This spring will be like no other, for I’m moving firmly into my new life with horses. My beloved secret garden will be open only very occasionally, and will look much simpler- because, with laser-beam intensity, I am utterly focused on learning to be a competent, confident rider, a goal that demands large amounts of time and mental and physical strength, not to mention funds. All are in short supply.
I’m on a very short tether any way you look at it.
And, I can’t serve two masters. Not well.
Nine months ago I entered a stable, found I could breathe without blisters, and nothing has been the same since that day. I’m studying hard, trying to stuff more than 70 years without horses into a few months of near-total immersion.
Odd observations keep rearing up, making me smile.
In the beginning, about 8 months ago, I rode instinctively. Now, with expert instruction, I’ve markedly improved. Instinct is in partnership with skill. It’s gonna be a great marriage. Especially as I’m so incredibly motivated to make it work.
Yesterday I bought a pair of western riding boots.
They do look odd. My mother was right to march me back to the cowboy store when I was 12 and make me return the huge (but well-fitted) boots I’d purchased with money I’d earned working odd jobs over two years. I weighed 89 pounds, was 58 inches tall and possessed size 9 feet. I looked absolutely ridiculous and didn’t care, but she did. I’d gone one step too far. She bawled out the baffled clerk after reclaiming my money. “Where’s your common sense? She’s a bug, wallowing in boats!”
So I sent away for a rubber saddle designed to fit over my bike’s seat. My long-suffering mom threw up her hands.
Joe and I went to Tractor Supply to see if ‘duck feet syndrome’ would manifest as powerfully today, but it turned out not to matter. I just wanted to own an honest-to-God pair of cowboy boots. I’m around 100 pounds, 60 inches tall and my feet haven’t shrunk. Not a millimeter. $100 buck square-toed, turquoise-colored cowboy boots are hard to ignore. I flapped happily around the store admiring the things. (Pointy-toed boots look so outrageous on me that it’s hard to stop laughing. At least these square-toed ones offer more room for my flappers.)
The duck is there, but I don’t care.
As for horse heroes, there is one, Secretariat, the greatest racehorse of the twentieth century. He left all those horses in the dust at the Belmont Stakes, winning the Triple Crown with embarrassing ease on June 9, 1973 at 1:35 p.m. I saw it all. His jockey, Ron Turcotte, is a genius.
Another thing deeply puzzles me. Last July I was put on a splendid horse, and I knew immediately what to do. I rode all the gaits, including a sitting trot, with not one twinge of soreness. That first marvelous day I very reluctantly dismounted after only twenty minutes of heaven, partly because I was worried to death that I’d be too sore to ride again for days.
But Nothing happened.
This is weird, any way you look at it. I’ve heard comments that I’m just in denial or won’t admit it, as if it’s something to hide, but I don’t lie. Lying about anything is exhausting. One must keep track of fibs forever...
Being sore goes with the territory. I’d have no problem admitting aching muscles. But why am I NOT aching?
Just for the science of it, I’d love to understand what’s going on.
This –absence – really works for me, though. No muscle pain provides more precious time to laser-concentrate on the finer points of horsemanship.
Is this an example of ‘mind over matter?’
I wonder, because for 70 years I’ve had an incredibly busy nightlife.
Some deep part of me has been working all those decades on balance, posture, reading these animals through the reins, through my saddle, my fingers-
SOMETHING indefinable has been at work. Even when I had no hope whatever of getting anywhere near these beautiful creatures.
My ‘dream Boss,’ for example, would boost me up onto a racehorse and I’d competently ride him, and lots of other steeds, around a track as an experienced exercise girl. In any weather. The sort of riding I practiced was rather like ‘two-point.’ I would hover over the diminutive, short-stirrup saddle and we two would move with such speed and power! Racing is dangerous, exhilarating, and gloriously FAST. I was built for it. I would have been very good at it.
Brains are queer things. They tend to cling to certain (hopeless) hopes, and magnify them. And dreams can be incredibly persistent. Could they somehow affect my muscle memory?
These nights, though, I lie down and immediately fall asleep without dreaming.
For Heaven’s sake, I’m living it.
I’m just too pooped to participate.
In early 2019 my teacher had to remind me more than once not to assume a racing posture. I haven’t tried to explain that it has to do with muscle memory developed and strengthened for decades- in deeply established dreams.
That stance had become a habit.
He’d think me totally weird, and he’d be absolutely right.
As for the inherent risk in all this? I might be dumped PDQ. Or not. All I can do is work hard and learn fast.
Garnering more skill makes for more control of myself, and the horse.
Life's a risk. So is love. But love trumps trepidation. I’m careful out there. I so want this miracle to last.
Sometimes I like to sketch what I see. The Farm is beautiful, especially in spring. Drawing makes me really SEE the details. And appreciate them more.
There’s one thing my pencil and I know for certain: Yeah, crocs, dung beetles, jackals, sawgrass, mosquitoes and people are fascinating to draw. It helps one to see why they are all about armor, balls, fangs, spears, needles and bloat. Not exactly poetry in motion. But they’re out there, everywhere, and therefore interesting and special...
But, in designing even the humblest flowers, and the stunning Equus Caballus, God finally got it exactly right.