Why do I ride?

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Jackie Poirier

27 September 2022

I ride because I must. This compulsion overshadows common sense. It is as essential as the air that I breathe and the food that I eat. I’ve lived in poverty, driving old cars, and wearing second-hand clothes to have the privilege to swing my leg over my horse’s back. Everything about the ride is important.

                I can tell how my horse is feeling by the way he walks beside me. Is he being respectful or is he trying to push me around. I absorb subtler information instinctively. Did he whinny when he saw me? Was he at the gate waiting for me? How fast does he walk beside me? Does he seem anxious, full of beans, happy, or impatient? Is he hungry?

There is a ritual to preparing the horse that starts with a proper grooming. I like a good-looking horse that is clean, with a shiny coat, but mostly I like to check that there are no sores or tender places on his body. I cannot enjoy myself on any horse if I feel it is in pain or the tack doesn’t fit them correctly.

At the mounting block, when my left foot sits in the stirrup iron, I ask permission from the horse to get on. If a horse needs to be held, or is moving away, or showing any signs that he doesn’t want me on, I take a minute to think about what’s happening. I never rush to get on a horse, especially an unfamiliar one, because this communication is vital to our relationship.

I’m speaking of mutual trust, respect, and confidence, which are the building blocks to getting your horse through a challenge. It could be the scary place at the back of the arena, on a trail ride, jumping an eventing course, or entering a dressage test. I want my horse to ask me questions, and I want to answer them, and help them through difficult situations.

As I retired riding coach, this is what I’ve observed about riding horses. The rank beginner and the Olympic rider share the same feelings of joy and elation. Think about that, the same feelings of JOY! Try that with tennis or any other sport.

Here is why I ride: there is a oneness when I sit on Moe that I cannot explain. He grounds me, clears my static, moves my body, and releases dopamine that will last until the next ride. The speed, activity, and duration of the ride are unimportant. We are past caring if we have crisp upward transitions, or if he is on the bit. We enjoy the sights, smells, and challenges that the trail provides.

I ride because I must.

Jackie Poirier

Jackie Poirier

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