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Why I Ride

Riding Made Me: Jec Ballou on Mindfulness and Accountability

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Even for those of us who describe ourselves as firmly connected to reality, our tethers to a calm, realistic state can become frayed during everyday life. For numerous reasons, we often experience our bearings altered, our perceptions skewed. This is when a give a sigh of gratitude for horses. Riding has made me more grounded.

It has done this by requiring that I possess two particular traits on a daily basis: mindfulness and accountability. I would argue that when a person practices these, she is the best version of herself. But without horses, it is pretty hard to cultivate them.

Consider mindfulness, for example. In the course of our lives, becoming distracted or frazzled or fatigued is a norm. But where horses are involved, there often is no room for these other states. There is only room for paying very close attention to every moment, staying calm, and being ready with the right response to your environment. To do anything well with horses, we have to focus and concentrate. We simply cannot wander off in distractions. Both for safety reasons as well as respect for the horse, we have to stay present with 100 percent of our attention.

When a person experiences this in enough moments throughout a day, it spreads throughout the rest of her life. It becomes more attainable and consistent. And I can only pause and smile when I think what a gentler place the world might be if we were all a bit more mindful.

Or what might the world look like if we were all more accountable? Riding and training horses reiterates this trait for a person every single moment. When something is not going well in the training or care of a horse, I have to stop and ask myself why not. What am I not getting quite right? When during a ride, the mood or comfort of the horse changes under me, I must stop and assess what I botched. Tempting as it is to point a finger elsewhere, there is nowhere else to point it where horses are concerned.

They mirror back to us the spirit in which they are cared, the health and comfort they either are or are not provided. No conscious person can ignore the reflection of that mirror. Sure, it can be sobering, but it also prevents any of us from getting caught up in delusional thinking or ‘quick fixes.’ It keeps us tethered to our own individual integrity and honesty. It helps us respect other horse professionals.

Perhaps I’ve made the case that if more of humanity were mindful and accountable, the world might realize a better version of itself. This just might be true if even more people rode horses. At the very least, they would undoubtedly be more grounded.

Why I Ride: Mike Mumford on True Partnership

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At Redmond, we believe everyone has a story to tell, especially about the things that inspire their passions. We want to know the stories behind the faces in our community, so we started the “Why I Ride” series. We asked our own Mike Mumford to answer the question “Why do you ride?” His answer follows.

As a 16 year old gangly teenager in England, I had never been on a horse and was very nervous about this adventure. I had decided to take up Modern Pentathlon, and with show jumping as one of the five events, I had to gird my loins and learn how to ride. Further complicating matters was the fact that I wouldn’t be riding my own horse, but drawing one from a pool of grade B jumpers provided by the competition organizers.

I know the first few times I rode I was a sack of potatoes, desperately hanging on whilst suffering the torture of learning the sitting trot without stirrups. After a few months of weekly indignation and personal physical pain, I could at least feel confident that if I drew a good honest horse, I could stay with him and make a reasonable round without too much embarrassment.

Riding was the unloved stepchild of the five events, and for most of us accomplished pentathletes the results of the riding event were determined more by the luck of the draw than riding ability. Through sheer luck, in the British U 18 Championships I drew a beautiful no-nonsense horse named Natasha, and with four great events in the other disciplines (running, swimming, pistol shooting, and epee fencing) I managed to get a clear round. Other more experienced national athletes were not so lucky in their draw and I won the day, much to their chagrin!

Fast forward to 1984, where I had drawn a horse called Krakatoa in the Los Angeles Olympic Games. After four international competitions earlier in the year, all with clear rounds, I was feeling very confident in my riding ability. We had a good round, however due to my nervousness, I think my mount became nervous. Despite riding an honest round, he dragged his back legs a couple of times to cause two knockdowns. Needless to say, I did not win the day.

That experienced stayed with me like unfinished business. I could have, should have done better. Over time, I have learned that horses are not like a bicycle that you can jump on to go somewhere. They are animals that want to connect. They are telepathic, they are sensitive, and they are so willing in most cases to please you. That horse in L.A. tried.

In the intervening years since Los Angeles, I have grown. I have developed a better understanding of and deeper regard and love for horses. Today, I am working on my relationship with my boy, Basil, so I can be better and help him be better. It’s an ongoing process that may never have a completion date.

So why do I ride?  I ride because it has become a real release for me. Riding is an activity that demands being in the present. All those concerns about work demands, relationships out of tune, lack of money, or ugly politics leave our minds when we are on our horses.

These days with my own Arabian, Basil, we do a lot of trail rides, the occasional endurance event, and no jumping (except the odd unannounced spook).  I have learned after riding so many other horses it is a real joy to have my own true partnership. I love the opportunity to see him daily and know it has taken this fella a couple of good stable years to adjust, settle down, and learn to trust me. I think it is me that is the slow learner. I feel we are developing and growing together; these small steps each day are fulfilling.  Riding is therapy for both of us, and we both have much to learn.

jec-ballou

This is why I ride – Jec Ballou

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Call us what you like– gluttons for struggle or eternal seekers or insatiably curious. But the fact is that some of us like to hook ourselves to journeys that never end. Heck, we more than just like it; we love it, we thrive on it. And for those of us who enjoy learning something that is infinite in content and breadth, horseback riding feeds our souls.  Riding, or more specifically the urge to become a better rider, continues to challenge us daily while reminding us that full mastery will likely never be ours. In this way, its frustrations are both thrilling and humbling, its successes taken within the meditative perspective that there is always more to learn.

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Karen Chaton and Chief

Love, Adventure, Curiosity, Challenge – This is Why I Ride

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I enjoy spending endless hours in the saddle, sometimes not in the greatest weather conditions just so I can test my (and my horse’s) endurance. I think of riding my horse on top of mountains formed in the last ice age with a view stretching for miles. How the clouds slowly approach against the backdrop of blue while the trees sing when a gentle breeze blows through them. Listening to the distant call of a bird gliding along like a surfer rides a wave. Watching the sun rise, and set. How when you ride under the stars at night on a 100 mile endurance ride you feel a peace that can’t be explained. Read More