The air of heaven is that which blows between a horse’s ears.Arabian Proverb
I surprised myself when I logged into this blog and realized I had not posted in almost two years. To be fair, I moved my cooking blog to a different site (www.lifeloveandlemons.us), which I have also been neglecting, but maybe not quite as badly. The third thing I have been neglecting is riding. Let me hasten to say that our horses are not neglected. They see their vet and their farrier regularly. Their stalls are cleaned. They spend a great deal of time at pasture. They receive carrots and apples, bananas and pears regardless of whether or not they are working.
The world has changed since March and we have been primarily working from home since that time. While it has become difficult to sift through all the misinformation on the internet about this pandemic, one study has shown that it is virtually impossible to catch COVID from the back of a horse. (This is especially true for me because I ride by myself outdoors.)
I stopped riding a couple of years ago. My trainer at the time moved out of state and my Marcos had sustained an injury that required surgery, therapy and some long term rest. Those were the triggering events, but after competing in USDF shows for years, I felt as though competing had taken on a life of its own.
My mother loves to tell people that when I was two years old, a family friend asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, to which I said, “A horse.” I started riding in western group lessons at the the age of six and spent days cleaning tack and cleaning stalls for the privilege of being allowed to stay in the company of horses. We learned how to ride (without helmets and protective body gear) playing games like Red Rover and relay races on horseback. When I was less than ten, my cousin and I would rent horses in Lake Tahoe for a half day and ride all over the mountains on our own. We spent a whole summer in Half Moon Bay taking trail horses out , ditching their saddles behind the sea grass, and galloping up and down the beach with our arms outstretched like Alec Ramsey in The Black Stallion. We rode for joy.
Competing can suck that joy away from you if you’re not careful, and you spend every ride in rarified arenas worrying about the quality of your connection, whether your horse is working over its back, and the engagement of its hind legs. And when you haven’t got all those pieces, you worry about how to make it through your next test faking it convincingly through the rough spots. It is no substitute for the sun on your face, the wind in your hair and the friendship of a horse just enjoying the afternoon.
So here I find myself, working without a trainer in our back pasture, by myself, and finding joy again. (And if I am honest, I am spending some time working on the quality of my connection, whether the horses are working over their top lines and how to improve the quality of their gaits.). I am having fun. I am trying to get better. Maybe I will show again on my own. I definitely want to ride by the sea again. I love my horses.
At this time of the year, and maybe especially this year, I am grateful. I am grateful for the tremendous privilege of having my horses in my life. I am grateful to my parents who spent money (that was not always abundant) to keep me in lessons throughout my childhood and spent their weekends schlepping me back and forth to riding lessons. I am grateful to my husband and my daughter for literally everything about them. I am grateful for our health, our family and our friends. And to keep this from getting too preachy, I admit that I will be super grateful when I can improve my seat so that I can use my leg aids more effectively.