce my social media intake and have unfollowed but stayed friends with/connected to many people. Just having less in my news feed helps me not compare myself to everyone else.
Seriously, specifically Instagram can wreck your mental state. Blah blah people only post the highlights blah blah, but it seriously does a number on your self worth if you don’t curate the feed like a fiend. Get off Instagram and TikTok, unfollow but stay friends on FB, etc.
Nothing wrong with a little social media, but it turns into doom scrolling SO FAST when your head isn’t in the right space.
I THIRD THIS.
I unfollowed/hid many barns and individuals on social media that I found myself jealous and resentful of.
As Theodore Roosevelt wisely said: “Comparison is the Thief of Joy.”
I lost my job in the recession 15 years ago. I was able to keep my horses, but all showing and extras stopped. When the new job gave me a small amount to spend on extras I chose to take irregular lessons because I felt they offered more long term value than shows did.
I didn’t miss the shows. I did do a few with my young horse as training/experience for him, but I didn’t get invested in the show results and never felt I wanted to go back to show goals. I did a lot of traill riding, and a friend introduced me to the idea of taking my horse places and riding. That led to joining a club, and a club member introduced me to endurance riding, and horse health issues brought me to volunteering at rides, and I thoroughly enjoyed being day ride manager at a recent ride. Not something I could have imagined even five years ago.
Maybe moving your horse closer to home after show season and just riding as the whim takes you might help you figure out what you want to do. So many of my changes in riding have come from meeting other riders and seeing what they do. Just getting out of the program for a while could let your mind calm enough to give you the perspective you need.
Someone, or several posters mentioned finding other interests that have nothing to do with horses. I don’t necessarily agree with that. I do photography (started because I wanted photos of my horses, and still take lots of horse photos), art (I draw horses and am learning watercolours), leatherwork (I have made my own bridles, halters, girths, saddlebags, breastplates, and done leather art featuring horses), scrapbooking (my horse photos of course!), blogging (yep! horses), horsehair braiding - well, you get the idea.
Some of these things have branched out to non-horse related subjects. I photograph birds, and pets, and nature. I’ve made leather belts and bags, and a tiger artwork. I draw other subjects.
You can find a hobby that includes horses, and let it take you to other places.
Good luck! You’ve got lots of good ideas from people here!
I just want to put out there that people like Jenn Gates, Katie Dinan and Kara Chad all have some combination of significant $ backing, no job, high level expensive training (in the millions annually) and an extraordinary NUMBER of horses.
For people like that do to the GPs, it’s not a reach. For the person with a single horse on even a decent budget, stretch.
I’m saying this as someone who has jumped National standard Grand Prixs as a junior who now has a full time job and one horse. I think it’s insane to compare yourself to these people especially working a full time job. I’m not afraid to unfollow people who make me feel bad on social media (despite them being a good person).
THIS is the important question. And its a question you and only you can answer - what is you WHY.
I could have written a post like yours at several stages in my life, including right now. Different discipline, but I have been trying to make it to PSG dressage for 25+ years…in my 40s still chasing that young rider dream, lol. I’ve worked really hard - working and/or studying full time while getting two doctorates in my 20s AND being a working student for a top trainer on nights and weekends. I’ve learned a ton and become a decent but not amazing rider. I was extremely blessed to have free rides on other peoples horse for ~6 years when I couldn’t even afford board. Now I have a real job (horse related even), I have more money than ever to put into horses (it’s still not a lot), I have enough time to put into horses and then my all time favorite heart horse of a mare got injured a week before our 3rd level debut and I’m back to square 1 yet again. Looking at 3yos that I can barely afford. I too feel like everyone around me has just marched up the levels - on horses bought for lots of money, on freebie horses no one else could ride, on a nice horses they trained themselves up from a baby. It just has never been my turn. But I’m (mostly) at a point where I can say that it is OK.
If you told 15yo me I would spend 25 years as a 1st/2nd level rider I’m not sure I would have chosen to try this hard at dressage, but at the same time as a 40yo looking back there’s no horse in the journey I wouldn’t have wanted to have had in my life. There’s no trainer who’s knowledge I don’t use regularly. I’ve made really good friends at every step of the way. And I’m proud of the rider I’ve become, even if I’m not an upper level rider. Upper level riders aren’t the only good riders.
It comes down to your why. For me, I love the journey with every horse. Trying to figure out training situations, getting to know them and bond with them. The only time I get really down on myself and my riding is when I’m between horses, not on a journey, not thinking about the next ride or how I’m going to work through xyz. So, I keep dusting myself and getting back on and then I get back to my happy.
From your post there are hints of your why. You say your horse is your whole heart and you don’t want to sell him - that is a choice (and a wonderful one if you ask me)- but that is you choosing a bond with a horse over competitive goals. If your #1 goal was to make it to GP level classes, you’d sell the horse if you couldn’t afford two. Some of the very top riders (especially without literal billionaire resources like some you mentioned) have had to make that choice so many times - sell the valuable/best performing horse, sell the maxed out horse you love, move on to the next better thing etc. That’s part of how you do it. But as an amateur we get to think about what makes us happy, not what maximizes success. Think about what makes you happy at the barn? What are you thinking about on your drive to/from the barn? Are you thinking about showing? Training? Grooming and feeding your horse treats? Think about your circumstances as choices you are making. For instance, I love training horses and working through training problems - I tend to only do weekly to biweekly lessons. I force myself to acknowledge that YES this is slowing down my progress vs having a good trainer ride a day or two a week, but it’s what I enjoy/brings meaning for me so I do it that way.
Everyone has their own why, I think your heart is just telling you it’s time to look at yours. It’s OK if it changes, and it can change yet again. You have plenty of high quality riding years left. It sounds like you managed to ride through the decade equestrian loses the most athletes - their 20s - so pat yourself on the back for that! And decide what about the sport pulls you in and push towards that.
@Applecore1 Thank you! This is an inspiring story you have and filled my heart with motivation. Since I made this post I am trying to take time to think about what I really want and I think it is going to take more time than just two days to work through it.
Like you, I love the bond I make with horses. I have had horses I was riding sell, leases end or horses taken away and every time I am heart broken because I put my whole heart into every horse. I truly love the journey on making the bond, gaining their trust and there is no better feeling than having a strong connection with a horse. This probably will be my down fall because then it’s hard to let them go.
I spoke to my trainer today about a potential lease to a specific girl in our barn who was looking. I instantly regretted mentioning it when the words came out of my mouth - I don’t want to stop riding. The girl also found something anyway so for now, that answers that question.
As with you, I think I need to find a way back to enjoying the processes and not worrying about what others are doing.
Your story, although clearly one of lots of challenges, heartache and hard work, makes me want to keep going, to keep trying my best while being realistic with where I am at financially.
I wish you ALL the luck on your journey to finding your next partner and getting to the next level. You sound like an incredible person and one who deserves it.
Thank you so much for this!
This is a good point! I didn’t realise until you said this but, YES, those instagram reels are trouble! They really have you feeling some kind of way about what you have vs. what they have. Thank you for your reply!
Thank you @RedHorses!
After posting this and hearing the ideas, I had elected to skip the last show of the season, take a breath and see what next year holds. I have also though maybe moving my horse closer to home in the off season is good idea. I have started to look at nearby barns tentatively online.
I LOVE that you found other horse related hobbies - this is awesome! I should look into some similar things and allow myself to enjoy something when I am not working or riding.
Really great advice, thank you!
This 100%! Someone else posted about it too and I hadn’t though about how much it likely impacts me. I see other people I know winning and jumping 1.30-1.40 and I just feel SO down. I am happy for them truly - lots of people have worked very hard to get there but I do start to wonder what is wrong with me.
It is such a tough habit to break but it might be something to take more seriously!
Thank you @skipp99!
This is something I need to work on, accepting change is ok and trying to figure out where I find value.
I agree, horse showing is stressful and I do find myself wondering if the stress is worth the cost… it should be FUN for the amount it costs. I love it when things go well, when they don’t I worry I am wasting money. That’s something I need to work on mentally I think.
Your set up sounds lovely - maybe this is something I end up doing. As you said, it is ok if goals change and you find value in different things with that change.
Thank you for your reply!
Your horse has issues (navicular) but I caution against falling into the trap of thinking that you are the only who will take care or do right by him. I’ve heard many say that & a good number of them were not the world’s best horse owner.
A friend of mine had a colt in training down at my barn that came down with EPM. He was treated and life continues. He’s a really nice horse, a top tier fine harness horses for the last 5 years. His last sale price? $250,000. Someone could have very easily said, “Oh, he’s got EPM, no one will pay anything for him.”
You’re right - someone else could absolutely take good care of him and give him a forever home. I wasn’t trying to claim to be the only one who could take care of him but I can definitely see how my reply did come across that way! I do try my best.
He could end up in excellent hands but he could also just as easily end up in bad hands, which would always be in the back of my mind regardless of how much he sold for. I’ve never thought more money = a better home, it does not.
I was just responding to a comment on why I thought, even IF I wanted to sell my horse (which I don’t want to), I likely wouldn’t get for him what I would need to go buy something that could jump bigger because, in my opinion, people run away from navicular cases after it’s seen on PPE. Especially in the jumper world. I could be wrong and things could have changed now - that’s just my perception of how people react to it.
I truly don’t know anything about Harness horses and had no idea they could fo for so much, but that’s incredible!
Anyway, I understand the logical thing to do might be to sell, but feel valid in worrying where he could end up. I would worry about this regardless of whether he had this pre-existing issue or not! The horror stories out there are enough to send anyone into a spiral. Clearly… I am a worrier.
Edit to add: EPM is similar to navicular in that is can be degenerative but Navicular is not treatable and will eventually impede athletic ability as time goes on with certainty from what I understand. Even with Osphos to slow degeneration and good shoeing, you have to be careful about managing their training program. I thought in less severe cases, when treated, a low titer ratio can indicate no neurological impact (at least currently) and this could be the case indefinitely for the horses career with EPM, but I could be very wrong! I was just taught Navicular meant the horse would not have as long a career (esp in jumping) as one without it - all other things being equal of course.
So maybe, knowing your horse’s career is impacted by his health, you can try to find something for him to do that won’t be affected by that. Let him redirect you so you are doing what’s best (discipline-wise) for him. Doesn’t sound like jumping is it. Let your horse be your guide into another area altogether!
I kept my horse for 29 years. I burned out long before then, and she lived in semi-retirement for the rest of her life. I could have sold her, and would only sell her to someone good, but how many stories have we heard about that person then just selling horsie down the road, and who knows where she would live? I could afford it and had no designs on buying another horse. If you want to continue riding, you should think seriously about moving him on.
I think theres some perspective too. Aside from the money/life/etc.
You say “I have nothing to show for it” and there’s others doing much more.
Hello, we all could have told you that. In whatever hobby, life career, marriage, social life, someone will ALWAYS be doing better. You, me, the rest of us? 96% of us sit in the fat part of the bell curve. Average.
I wrote about this recently. I use to feel that I could justify my level of horse/life success because IF i’d been given the same privilege as others, I’d be better. Or, if those same people had to work as hard as I did, that wouldn’t be as good as me. So in actuality I was still “naturally” better.
That’s bulls***. In reality, there are probably 100 barn rats that may have even started with less than you, and are doing more with their life.
What can you do?
But, when you were a little girl, you know dreaming of jumping big things, and you time travelled, your current self , to talk to her. Would you tell you child-self, “Wellp, don’t pursue it, you’re not going to be the best. You’re going to be mediocre, and there are going to still be a lot of other people with more skill than you. Stop now.” Of course not! You love horses, you love the sport.
And I’m not saying its unhealthy to be competitive. But you are not going to quit because of what other people are doing. You are not going to quit because someone rides a little better than you. Absolutely not. Someone else’s success is not going to define who you are.
Now, can you logically make the decision that for now, you need to save finances, want to pursue other things? Yes. that is allowed.
Thank you for your reply!
I didn’t mean for my post to come across as others are doing much more in comparison to the entire world - I meant in my immediate vicinity, at my barn, in my coaches program. And I feel like I’m letting my coach and my team down at times.
I also didn’t mean to come across as saying if I had been given privilege I would be doing better than all those other people who have it. But it sure would be a damn sight easier to be born into money (in general) or into a horse family. Opportunities that come along with that are surely helpful, no? This would be the case for many many horse riders out there - if not all!
I can say without a shadow of a doubt there are many people in this world with less than me doing a lot better than me, are much more talented than me, etc, etc. I have zero doubt about that.
You’re right, I shouldn’t be comparing myself and quitting because I am not the best. It was more, I am at a certain level, with a certain level of finances, a certain level of skill (because I can’t dedicate each and every day to riding multiple horses - I have a job). I am tired, and burnt out and was wondering at the end of it, if the stress is worth it to others who have experienced the same feelings. I 100% agree, I love the sport and shouldn’t stop because of my mental blocks.
Thank you! I appreciate the honest advise.
Yes this is in my plans for sure! My vet does not think he is done or needs to stop jumping at this moment. She just said he likely won’t jump the high levels (which he wouldn’t have done anyway). I will continue to listen to her while we monitor him. He’s a beautiful horse and we could pivot to dressage. Maybe he becomes my trail horse when we move out west. I don’t feel hope is lost for him and think he can excel in his own way at these other things too.