What makes you happy? Is it a long walk with your dog at the end of a hard day? Is it cooking dinner for your loved ones while enjoying a glass of wine? Or is it getting covered in horse hair, climbing into your truck, and driving home while singing Sam Hunt at the top on your lungs – your muscles tired and pulling.
The third option is mine. I do not know how to exist in a world without that option. I do not know how to function without my face covered in dirt and my quad’s screaming in agony. To have horse hair covering my breeches, and manure embedded under my nails. But what some find as just simple happiness, I think might be my addiction.
After this weekend, one in which I added a big fat E to my record at the first event of the year, I turned to my boyfriend and said that maybe I should sell both of my horses and take a break. Go cold turkey. I didn’t really like showing. And in addition to this, I couldn’t afford to do it often enough to get over my nerves. He turned to me and laughed, saying that I would survive for two days before bouncing off the walls. I would need horse rehab.
Because I am the opposite of a weekend warrior. I am a day-in and day-out, withdrawals after a day, Christmas Day and New Years Eve, kind of rider. I am the three horses a day, go to the barn in the dusk, ride in the snow kind of girl. I am the nausea-ridden, hacking up a lung, blood coming out of my body, but still checking limbs and shoes kind of horse owner.
I wouldn’t do well without this. I gave both of my big boys off this past Monday due to a hard weekend, and was bouncing off of my couch by 6 pm – badly enough that my boyfriend demanded I go hop on my retired quarter horse Frank. I knocked off the mud, swung on bareback, and trotted around our yard just long enough to get my cravings out. To recalibrate my system. To feel the nerves relax and the synapses quiet. I got my fix.
But what makes this addiction ok, and an addiction to a substance not? Some are addicted to drugs, others to alcohol, many to sex – and I can relate to all of those. I have an addicts personality. I have zero will power against the cravings. I fixate on finding a way to that high. I guess the only difference is that my addiction is considered culturally ok. Societally acceptable. Just as dangerous, and just as expensive – but Prince Harry does it – so we’re good.
And probably the scariest part of this addiction is that there is no such thing as horse rehab. No one to tell me that I am not normal. Like a true addict, I surround myself with other addicts. People who tell me that it is OK to wake up at 5am to get my fix, people who tell me that it is OK to spend their every cent on this high, people who tell me that my friends and family just don’t “get it” when I miss weddings and birthdays.
I asked my boyfriend the other day if he thought he had hit the jackpot when we started dating six years ago. I was a horse girl without the horse. Someone who could appreciate the races, talk the talk, hold a yearling, but who’s life could be…normal. He didn’t even hesitate before saying “Yes.”
But just like my boyfriend measured his smoking addiction on packs a day – I now measure mine by horses. Six years ago, I was just a social rider. Just like those people that smoke when they drink – I would hack on the weekends, playing around with the idea of the abuse. And this trickled into a daily thing. Not extreme, but I borrowed someone else’s substance (horse), and began competing again. Rode every day – but I hadn’t jumped in with both feet. But then I got my own. Like the person that suddenly realizes that the high is the first thing they think of when they wake. I bought Mak, and began to fixate on the high. All day at school. Speeding to the barn as the last class let out – needing that fix.
And it’s only gotten worse. I went from one horse, to two, to three, with one back up – so four. I am frantic in my grooming, craving the ride. I am only content when I am on. My days are spent fidgeting and focused on that trot set, or that jump school. I am distracted in class, pulling up Youtube videos of prior tests, or searching the web for my next show. I am officially, and utterly, hooked.
So if the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, then I am there. I’m sure that there are meetings intended for people like me – that is why we made 4-H and Pony Club, right? Only, unlike the others – these are more of a support group than a rehabilitation center. A grief support system that drinks wine and stares at our empty bank accounts together. A Rider’s Anonymous meeting that speaks of the things that we gave up in exchange for our fix – family, friends, relationships lost. We nod our heads at others that we know suffer from the affliction when we pass them in the aisles of grocery stores – reaching for the carrots instead of the kale.
So lets just start here: My name is Carleigh Fedorka, and I am addicted to horses. My blog’s are my stories, my stand in front of the group. Let this be my Rider’s Anonymous. I have a problem, an addiction to dander and dust, mud and muck, thrills and spills, and I love every single minute of it. And I hope, for your heart and your soul, that you do too.