I hear it all the time.

“How do you do it?” 

“How do you make time for it?”

“How do you juggle it all?”

And every time, I laugh. Because to me, it isn’t a question of how, but why. 

Three inches of snow fell today in Lexington, Kentucky, and was still coming down at 4pm when I left the lab-having started my day at 7am on the research farm.

 My plan has always been to give my horses the day off. The arena was white, the temperature was below freezing, and they didn’t “need” the exercise per se.

But then, one after another, my day crumbled. I received a medical bill. I got bad data from a project. I read a comment on Facebook that made my blood boil. And after hours of nothing but negativity, distress, and poor outcomes, I threw my laptop into my bag and called it a day.

And I drove to barn shaking my head. Trying to rationalize my bad day, the stress that comes with it, and the negativity seemed to seap into every other aspect of my life. I just felt like I couldn’t win, and didn’t know what to do to change that outcome.

But there was thing I could do-that I could change. I could change my decision to not ride. I could throw my bridle on my trustworthy Mak, and swing on over his thick winter blanket. I could take him through the gates of the farm and just let the world dissipate as I roamed the roads surrounding.


For one blissful hour, I could feel peace.

For it is not how I do it. No, no. That’s not even close. But it is why.

These animals, and the hours I have clocked both on them and alongside them, have gotten me through so much.

They have picked me up off the cold hard floor when the world drops me there unceremoniously. They have gotten me through break ups, the loss of friendships, a qualifying exam, and unfortunately death.


They are there when I feel as though I can’t get any lower, and each time, they recalibrate my soul. I know that they have been there at my absolute lowest, so I never question if they will be there on a less drastic day.

I don’t have them in my life to win fancy ribbons, or to be able to add stars in my name. Mak will never go above prelim, Nixon might never even complete an event, and lord knows Frank might not ever leave the farm. I don’t care if they are the prettiest, or the fanciest mover. I just care that they provide me an escape. 

The distraction of a tough jump school. The quiet that comes from a long flat. The calm serenity of a good road hack. The bicep ache of a curry, or the world that is lost as you pull a mane.

I do my best thinking, I find my stability, and I recalibrate during that time.

So no, it’s not how. It’s why.

Because I have to. Just like eating. Or breathing. Or sleeping. That is riding for me. There is no other option.

Photo by JJ Sillman

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6 Comments on “It’s not how, it’s why

  1. Fantastic read and so true. Horses truly ground us, calm us, and remind us that we CAN get through it. Just a perfect piece to read this morning. Thank you!

  2. Yes. Even if it’s only an hour, it’s a blissful hour of escape from all the stresses that are so assaultive. Photos are beautiful. Thank you

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