“Today was the best day of my life! (I think.) I got up at 8:30 to go to my show (horses) at the new stable. Guess what? I won 1st place. It's my very first ribbon and it's gorgeous."
An excerpt from my journal (June 4, 1995)
When I was about nine or ten years old, I fell in love with horses. Head over heels in love. I thought (and wrote) about them constantly, and I couldn't wait until the day I could own my very own horse. As you can see from the journal excerpt above, a good day in a ring could seem like the best day of my life (though you have to love the "I think" part ... always hedging my bets!). I was one of those little girls in love with horses -- decorating my room with horse-related items, tracking dirt into the house with my riding boots, reading The Saddle Club and Thoroughbred books endlessly, and even latching my small dog to a lead line and encouraging her to jump over sticks in the backyard. For a few years, I was obsessed with horses.
And then, at the age fourteen, I found myself in high school. Things like boys and parties and making new friends started to seem a lot more interesting than spending hours jumping a horse in a ring. As much as I loved horses, I was drawn away from them by the trappings of teenage life. Short skirts and makeup and wild nights began dominating over jodhpurs and riding boots and dusty rings. And so, after about four years of riding, I stopped frequenting the stable.
Though I'd left the act of riding behind with my childhood, my love of horses has always remained strong. Over the past fifteen years (!!!) since I last rode a horse, I've thought about them often, wondering what my life would have been like had I chosen ponies over parties. I know I can't go back -- but that doesn't mean I can't get back in the saddle. For years I've thought, "I'd love to go horseback riding again..." but I never took any action. This year, when I made my 29 Things to Do Before 30 list, I decided that I was going to make it happen. I was going to get back in the saddle.
And yesterday I did! My friend Juliana took me to ride her mom's horse, and it was so exciting to be back up there in the saddle, holding the reins again. Though I did little more than walk (slowly) around an empty ring, I was thrilled to be back on horseback. (I didn't quite have the guts to kick it up a notch to a trot, which I was okay with.) Getting back in the saddle made me realize the many positive benefits of revisiting old hobbies and interests. I'm usually not a fan of going back to the past -- "Stay in the present!" I always say! -- but yesterday's horseback riding adventure made me see that sometimes going back to the past is actually a very positive thing...
5 Benefits of Doing What You Used to Love Again
1. It reconnects you with (the old) you. Simply walking into the barn -- smelling all those old familiar smells and hearing those old familiar sounds -- brought me right back to some of the best days of my childhood. I used to love being at the barn, tucked in the stall with one of my favorite horses, and going back into a barn reconnected me to those old feelings of comfort that I had felt as a child when I spent time with horses. Whatever you used to love to do, you loved it for a reason. When you go back to it again, you'll be reconnected with parts of yourself you might have forgotten about.
2. It feels excitingly brand new... Even though I had spent years in barns and in riding rings, going back to a stable felt like a brand new experience for me yesterday. Of course, the memories came rushing back, but I also felt as if I were experiencing my former love of riding for the first time. I was nervous and uncertain around the horses -- something I hadn't been since back when I'd first started riding -- and so a lot of what I was doing (even though I remembered how to do a lot of it), felt brand new. Just like anything, if you don't do something for a long time, it will seem new again the next time you do it, which makes it exciting.
3. ... and yet it feels oddly familiar. Even though it felt like I was doing it all again for the first time, I also had some idea of what I was doing. The brushes and the bridle looked familiar. I remembered how to pick a hoof and how to curry the dirt in circular motions. So much of it came back to me and, even though it was a new place and a new horse and it had been years since I'd done any of these things, it was all oddly familiar. I think this is what I loved best about getting back in the saddle -- the feeling of familiarity blended with the excitement of something new. Going back to an old hobby provides an odd but awesome mix of familiarity and freshness.
4. It helps you conquer fears. One of the reasons I hadn't been on a horse for so many years was fear. I missed horses and longed to ride one again, but my inner voice kept asking, "What if you don't remember how to ride? What if you get thrown off? What if you hate it?" And so I let that fear hold me back from getting back in the saddle for years. Yesterday I was definitely nervous, but it felt great to get back on the horse. I didn't get thrown off. I didn't forget how to ride. And I definitely didn't hate it. Trying something again for what feels like the first time might seem scary, but conquering that fear is an amazing feeling.
5. It makes you more present. Oddly enough, in going back to something I used to love doing in the past, I found myself feeling more present. Even though I was familiar with the barn and the horses, it felt new to me in so many ways that I found myself being very aware of everything about the experience. I was very conscious of the feeling of the reins in my hands, the movement of the horse's ears, the smells and sounds of the barn. Doing something new -- even if it's something you used to do a lot -- really heightens your senses and makes you more aware of what's happening in the now. While revisiting what I used to love doing, I found myself very in the moment -- and loving it.
I had such a great time getting back on a horse, and I'm so glad I added it to my to-do list for this year (without having it on a list I surely wouldn't have been motivated to actually do it...). Going back and revisiting an activity I used to love so much made me much happier than I'd expected it would. Being at the barn brought back a rush of memories, but there was also the thrill of doing something for the first time again. If there's something you loved doing that you haven't done in awhile, consider giving it a try again. You'll be surprised by the benefits that come along with getting back in the saddle.