By Bill Dunigan
Over the years I have noticed a situation that develops much to often. That is the problem of burn out on the part of the rider. How often have we known someone who started riding, and at some point decided to pursue a particular discipline to the exclusion of any other activity involving horses. I am sure you have encountered this just as I have.
The sad part is that it doesn't need to happen. Think back to when you first began to ride. You, just like I, enjoyed doing almost anything you could imagine on horseback. Remember the trail rides, those days at the barn that never seem to have enough hours in them, all the new friends, and what about the different shows you were so excited to attend. It didn't matter what kind of show it was. It had horses and that was all that mattered.
Somehow a lot of riders got side tracked. By that I mean they reached a point where they became enthralled with a particular discipline. Now I m not saying that there is anything wrong with having a real desire to excel in any of these specialties. What I am trying to highlight is the total exclusion of the vary things that attracted us all to riding in the first place. Now I know there are those who really enjoy being completely immersed in one aspect of riding. However, I do believe they are not the majority of those owning and riding horses. Far to many times I have heard someone say, " I'm bored with horses, and selling out and taking up golf". Others are going skiing or traveling or a myriad of other activities. Why is it that these individuals are losing interest in riding while others are almost fanatical about it?
I have been riding, competing and teaching for over forty years. During that time I have had the opportunity to observe and listen to many comments from a wide variety of horse enthusiast. That's why I am so concerned about what I am seeing. At a time when Expos are packing in the spectators by the thousands, how can any of this be true.
As I see it, the real problem is in the limitation of our activities involving horses. Once we embark on a path to focus on one discipline, unless we garner an enormous amount of success, it's only a question of time before the discouragement sets in. While I do firmly believe that people are the happiest when they are learning and progressing in some endeavor, few can sustain interest indefinitely without some obvious success.
Once an individual starts competing, things change. At that moment you are thrust into a world of professionalism. It's tough out there. Then the real costs kick in. It's very difficult for someone to justify the enormous expenses incurred by showing without some real measured level of success. These are simply the cold hard facts.
What I am advocating is a return to those things that first held our interest. I do not feel it is necessary to abandon the interest in a particular discipline. Instead, think of it as adding to, expanding, or enhancing your fundamental interest in horses and riding. Don't allow yourself to become so absorbed by something to the exclusion of everything else. We must protect ourselves from becoming burned out by overkill.
Enjoy to the fullest those aspects of riding that really hold your interest, but maintain a balance. That balance is the key. Remember, the more you limit yourself, the sooner the decline will begin. I don't mean to suggest that we are all domed, I am merely trying to bring your attention to a possibility which could arise for some, if we as a group do not address it.
I would suggest that we look for opportunities to expand our activities rather than limit them. Suggest that trail ride, get a group together and go watch a show in a completely different discipline, not to criticize but to learn, find one of those stable tours. I think you get the idea. Start expanding your exposure and take along some friends and most of all relax, learn, and enjoy.
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About the Author
Bill Dunigan has been teaching and competing in excess of 40 years. He has taught and competed in Barrel Racing, Hunter/Jumper, Eventing, Dressage and served as President of a local Dressage Association. During this time, he Fox Hunted four days a week with two different Hunt clubs, one of which he served as Joint Master. Bill qualified six years in a row for the World Championships with the National Barrel Horse Association.