I’m setting a goal to log more riding miles outside the confines of an arena.

By Kelli Neubert

June 23, 2017

Photo by Laurie ThompsonPhoto by Laurie Thompson

I have an app on my phone that logs the amount of steps I’ve taken in a day.

I believe that it’s supposed to help people set fitness goals and track their workout information, but I’ve noticed that it keeps track of my riding miles along with my walking miles.

As you can probably imagine, the amount of steps that I (and my horses) take in a day is a hefty number. Between warming them up, cooling them down, turning back and moving them from arena to pasture, I’m well into the 5 digit mark by the time each day is done. My phone is usually wedged into the front pocket of my jeans and records a fairly accurate depiction of the distance I travel.

It’s become a bit of a competition within myself, actually. How many more steps can I take than I did yesterday? Can I exceed my targeted daily distance? Will I beat my personal best?

But here’s the thing – these days, almost every one of those precious miles that I log are in an arena. Don’t get me wrong—I know that there are good things about it. It’s covered, so I’m out of the elements. The footing is optimal and dustless, and I’m close to the barn if I’m needed. I get to work on my horsemanship while I’m helping my husband work his horses, but, to be honest? I’m learning that I’m not cut out for such clear-cut borders day in and day out.

Most of my riding used to be done outside, but it seems that between the summer heat and the nature of having a two year old cutting horse business, it’s been tricky to fit in quality rides out of the arena. It’s easy to fall into patterns when your program needs consistency and plenty of time for both training and care of each animal. And let’s be honest—when you live somewhere that isn’t located on countless acres of trails, that makes it tough too.

Now I might be foolish, but I think that as a horse and rider team, we need to seek out some adventure. We need to make the effort and go new places. Let’s give ourselves more jobs to accomplish (like checking fence or counting our 7 cows…again!) and try to spend more time with people who encourage us to try new things. I fell in love with riding horses when I was very young because I had a willing partner to travel with me and accompany me on all different types of journeys—and I owe it to my horse to create the same situation for him.

I absolutely love to ride. I’m thankful that it’s a part of my everyday life and I hope it remains that way. However, I need to remember that while I’m out there working, counting all of my steps, I need to work harder to make my steps count. Open that arena gate more often and explore the world around me. Load up and ride with others that can inspire me and teach me new things. Stay present, encouraged and open-minded. And have some fun!

When I swing a leg over that good gelding of mine tonight, instead of generating another few thousand hoof prints in the groomed, watered ground, I believe I’ll push that arena gate as wide as it can go and hit some open country at a high trot.

And just maybe I’ll hit a new personal best. 

 

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