Before I moved to San Antonio last July I had a mini-revelation. I realized it was finally time to pursue an interest I’ve had for many years. I looked at Craig and said, “I’m going to learn how to ride a horse”. He shook his head and stuck another notch in my long line of interests and then grinned at me. My passions are part of what he loves about me. He also said a prayer hoping it would turn out this new passion would fizzle out. He’s my protector so he reminds me I’ve introduced a danger to our lives that didn’t exist before. He wants me to be happy, so I am riding, but he also wrings out his hands because he doesn’t want me to fall. I’ve weighed this dilemma in the balance for many months. If I were luke warm about riding and spending time at the stables, I’d move on to something else. But, the more I ride, the more I love it. I’m willing to take the risk. I’m also willing to take several lessons a week, read, study, learn carefully and respect that what I am doing is dangerous. I promised to make careful decisions about how quickly I progress, what sort of horse I won’t ride, and which activities I won’t do on a horse.
Why do I love it? There are more reasons why I love it than there are dangers involved in doing it. Here’s a short list: excellent exercise…my set of life issues disappears the moment I mount the horse… intense learning opportunities… I love to get to know animals… especially 1500 pounds of sensitive spirit… fresh air… bubbly endorphins after a lesson that last for several hours if not all day…new friends at the stables… accomplishment…exhilarating fun.
So I’ve been taking three to four lessons a week since August. These times on the horse are really the highlights of my week. Sometimes I perform so well that my instructor gives me praise and I feel like a little kid who got an A on a difficult test. Sometimes the horse and I aren’t communicating at all and it goes horribly wrong and I get frustrated. For example JJ often refuses my request to go over a jump and goes around it rather than over it. Sometimes Bill won’t trot until I hold a whip in my hand, I don’t even have to touch him with it but having it makes him go. I tried cantering on a lunge line and I just can’t hold on with my legs yet. Even though I encounter these problems, over time I am getting stronger, and much of what I am learning is becoming instinct.
The week before Christmas my instructor told me I am ready to lease a horse and have more independent practice time. Before I can progress to learning to canter I have to build up strength in my legs. I cannot describe how much strength it requires in the legs to ride English. It’s a strength that can only be built by time in the saddle. So if I want to learn to canter, “I do I do”, then I need to build that leg muscle which helps me grip the horse and not fall off.
So I presented the idea to Craig and we agreed to do a half lease on a six year old quarter horse, Gunner. This turns out to cost less than all the lessons I’ve been taking! This means three times a week I can spend an hour riding him, and take one lesson a week. He’s a good horse, gentle and calm, a little slow but that’s ok. He and I communicate well, and I enjoy learning to understand him. I was floating when she told me I was ready for a lease. I had to work really hard, persevere when my schedule went crazy, and now I’ve accomplished something that I’m so thankful to be able to enjoy. It feels good to reach goals. I have always believed the secret to staying young is to keep learning, keep setting goals and meet them.
So this morning I am going to the stables to get tack instructions for Gunner and soon I’ll be able to show up when I can and ride him for an hour. It makes me grin at just the thought of it. Donny took a lesson with me one Sunday when Jack couldn’t go, and afterwards he asked me, “do you ever see yourself giving this up?” No. “Are you going to get a horse?” I don’t know. “But it takes so much time.” And here’s the important thing about the time commitment: sometimes when we are busy and we make time to do the thing that makes us really happy we find we are more willing to do twelve hours of hard work because we had those two hours of fun. That’s what riding does for me. I wonder if everyone had that “thing” would this world be a happier place?