Finding the fun.

2 Aug

Last I checked, riding was supposed to be fun. The possible exception to this would be people getting paid to do it. The irony is, in my experience, the people getting paid often seem to be having more fun than the people who are supposedly doing it purely for their own entrainment!

I was recently at a rainy mid week event, no spectators, no trade fair, no big prizes or glory on offer. Very much a day at the office. One pro, with a reputation for being taciturn, was coming back from xc on his third or fourth ride, having had a mixed set of results thus far. He looked pretty cheery but as he passed me his face lit into a big smile and he pointed down at the horse and called over, “He was great cross country!”

This man has ridden at the biggest events, on some of the best horses, and won a list of prizes as long as your arm. But on this random day, with no accolades on offer, on this not-so-famous horse he had had FUN. He had enjoyed the ride, seen the future, reaped the rewards of all his hard work. The horse had just as big a smile on his face. I’m sure he’d been tested and he’d certainly worked hard, but his skills hadn’t let him down. It’s not anthropomorphic to say he looked relaxed and like he’d come away with a positive feeling about the whole experience.

There seem to be a lot of people who think “fun” is the opposite of hard work and discipline. Certainly there is a type of fun that’s about not doing much of anything. But that real joy, that sense of pure accomplishment, is not devoid of effort.

The thing is, it’s not all about effort. It’s about balance. It’s easy to get caught up in the details, to try for perfection, and forget that in the end, with the work in place, the fun is in the letting go and just doing it. You will never be perfect. It won’t all go according to plan. **** will happen and you will have to roll with it. Sometimes it will even go BETTER than expected! You will have one of those magical days when the stars align, the ducks line up dutifully in a row, and all your Christmases come at once!

This is just as true for the days you school as the days you show. Go out looking for the fun. Enjoy the small victories. See the problems as puzzles. Don’t get so bogged down staring at the same boring trees that you forget to pick your eye up and take in the beautiful vista.

This doesn’t mean take it easy. There are days for that but it’s no secret that hard work and discipline reaps rewards and that there are no prizes for poor performances. The same is true for horses. If you want your horse to do its job then you have to prepare it properly. It needs to be fit and trained and disciplined. It needs to practice its skills and this will not always make for an easy life and a pleasant conversation. It’s not fair to avoid the things you find boring or the horse finds difficult and then expect a good result, or even a safe effort on the day. It’s also not fair to make things a trial when they don’t have to be. Too many people make training a drag and hacking “fun” but this is a completely human construct. Riding is riding.  If you’re not enjoying it, at least most of the time, then maybe you have to give some hard thought to why you’re doing it. If you’re not having fun, what’s the point? If you’re making it relentlessly unpleasant for the horse, you’re also missing the point, however good your intentions might be.

So do the work. Then pull the trigger. Break out. Just do it. Kick on. Lose yourself. Look for the joy. Smile. Have FUN. Don’t wait for it to fall on you, make your mind up you’re going to go looking for it. If it’s not perfect, don’t worry about it. Tomorrow is a new day, another chance to try again. (And you won’t be perfect tomorrow, either. Let it go.)

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