From Endurance to Dressage
What Makes Me Happy?
What an excellent question to ponder just as a new year begins - fresh starts and all that. Megan, over at A Enter Spooking, wrote about this very thing this week. Please check out her post and the comments that follow as she shared some really thought provoking ideas.
I've actually been thinking about my answer to what makes me happy for a quite a while. In fact, I keep the question in an easily accessible part of my brain so that I can re-answer it regularly. Unlike Megan, I am no longer in my 20s, or even my 30s for that matter. In fact, just this week I hit my mid-40s, 45 to be exact. While age doesn't guarantee wisdom, it certainly brings experience.
As a college student in my very early twenties, I had a major epiphany. I put myself through college with loans and financial aid, but money was always really tight. I was on my own when I went to college, and it never occurred to me to call my parents and ask for help. I just figured it was up to me to support myself.
I remember one particular day so vividly that I can still recall standing on one of the bike bridges in the park worrying about some bill that I had to pay and feeling over-whelmed by it. All of a sudden, I realized that things always work out. And they do. I've never been homeless, I've never missed more than one meal, and I've never been arrested. Some might call it faith in God, whatever, I just realized while standing on that bridge that things will be okay.
I think that's one of the first ingredients to being happy - not borrowing trouble and not worrying about what might be. To this day I remind myself to be present in the here and now. And isn't it funny that that is exactly how our horses live - in the present?
My thirties were in many ways harder than my twenties. I don't think I was very happy. In my twenties, I had gotten married, bought a house, and got back into horses. By the time I hit my thirties, there was never enough money, and I started feeling like I would be happy when ... I'll be so happy when this credit card has a zero balance. I'll be so happy when I lose 15 pounds. I'll be so happy when I get a raise. The problem was that there was always a next something that was going to make me happy.
My husband and I went though a pretty rough patch in my thirties, and I think that's when I learned that happiness doesn't come from milestones, pay raises, or other people. It has to come entirely from within. I am responsible for my own happiness, and only I know if I am truly happy.
My husband and I made some huge life changes, and that's why the question, What makes me happy? is always in the front of my mind. I keep it there so that I remember to ask myself that question, and I answer it honestly. If I find that I am unhappy, I figure out what is wrong, and I change something.
I am now half-way through my forties, but I can honestly say that I have never been happier. I feel that my perspective on life is much, much better than it was in my twenties and thirties, which makes me excited about turning fifty. I am going to be freaking AMAZING as a fifty year old. I am going to be so well balanced and zen-like that nothing will rock my little yacht!
I find that I don't let things get to me like I used to. I don't have pity parties, I don't let myself wallow in fear and anxiety about money, relationships, or the horses' health and soundness, and I deliberately surround myself with people and things that I enjoy.
So to answer the ever-present question of what makes me happy?, I think about what brings a smile to my face and makes me feel good. Aside from spending time with my husband, horse things are what make me happiest.
Like most horse people, simply being with the horses warms my heart and makes me smile. But since I am very goal oriented and driven to succeed, simply being with them isn't really enough, so I take lessons, clinic, and show. I do strive to move through the dressage levels, earn certain awards, and get certain scores, but I never pin my happiness on achieving any of those things.
Instead, I make sure that I am enjoying the process. I get great satisfaction out of a job well done. I love to check off boxes and cross things off the list. For me, happiness comes from the learning process. Bettering myself and bringing out the best in my horses makes me very happy. Sure, getting to Second Level or earning my bronze would make me happy, but it's not the end goal.
I derive happiness through the process of getting wherever I am going. And as cliché as it sounds, it really is the journey and not the destination that brings me joy.
So ... how do you answer the question: what makes you happy?
1/7/2016 06:06:51 pm
You're welcome, Amanda. I still get cranky from time to time, but I try to keep it short. :0)
1/7/2016 06:18:32 pm
I know many people will disagree, but jeez oh jeez, life just gets better and better. :0)
1/7/2016 11:24:08 am
My husband and I have been talking a lot about this recently, because he finds it hard to live in the moment and I'm finding "happiness" hard. Not that I'm UN-happy, or that I'm thinking "if X, then I'll be happy!". But how can we both be happier.
1/7/2016 06:14:21 pm
Getting a bit personal here, but a number of years ago, my husband and I each wrote a letter describing how we intended to be better people and how we planned to support the other. Having shared goals helps foster happiness and frequent discussions about what we each need to stay happy has also helped us. He listens to why I am unhappy about something, and I take responsibility for how I perceive things (it's not ALWAYS his fault - lol).
Great post. Good things to think about. Having a horse makes me happy. The fact that he is mine (I HAVE MY OWN HORSE!) makes me smile when I see pictures of him being awesome. Even when he is a turd, I'm still happy to call him mine. Getting to learn on him and play with him makes me happy.
1/7/2016 06:16:09 pm
Having horses is a REQUIREMENT for my personal happiness. My husband knows that the horses are a deal breaker - no horses/no me. :0)
1/7/2016 06:16:54 pm
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About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
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3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: