Step Away to Refocus

Sometimes the best way to solve a horse problem is to do non-horse things.

It’s likely that horses are your life. Whether you’re a hobbyist horse person, a competitive non-pro, or a professional trainer, your horses dictate almost every move you make. Even when you’re away from the barn, you’re thinking about barn things—repairing the waterer, calling the farrier, fixing that sticky backup, entering your next competition. It’s all horse, all the time, which can be just as overwhelming as it can be fulfilling.

Horse&Rider OnDemand contributor Ryan Rushing knows this all too well. Rushing and his wife, Amy, a realtor, own their elite training business outside Fort Collins, Colorado, as well as their own facility and a hay farm to boot.

Ryan Rushing riding a reining horse at his farm. Nichole Chirico

Three years ago, Rushing took up trail running after seeing a friend complete a 100-kilometer (64-mile) ultra-marathon in the Rocky Mountains. His newfound challenge became the thing that helps keep his passion for horses and his business strong instead of becoming overwhelmed by the day-to-day of a stressful, busy life.

Outdoor Enthusiasm

Rushing and his wife moved to Colorado because they appreciate everything the Rocky Mountains have to offer. When they can get away from their businesses, they thrive on camping and taking in all Colorado has to offer. Trail running twice a week and fitting in a longer run on the weekend has become Rushing’s go-to stress-reliever.

“Some people golf or watch football to relieve their stress and get away,” Rushing shared. “I need something that allows me to switch my brain off for a while. It’s easy for me and Amy to become 100% consumed by our property and businesses, and as much as we love it, we have to disconnect to get a fresh perspective.”

Amy and Ryan Rushing Courtesy of Amy Rushing

Separate to Find a Solution

Lacing up his running shoes and hitting the trail has become just the thing to change Rushing’s attitude and even the way he sees some of his daily challenges, from training horses to having new ground installed in his arena.

“You can get so bogged down with the same issues that you can’t look at them from a different perspective,” he said. “On the trail, you’re going up inclines, down hills, dodging rocks and stumps—you have to focus on those things or you’re going to crash. Those challenging parts allow me to release my stress.”

But in other parts of his run, Rushing finds himself seeing different perspectives on daily problems.

“Running separates me from my horses first, and then I can think about whatever is going on that’s the biggest driver of my stress, whether that’s a horse, a project on the facility, or whatever,” Rushing explained. “Initially, I’m clearing my mind. Then I can go back to whatever is really stressing me out but not get bogged down in it thanks to my clear head. I’m able to be more objective about solving problems. I can find new solutions and process things in a different way that leads me to a solution I wouldn’t have found staring at the walls of my arena or house.”

One Piece at a Time

At the beginning of August, Rushing embarked on his second ultra-marathon—100 kilometers and gaining 10,000 feet of elevation. Just as with his shorter trail runs, his ultra-marathon experiences have taught him a lot about more than just running.

Ryan and Amy Rushing after running an ultra-marathon. Courtesy of Amy Rushing

“I heard a guy say, ‘It’s 90% mental and 10% in your head,’” Rushing shared with a laugh. “In my limited experience, I’ve learned about breaking the race into manageable chunks. Your hip might bother you, or you might get cold, but you can make it to the next aid station where they have water, food, and medical personnel. When I’m running, I’m thinking about problem-solving—how to stay hydrated, taking in the right nutrition to keep me going. I don’t let myself get overwhelmed by the size of the entire race; instead, I break things into manageable chunks. I handle problems one step at a time.”

This one-piece-at-a-time mentality helps Rushing in his daily life with horses, too. He can problem-solve to identify a logical breakdown and order of prioritization so he doesn’t feel like it’s more than he can handle.

Find Your Reset

So, what’s your go-to reset? What other activities do you enjoy outside of horses that allow you a mental release but then bring you back around with a new perspective? It can be running or another fitness-related activity, painting and crafting, gardening, and yard work—you don’t have to choose between your interests. Instead, determine a balance where they can complement each other and help you get away from your stressors, refocus, problem-solve, and come back a better you for yourself and your horses.