Last week I limped around my office for a good three out of five days. The onset of the colder weather isn’t kind to my used and abused joints. Unfortunately, like many horse people, it takes me a little longer to get out of bed on chilly winter mornings. Early onset arthritis is no joke. All these years my parents have been chiming, “Meagan, one day this horse stuff is going to hit you like a ton of bricks,” and I will be the first to admit they weren’t wrong. Like any sport, riding takes a toll on your body (especially if you are like me and rode incorrectly for several years…trust me kids, do not pinch with your knees. You will regret it). As I struggled to put on socks while trying to avoid the shooting pain in my legs, I thought to myself, “look at the impact riding horses has had on me.”
Photo by Meagan DeLisle
Doing my barn chores each night was a struggle. All I wanted to do was crash on the couch and let my aching legs have a break, but there were stalls to be mucked, horses to be fed and blankets to be put on. After filling the last hay net, I leaned against the wall in Danny’s stall and let out a huge sigh. Maybe my parents were right; maybe my body couldn’t keep up with the intensity of this sport.
And then Danny stopped what he was doing, turned towards me and rested his chin in my chest. Horses are intuitive like that. They know when we need a gentle reminder why we do what we do. That was all I needed to get myself out of my self-induced funk. Yes, horses have made a enormous impact in many areas of my life, but the positives greatly outweigh the negatives.
Having horses in my life has led me to all of my best friends. From showing horses on my college’s IHSA team to just trail riding around the back-country of the bootheel of Missouri, all of my most impactful friendships were in association with horses. In that same vein, the demanding schedule of showing horses led to the failure of a handful of previous relationships. Had that not happened, however, I may have never begun dating my now-husband, Wayne, who supports my riding to the ends of the earth.
Horses and their financial impact led me to become better with my money and later pursue living a debt-free life. Without my desire to attend as many shows as possible, I probably never would have begun budgeting and would probably still be riddled with payments.
Progressing as a rider has pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I used to think I was brave until I realized the intense anxiety I had in relation with my trainer raising the fences. Overcoming those fears has made me realize that I can do anything with a little extra push.
Bringing my horses home led me to be a better me overall. I wake up earlier, I go to bed earlier, I balance my days better, I spend more time outside and I spend more time in the saddle, making me a better rider. While I used to drag out of bed every morning after hitting snooze four or five times, I usually beat the sun each morning and get to enjoy a good hour in the barn with my horses before I ever have to think about work.
So yes, over the years horses have taken a physical and mental toll on me. Yes, I get tired of being on the road all the time. Yes, I wish that I would have taken one less fall in my earlier years. Yes, I sometimes think about all of the nice things I could own if it weren’t for having the expense of horses in my life. Yes, I often wonder what a ‘normal’ life might be like.
But all of that is nothing compared to the many blessings that have been brought my way, courtesy of the horse.