Recently one of my clients exclaimed, “maybe I’m just too old to be doing this.” This person is not old by any means; her comment emerged from her sense of guilt for enjoying the horses so much and wanting to continue to show ‘at her age.’ I wanted to exclaim—what, too old? Are you kidding me? (She’s at least a decade younger than I am!)
Riding—and showing, for those of us who love it—provides some of the most joyful, satisfying and therapeutic times of our lives.
But I find that this woman’s feeling is not uncommon among amateur riders I work with. It’s curious—amateurs—in whatever discipline or level—are the most passionate and devoted riders I know. They care deeply about their time at the barn, whether it’s in the saddle or on the ground. Their riding enlivens them and brings tremendous pleasure outside of their work and family lives.
And yet, so many of them feel so guilty.
What are amateurs guilty of?
Some riders talk about feeling bad about the resources (time, money, energy) devoted to the horses that ‘take away’ from family time. True, horses do take over, but most of the riders I know have supportive families who are grateful that their family members have something in their lives they enjoy so much.
Others, like my client above, experience the joy that we all felt as kids—and somehow believe that they should give that up, as if it’s silly or frivolous to pursue our sport with such gusto as adults. Do middle aged amateur marathoners, triathletes or tennis players feel this way too? I don’t believe so, or at least I don’t hear about it so much.
I think amateur riders are guilty of having too much fun. It’s just too pleasurable to be allowed. Riding makes you feel like your pony girl self—free, powerful, joyful. And, if you have a wonderful relationship with your horse, there is that love and gratitude for this beautiful animal who is generous and kind and gives back to you in the most amazing ways. If you’re a rider, you know what I’m talking about.
So, my advice? Ride. Go to the barn. Pursue your passion. Enjoy every moment and hold onto gratitude, not guilt. Not only will you feel full of yourself (yes, that is a good thing), but you’ll also be a better person when you’re not at the barn. Vitamin H* is essential for us amateurs.
*Thank you, Diane Wilcox
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D A R B Y B O N O M I Ph D
Sport and Performance Psychology and Family Consultation for Equestrians
For over 25 years, Darby Furth Bonomi, PhD has facilitated positive transformations in clients of all ages. As a practicing psychologist and consultant, Darby has worked with many people to achieve lasting change and establish the foundations for mental wellness.
Now in her primary role as a sport and performance coach and family consultant, Darby merges her life-long experience in the equestrian world—as a rider, parent of riders and owner—with her vast toolbox of psychological and coaching interventions to help riders of all levels and their families reclaim the joy in their sport, leading the way to improved performance and better health. She loves helping clients untangle the complicated situations that tend to arise when horses are added to families.
In addition to writing the wellness column for Street to Stable, Darby is a contributor to California Riding Magazine, along with publishing her own blog. She serves as an advisor to Giant Steps Therapeutic Equestrian Center and is on the Advisory Committee for the United States Equestrian Team Foundation.
A dynamic speaker and change maker, clients have sought out Darby to help improve their lives, both in and out of the saddle. She is devoted to making the equestrian world—and the world at large—a kinder, gentler and more respectful place.
Darby currently shows in the amateur owner hunters and equitation with her horses Little Wing and DaVinci, alongside her teenage daughters. She is married and has a college age son who steers clear of the barn. She lives in San Francisco.
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