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Wednesday, October 21, 2009


What motivates to get out and work your horse on a regular basis? In a broader sense, what motivates you to do any extracurricular activity on a regular basis? (see - non-horsey people can participate too!)

It's always scary to ask a question on a blog - what if no one answers? what if no one is actually reading? This is coming from a person who is reportedly writing this blog for her own amusement only and (reportedly) would be doing it even if no one was reading....

Here is my views on motivation. I would love to hear yours!

1. Goals. I used to be very goal oriented, and I still am to a lesser degree. In the past, I had to have a goal/purpose to do anything. To run, I needed to be signed up for a race. To ride, I needed to have a upcoming event. However, I've found as time goes on, goals are less and less motivating. Even signing up for a marathon won't get me out the door on cold mornings any more. Signing up for an endurance ride is no guarantee that I will get my conditioning rides done. I still like thinking about goals and putting them on paper, but they have ceased to become the major motivating factor in my activities.

2. Guilt. This goes hand-in-hand with #1. If I didn't achieve my goal, I would feel guilty. If I didn't take the steps I knew I needed to take to achieve my goal, I would feel guilty. Motivation by guilt worked for a while. The problem is that over time I gradually became inured to the guilt, and besides, who wants to feel guilty all the time for something that is suppose to be fun?

3. Steep learning curve. This is very motivating at first. I LOVE a learning curve. The problem is that nothing can sustain this level of learning for very long. What happens when the inital learning curve is over? Is there still enough step-wise learning that occurs for the activity to remain rewarding and motivating?

My motivation for Dressage is the learning curve. I think I'm almost past the initial, steep curve, but there's still enough step by step learning that occurs (moving through the levels and learning new skills) that I still get excited about getting on and practicing.

This has stopped being a major motivating influence in endurance. Of course I am still learning, but now it's more of application of knowledge, trying new things, building on what has worked in the past. It's still exciting to integrate new knowledge (hoof boots, electrolyte protocols etc.) but my point is that it's no longer the primary motivation for endurance riding.

4. Because in the Long Run it matters (maybe). At various points I've tried to make my activities "matter" in the long run. Although running and endurance and other riding activities may make me happy and let me lead a joyful, full life, it isn't the activity that matters so much. Instead, I have come to realize that the activity matters only in how it causes me to interact with other people and how they influence my life and how I influence theirs. In the end, it will be the people in my life that matter. Being a non-people person, this was a hard pill to swallow, but I'm getting better at it! I look for opportunities to interact - a kind smile on the trail, taking extra time to explain something, choosing an activity that involves others instead of always being by myself.

While #4 is not a day to day motivator, I can remember when I had lame horses and was not able to do endurance. I didn't miss the trails as much as I missed ridecamp and the people! I wanted to get back on the trail so that I could hang out with my friends.

5. Enjoyment. Believe it or not, this is a very recent motivator for me. I'm running and riding today because it brings me joy. Not everything, all the time, has to have a meaning (#4) or purpose (#1). Sometimes it's ok to do something just because it makes you happy.

I have accepted the fact that running will not make me thin. Doesn't matter. I have consciously made the decision that I absolutely love the way running makes me feel, therefore I will do it, and not feel guilty that it's *only* 3-5 miles a day and there is no marathon in my future, and I'm not losing weight, AND I have no plans to increase speed or distance.

Enjoyment is probably the number one reason I get on Farley on a daily basis. A year ago, the answer would probably be very different and have to do with a goal.

Does anyone else have any thoughts?

***PS. I have updated my blog roll on the right. Take a look!


  1. *waving* I'm here! ;)

    What motivates me?
    1- If I don't consistently handle my horse, he turns into a royal pushy PITA that is hazardous to my sanity.

    2- Your point of enjoyment was EXCELLENT. And I too, will be with my horse every single day "just because it makes me happy". A happy me is an easier person to live with, according to my husband and sons (who encourage me to get out for horse time daily.)

    Good post and great topic!

  2. I'd have to go with Enjoyment. Maybe it's an age thing, but I used to be goal driven and I'm not anymore. I really don't care one way or another about reaching a certain goal with my horse as long as I have fun doing it. I'd love to work on some drills with her, but about three minutes into it I'm bored stiff so even if the goal is perfect sidepasses, if I'm not having fun, I just don't care.

    My horse time is just for fun. I have no desire to event with her, I just want to hop on her back and ride. Eventing of any sort just seems like too much work. When I was younger, I would have wanted to do all sorts of competitions with her. Now, I just want to hang out with her.

  3. This is such a coincidence, because my motivation has just moved from goals to enjoyment! That happened when I realized that planning for the Gold Country didn't get me moving--it just made me feel guilty (not enjoyable)--and gave it up. But apparently it took me a lot longer than it took you! Maybe that's a good thing--the goals I've met are why I can afford endurance! Now I am into enjoyment first, goals a distant second. The UTR

  4. Very astute thinking, most of what you went over are the same things that I have passed through.

    I think most thoughtful people who try to use self-guilt to motivate discard it before too long. Goals are good, but they rise and fall in importance, and there must be something else to motivate. My goal in running has quickly changed from "get thin, lose weight, get strong and fit," to wanting to be able to run if I ever had to. (Young'uns might not recognize this one) It's also enjoyable to stretch out on a regular basis.

    I too have realized that most of my activities and projects are in my life because they involve getting together with my friends and enjoying being with other people.

  5. I think really the main thing that motivates me for riding or any horse activity, is that feeling of complete awe when I am out on the trail and in a beautiful place on the back of a beautiful horse!

    I am also very motivated towards endurance compitition, although this is a very recent thing and really I can't list it as I don't currently ride and partly because of endurance ( I know it makes no sense!)

    I love planning things too! If I followed through on half the things I started I would be much better off, BUT I truely love the planning part just as much as the doing! ha!

  6. For me-only activities, it's joy. Either immediate or delayed (law school sucked, but I hope it leads me to a more joyful life in the future). I work out for the immediate endorphins, and for the future joy of being able to do physical stuff. For activities with my animals, it's more complicated - I think Cersei and Dixie deserve to be in the best shape possible, so they can enjoy their lives. For my dog, that means making her take a break from running after she cracks a toenail. For my horse, it means learning to deal with humans, learning to calmly cart me around, and not getting to stand around eating hay all day. I think it's better in the long run for her.

    I want to do an LD and maybe a 50 next year because I think it'd be fun for both of us! And maybe I want to learn to jump a little, and go foxhunting, because it'd be fun.

    re: blogging for yourself - I am so stubborn that I have never once checked my stats. I have no idea how many hits I get or how many readers have subscribed. I feel like it would make blogging a commitment, instead of a fun hobby. I just blather on about my horse and sometimes people comment, and that's pretty neat too. :)

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  8. I have asked myself that question many times. On a morning like this morning, wrestling a fractious mare in the dark to apply desitin to scratches, one has to wonder...

    But I am very goal oriented. I find that if I post a goal for others to see then I feel much more impelled to go through the process of "preparing" for it, than if I don't. Sort of like AA meetings I guess, or Weightwatchers, it gives accountability.

    What moves me most is activity with focus. Passive riding bores me to tears. I must have focus. Even if that means a goal of trotting 30 strides and walking 30, by focusing I get into a rhythm, and the miles fly buy.

    Having a riding partner is a huge motivator for me as it makes me feel safe enough to take risks, such as working on issues than may land me in the dirt. At least there is someone to make the phone call *LOL* ~E.G.

  9. Like many other folks have said, I am motivated by fun.

    That said, endurance competitions are fun, and getting ready for them is fun. I don't train to "win" (or even top-ten), I train to finish with a fit and happy horse. Since "getting to the finish line" is the goal, there's plenty of time and energy to have fun along the way.

    I do have a goal, in addition to completion: I want my horse to be fun to ride, and to have fun on the trail with me. That means that I must take care of myself to avoid crankiness, and to spend a LOT of time training her to get beyond her native "bitchy mare" syndrome. It's taken us two years of NOT competing, and we've almost entirely reached that goal. At least, I hope we're almost there!

  10. Wow - thanks ya'll for commenting!

    JB - totally agree with you - planning is the BEST. The real world gets so messy....

    Funder - If you do an LD or a 50, because you are in my region, maybe we'll actually get to meet in person?! That would be cool. BTW - totally agree with you on the blogging - I blog for very selfish reasons and it's so kind of you guys to come on by and read.

    I keep having to remind myself that endurance is suppose to be fun. when I start to get stressed about it and frusterated, it's time to back off, reevaluate and go from there. I'm not winning, I'm not top-tenning. The only reason I'm doing it is so that me AND my horse have fun.

    I worry a lot during a ride about making sure Farley has a good time. If she's been really really good and she really really wants to go fast....sometimes I let her for a few minutes, then we slow it back down and we are both satisfied. I might have a better behaved horse if I dictated every move and made every decision, but I feel like we are partners and as long as she understands I have the final word, I let her make suggestions and it's fun for both of us....I know, I'm animorphasizing (spelled that wrong) in a big way.


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