Six Life Lessons From the Trail

Horses always have more to teach us. If we’re not being taught directly by the horses, we’re learning as we navigate things with our horses. This is especially true when you’re trail riding. Here are six life lessons learned on the trail.

As my girls grow older, more independent, and become more competent equestrians, I’m enjoying the opportunity to be able to ride with them (as opposed to lead them, shout at them to stop yanking on their horses’ mouths, or just generally hold my breath and hope they stay on). From shows to trail rides, this increased competence has created so many opportunities for us to do things together, where — in theory — we’re all having fun. With these opportunities also come a lot of valuable life lessons. They hit home quite a bit more now that I am spending time riding with my kids and not just my band of bad-a$$ friends.

Over the long weekend, some friends and I gathered up our kids and a couple other buddies to enjoy a trail ride. We were expecting about 10 miles of mixed terrain and a good time. A good time was had by most of us, with some — ahem — interesting experiences sprinkled throughout the ride. Some of the experiences were a bit more exciting than we were anticipating. Despite a few meltdowns, bumps and bruises, bucks, and one thoroughly muddy pair of pants, we all came out with great stories to tell and some lessons learned.

Photo by DeAnn Long Sloan

Here are six life lessons we can all learn from the trail:

1. Expect the Unexpected

Life is going to throw you curve balls. That’s just part of it. So, be prepared to roll with whatever comes your way and adapt as necessary.

Sometimes the unexpected is a sasquatch. Photo by DeAnn Long Sloan.

2. Sometimes You Just Have to Pick Yourself Up and Keep Going

Sometimes the curve balls life throws at you actually come in the form of ravines, ditches, and a whole host of other crap that you have to navigate to get to the next phase. And, often, stopping and giving up just isn’t an option. Otherwise you’ll find yourself stuck in the middle of a field miles from home — or, worse yet, on a steep, slippery hillside also miles from home. In these instances, you need to pick yourself up and keep going. There’s really no other option.

3. Sometimes You Have to Pick Up Your Friends and Keep Going

There are times when someone you’re with has a little more difficulty dealing with the notion of keeping going. All the ravines and steep slopes and mud get to be a bit too much. Those are the moments when having friends to tell you everything is fine and to freaking cowgirl up is invaluable. Sure, we probably would muddle through on our own (see point one), but having the support of our posse makes it a lot more manageable. After all, we get by with a little help from our friends.

4. Take Things One Step at a Time

Sometimes thinking about the difficulties that lie ahead can be daunting. In fact, for the more sensitive among us, it can be downright panic-inducing. Although planning is important, we can only really focus on what’s directly in front of us and take things one step at a time. After all, thinking about the gullies and ravines two miles up the trail won’t help us get over the ditch in front of us.

Photo by DeAnn Long Sloan

5. Don’t Waste Time Worrying About What’s Done

We all go through some messed up s#*t from time to time. That’s life, man (and trail rides, apparently). But once you’ve crossed the bridge, gone through the creek, picked yourself up out of the mud (literally!), licked your wounds a bit, and come out fine on the other side, worrying about everything that just happened won’t do you any good. After all, if you’re still there to worry, it seems you made it out okay. Now it’s time to focus on the next task.

Zoom in on the rider on the far left. Her face and hand signal say it all. Photo by Kat Procyk.

6. Have Fun!

At the end of the day, it’s important to make sure you have fun. Even if you have to go through some s#*t to get there, why else would we do what we do if we couldn’t have a little fun? Sometimes the fun might just come in the form of retelling your adventures and having the ability to apply some levity to the situation, but we need to find it where we can.

Just a group of horse-crazy kids, enjoying their ponies and the good company. Photo by DeAnn Long Sloan.

Go riding, Horse Nation!