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Like most equestrians, I am not a person who enjoys sitting still. I want to be riding and in the barn every day. I want to take my dogs for walks. I want to be doing things. So, when I found out I needed another Endometriosis surgery, I was less than excited for 2 weeks of nothing, and then having to ease my way back to normal. As I was grumbling about this to my trainer Shelby, she looked at me and put it into words I could understand. If Wyatt was hurt and rehabbing from an injury or issue, I would follow the vet's recommendations to the letter and do everything I could to make sure he was able to heal properly, why didn't I give myself the same grace? Why do we as riders push and rush ourselves?
What is it about the horse world that constantly makes us feel like we are falling behind if we take time off for our physical or mental health? When I had surgery a year and a half ago, I was working for a barn and trainer that made it clear taking time to heal was not what equestrians do. I pushed myself to be back to work, and back in the barn, and remember coming home sore and exhausted. Months after my surgery, I asked for a day off, and was given a hard time because my boss said they were still trying to catch up from when I had taken time off for surgery, it felt like a disease that I already had no control of was being thrown in my face. On a side note: I was a groom, show season was over, how were we catching up on training rides and turnouts?!
I have spent a good chunk of my time as an equestrian chasing ribbons, chasing awards and accolades from other riders and trainers. I felt like if I slowed down, or showed weakness, I would be pushed aside for someone better. I had to prove myself and my worth to those around me so that someone else didn't scoop up the job and status I was so desperately chasing. It became exhausting, and when Josh died, I finally crashed. That status didn't mean anything without the horse that helped me win all those ribbons and awards.
Out of that crash came a new person. One who no longer needed ribbons or a job title at a show barn to know her worth as an equestrian. I found a Herd of people who supported me, ribbons or not. A trainer who valued me as a person, and supported me taking the time I needed to be healthy. I realized all I wanted was to be the person my horse deserved. After surgery that looked like giving him a two week vacation, so that when I climbed back in the saddle I was really ready to be there, instead of relying on his good nature to get us by until I really was strong enough to ride.
I'm not saying I am perfect at taking it easy now. I definitely was picking up a pitchfork to clean Wyatt's stall before I should have, but I worked hard to give myself the time and grace I needed, and guess what? This time when I climbed into the saddle 15 days after surgery, I had the physical strength to be here, instead of trying to trot 9 days after surgery and feeling things pulling and stretching in ways they shouldn't have been.
Herd, to be the best people for our horses, we have to treat ourselves and our bodies with the same love and respect we give our horses. Our value doesn't come from the ribbons we have won, or our job titles at work, it comes from giving ourselves, and our horses, the grace we all need to be the happiest, healthiest versions of ourselves.