Horseback riding has always been something I’ve enjoyed. I’ve been thinking about it a lot these past few weeks for a number or reasons.
I stopped riding roughly a year ago due to how the barn I was riding at was affecting my mental health. Here’s how: For maybe six (ish) years, I’ve been riding a few times a week at a small barn, mainly just for pleasure. Before that I had been taking lessons once a week at a different barn, a little farther away. I spent a lot of time in my neighbors field with the two horses that lived there, and I often went to riding camps over the summer.
All of it had been purely for pleasure.
Then I switched barns.
I went from this small barn a few minutes from my house where I knew all the stable hands and horses, to a giant, industrial-sized barn, where I knew no one.
I left my old barn because I thought there was nothing left for my old instructor to teach me. But at this new barn, I was terrified. My so called ‘lesson induced anxiety’ flared up again every time I walked in the door.
You see, remember the first barn I was riding at? The one a little farther away where I rode once a week? The instructor there had been absolutely terrifying.
She was constantly yelling and shouting at everyone, the horses, the stable hands, the riders. It wasn’t a ‘tough-love’ situation, it was just tough. In school, I knew how to deal with strict teachers, because I was a quiet worker, and a good student, but I had no idea what to do here. I wasn’t a flawless rider, I was nine! I couldn’t impress my way onto her good side. I left that barn with a giant fear of instructors and their techniques.
Not even two months after joining this new barn my anxiety and fear flared up again and I refused to go back because I was too scared to fight through it.
It’s been roughly a year since I quit and I miss it more that anything.
I started to miss it twice as much the other day when I was hanging out with my friend, who has horses herself. We rode together for a while but while I grappled with anxiety and other issues, she was able to get a horse of her own, as well as start competing at a different barn.
I was hanging around her barn with her horse, and the horse that boards there and I realized how much I miss horseback riding and everything about it. Hell, I even miss the smell of the barn- if you ride or have spent a lot of time around horses you know what i’m talking about. That horse smell, a mix of hay, grain, sweat, and though you hate to admit it, probably manure too.
But there’s hope on the horizon for me, your non-binary (ish) dude with crippling social anxiety! I may be getting a horse!
It’s a long story, but pretty much we’d be sharing it with my neighbors, who want another horse because they have two horses right now, but one of them is very old and they don’t want the younger one to be lonely after the older horse dies.
So I hope you enjoyed this story because I enjoyed sharing it with you! I’ll update you more on the horse buying process as we go!