Is Riding as Much Fun as It Used to Be?

By Pat Parelli

Are you stuck in a rut? 

Do you keep doing the same thing with your horse every time... trails, trails, trails... dressage, dressage, dressage... rope, rope, rope... spin, spin, spin... jump, jump, jump?

Lots of people lose interest in horses simply because they run out of new things to do. You might start out riding every day or as often as possible when you are learning and mastering new skills. But after a while, after doing the same old thing with your horse, you start riding every other day, then once a week, until suddenly everything else seems more important and the time just isn't there for horses. Unless you are progressing and learning, even riding can become boring, dull and no fun anymore.

Why does this happen? 

I think there are two major reasons why most people quit riding and many get out of it altogether within 5 years.

1. The 6 F's: fear, frustration, feeling like a failure, lack of fun therefore lack of funds 

Fear of falling off or getting hurt.

Frustration from not knowing how to deal with a horse's bad behavior.

Feeling like a Failure because of not winning at competitions.

The Fun is gone so interest wanes because it really isn't exciting anymore.

The Funds are harder to justify because you start spending on other things that are more fun.

2.  Running out of purpose and reason

What starts out as fun and recreation and a love for horses sometimes turns into boredom simply because there's not enough to do. If you compete with your horses then you develop a purpose and some goals, which causes you to ride more regularly, try new things and continually improve on your performance. Challenges and goals can put the interest and fun back into horses very quickly even if you are a recreational rider.

Interesting side effects

It wasn't my main goal, but in the process of teaching people how to develop natural horsemanship skills, I discovered a very important side effect. My students started riding their horses more often. They started 'playing' with them as often as they could. There was this spark of renewed interest, which developed into something much greater. Their enthusiasm returned! They were having a great time and learning by leaps and bounds.

I ask people all the time what has changed for them since they started learning natural horsemanship. Why are they making more time to play with their horses? Here are some of the reasons why:

"I don't get frustrated anymore. I have answers, I know so many solutions to 'problems' with my horse that I just don't have the problems anymore."

"I have learned to play with my horse, rather than just ride or work him." (Even serious competitors tell me this!) "It's put the fun back into horses for me and I have a bigger variety of things to do."

"I feel more personally enriched. I've learned a lot and have developed more Savvy. I understand things at a deeper level. Rather than just hearing information, I came to understand concepts by learning through tasks. I learned to work out how to get things done through these experiences and I feel an incredible amount of success and achievement."

"I have more variety. I have more challenges even without competing and more things to do with my horse. I never even knew my horse and I were capable of these things"

"I love having a relationship with my horse! I've learned how to communicate with him. He's not a machine and he is not an impossible, complicated or stupid animal. My horse is actually a lot of fun and has prompted me to develop some amazing qualities, like patience, emotional resilience, focus and effectiveness."

It doesn't matter if your preference is English, Western, Endurance, Polo, Racing or bareback on the trails. It doesn't matter if you want to compete or not, if you are professional or not. My program is not about costumes and rules. It's about getting really good with horses.

It's the journey

Everyone needs goals. It doesn't matter how big or how small. We need to be heading somewhere, to have some kind of a purpose, or we get lost and bored. It doesn't really matter if you even reach that goal or not; the journey towards it is where the fun is.

Here are some of the creative goals I set for my students...

*  Back your horse into his stall, through a gate and into a wash rack.

*  Halter or bridle your horse from your knees.

*  Send your horse into a horse trailer without you going inside.

*  Get your horse to come running to you.

*  Throw your reins down while cantering, relax and have your horse stop.

*  Canter diagonally sideways, do a flying change and canter diagonally the other way.

You may want to become really excellent with horses. You may want to be a true horseman. Some of you have professional goals of working with horses or teaching lessons while others just want to put the fun back into riding and renew your interest. No matter what your goals, you just need to develop your horse Savvy in order to achieve them. The higher the goals, the more Savvy you'll need. Everything depends on what you want to do and those decisions are up to you. What's up to me is giving you the ideas, the challenges, the information and the pathway to go as far as you like.

These are some of the reasons I created my learning system called The Savvy System. Part 1 is Partnership, part 2 is Harmony and part 3 is Refinement. I love horses and I want you to have as much fun and get the same kinds of results with horses as I do. I have seen the Savvy System put the fun back into horses, make them safer to be around, help my students get extraordinary results without having to use force and give them much more to do than just ride. Even the horses start to find life more fun and interesting.

If you would like to know more about Pat Parelli's Savvy System call 1-800-642-3335.

About the author:

Pat Parelli is internationally renowned as one of the world's most provocative, most talked about, most respected thinkers and teachers of Natural Horsemanship. His teaching style is magnetic, motivational and effective. Pat teaches people how to be savvy in the four essential areas of becoming a horseman: On Line, At Liberty, riding Freestyle and with Finesse. His teachings are in such demand that he has groomed instructors to teach his entry level clinics while he concentrates on his advancing students. Pat and his instructors are booked for clinics all year long. From just learning to be safer and have more fun with horses to achieving professional and competitive goals, the Parelli Natural Horse-Man-Ship Programs are like nothing else anywhere in the world.

In the next issue of NHM, In Training will feature Pat's Seven Games.