Because the start of spring is here, I’ve been thinking a lot about my riding days (which might or might not be over). I gave up riding my horse Ray about eighteen months before I had to say goodbye to him, which brings it to almost three years since I’ve been in my saddle. A once-avid trail rider, I relished our time breaking through fresh snow, feeling the ground thaw into softness, watching for signs of new life in the trees, the brush, and the spring grasses. And part of me still longs for those experiences.
As a lifelong student, though, I’m marveling at all I’m learning about horses now. And none of it involves riding.
Spending time with the rescues at 13 Hands, I’ve replaced riding with many of these incredible moments:
Walking in rhythm across a field with a horse at my side—no ropes, no treats. Just a lovely connection.
Standing still in the sun while horses graze at the hay buffet. Their collective unresponsiveness to me in this moment is a blessing, signifying that I’m merely a fixture in the field. Not a threat. Not even an interruption.
Breathing deeply, taking in the scent of horse sweat and manure (horse people will back me up—this is a good smell!), soaking up the privilege of what 13 Hands allows me to do—to connect with so many unusual equines.
Grooming horses who reflect their gratitude in the way they stretch their necks when I’ve hit the right spot or in the way they lean in to let me know to keep going.
Laughing when they show me their playful sides—with me but even more often, with one another.
Spotting when a rescue is ready for affection and finding the exact right way to express it. Scratches, face rubs, ear massages, gentle neck pats—there’s not one way to shower all rescues with love. Finding the way that works for each one is one of the great joys of being with horses.
For many of you, the trails are calling, and I wish you magical rides, like the ones I had with Ray. But some of you might be looking for ways to enjoy a horse who is no longer able to be ridden. Or perhaps your interest in riding is fading, despite your persistent love of horses. No worries at all. If you’re not riding right now but you’re still seeking magic, remember—there are countless opportunities to find it.
No saddle needed.
Happy Spring to you all!