Today I gave up horse riding for good.

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Today my last horse left our property, and where I had originally thought I would be devastated by this, I actually felt nothing but a sense of freedom.

When I was younger, all I wanted to do was learn to ride a horse.  I didn’t get the chance to, until I was 14.  Then I was given the chance to ride, but had to teach myself as there was no one around to help.  I loved it; loved everything about horses and riding, to the point where I ended up getting a low paying job working with horses at the age of 16 because there was nothing I’d rather do.

I loved the feeling of freedom that came with riding, and the partnership that existed between horse and human.  The experience of working so closely with another living, sentient being, that it’s as if you have but one mind between the two of you, is one of the most amazing things ever, and I will never forget it as long as I live.

When I was busy at work looking after other peoples’ animals, I used to dream of the day when I would have some land of my own, along with an arena and a bunch of horses to ride.

And yet today, I loaded the last of my horses on to the trailer of her new owner, and looked out of my window at my now empty paddock, and my now unused arena, and I didn’t even shed a tear.

What the hell happened?

I gave up riding when I fell pregnant with my first child, and for eight years I dreamed of the day that I would start riding again.  After my fifth child, that day came.  On a trip to the UK, I found someone to teach me, and had my first ride in a very long time.  The weird thing was; I didn’t actually know if I had enjoyed the experience.  I had thought I would feel ecstatic, jubilant; but I felt nothing, and I didn’t know why.

However, I persevered, thinking I would start to enjoy it again soon, but instead all I found was a bundle of nerves, where there used to be confidence.  If the horse put a foot out of place I would worry, and I was terrified that the horse would do something silly and I’d be ejected out of the saddle with force, leaving five motherless children sat at home.

Things started to improve, and when we finally found our dream property with its 25 acres, I decided to build my dream arena, and get my dream horses, and well, live my dreams.

It wasn’t long before I discovered that the dream had turned into a small nightmare.

The excitement which I had once felt, that had come every time I had the chance to ride, had turned into more of a dread.  I was like, “Guess I’d better go and ride now,” or, “We can’t go away for the weekend; I have to look after the horses.”  It wasn’t long before I discovered that I didn’t want to ride every day.  At first, I just assumed that it was because I didn’t have transport, and couldn’t get out with the horses.  Or that it was because my horse was inexperienced and not especially talented.  Maybe it’s because I just didn’t have the time necessary to do things properly.  And maybe it was because I had nothing to aim for; no goals to achieve.

In reality, it was none of that.

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It took me the longest time to admit that I just didn’t want to ride anymore; at least not on a regular basis, anyway.  One of the hardest things to accept was that the dream I had waited so long to turn into reality, wasn’t my dream anymore, and that I had changed.  Even harder was the guilt that was associated with spending the money to create all this, only to find I didn’t want it.  At all.

I realised that what I cherish above all things, is freedom.  The freedom to travel at a moment’s notice, without having to organise someone to look after four horses twice a day, seven days a week, for an unspecified period of time, until we get back.  I discovered that I didn’t want to spend hours every day doing a solitary activity, and ignoring my kids.  And I found that what I love more than anything is to go on adventures with them.  I am a different person now, to how I was when I was single, and even when I was married but without kids.  My life has changed, and so have my priorities.

I am going to say that it will probably be a little discomfiting to look out upon the arena that was my dream, but that it really did become part of a figurative ball and chain to me.  But we can always sell up and move on.

The most important thing is that I am discovering who I am as a person.  And I am old enough now, and far along enough in life, that I am unapologetic about it.  I don’t see it as a mistake at all.  It has all just been a part of the journey of finding myself, and there are no mistakes in that process; just learning experiences.

So I advertised the horses, sold a couple, and gave a couple away.  And that is how today, I loaded the last one on to the trailer to her new home.  And I was relieved.

On Sunday we leave for Hong Kong, where we’ll have a few days well deserved break, before going to visit family in my home country.  And who knows where we’ll go after that?  But the great thing is, it doesn’t matter anymore.  I don’t have to get back for the horses, and they will all be happy in their new homes.  Happy to be appreciated, hopefully.  And I am happy that I get to be with my kids more, and go on adventures and travels with them.

This is exactly why we home school; so that we can go roaming together, and yet my choices were keeping us tied down.  I am grateful to the wonderful horses that were a part of my life, but I am finally ready to move on with that life.  Finally, I am looking forward instead of backward, I am creating a new life and a new identity, rather than hanging on to the person I used to be.

I am a fully grown woman now, with new goals and dreams; I don’t need to hang on to something that was my dream 25 years ago.

So as I look out on my arena, sat there empty, I give a rueful little smile, and then with a shrug of my shoulders, I throw it all off, and go and give my kids a big hug.

Time to go and pack the suitcases.

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