Riding in the Same Direction

“Sometimes we get so caught up in what we want to have happen or think should be happening that we can’t see what is right in front of us.”


By Mary Lynne Carpenter

“Ride the horse in the direction that it’s going”. I laughed out loud when I first read this quote. It is attributed to the self-improvement author and lecturer Werner Erhard.

Into my mind popped this absurd image of a horse moving forward with a rider facing backward. I saw the rider desperately using her leg and seat aids to encourage the horse to move in the opposite direction from where it was headed. Both horse and rider looked befuddled.

Erhard’s saying seems to have several interpretations. Most of them have to do with seeing and dealing with reality. Sometimes we get so caught up in what we want to have happen or think should be happening that we can’t see what is right in front of us. Erhard’s quote encourages us to stop fighting with the reality of our situation. It is only then that we can we find some peace and move forward in a healthy way.

As far as I know, Erhard was not a horse person, but I can’t help reflect on the quote’s relevance to our hopes and plans for our horses. It got me to thinking about all the “shoulds” that can show up in our expectations of our horses.

For example, this horse is X age so he should know Y by now. Or this horse is X breed so he should be able to do Y. Sometimes, however, X and Y do not match up. Maybe the horse is clearly taking us in a particular direction, but we keep trying to ride him off into a completely different sunset.

All those expectations add up to a lot of pressure. We pour so much time, energy and money into our horses. We might even be tempted to think that the horse “owes us” something for all our efforts.

Maybe we want the horse to be a culmination of a childhood dream, to win ribbons and high-point trophies, to carry us over a mountainous trail or safely pack beginners around the arena. There is nothing wrong with any of those goals. But we can set ourselves up for disappointment and make our horses miserable by insisting on something for which they are not a good match.

I often wonder how many of the sour horses I have seen have been made that way by our insistence. We keep demanding that they give us something that they simply cannot offer.

We would do well by our horses to really look and see if they seem happy with the lot that we chose for them in this life. And if, upon reflection, we think not, how can we adjust our plans and goals to better accommodate them? Just think how much more enjoyable the journey will be when we are riding in the same direction as our horse.

Mary Lynne is a backyard horse-owner who loves to ride and write. Her essays have appeared in Equus Magazine, The Horse Magazine, Horse Network, The Plaid Horse Blog, Medium.com and Horse Nation. She invites you to follow her at “The Backyard Horse Blog — Living the Dream and the Reality of Keeping Horses At Home.”