|Posted on December 2, 2009 at 11:37 AM||comments (0)|
I ride. That seems like such a simple statement. However as many women who ride know it is really a complicated matter. It has to do with power and empowerment. Being able to do things you might have once considered
out of reach or ability. I have considered this as I shovel
manure, fill water barrels in the cold rain, wait for the
vet/farrier/electrician/hay delivery, change a tire on a horse trailer by the side of the freeway, or cool a gelding out before getting down to the business of drinking a
cold beer after a long ride.
The time, the money, the effort it takes to ride calls for
dedication. At least I call it dedication. Both my ex-husbands call it 'the sickness'. It's a sickness I've had since I was a small girl bouncing my model horses and dreaming of the day I would ride a real horse. Most of the women I ride with understand the meaning of 'the sickness'. It's not a sport. It's not a hobby. It's what we do and, in some ways, who we are as women and human beings.
I ride. I hook up my trailer and load my gelding. I haul to some trailhead somewhere, unload, saddle, whistle up my dog and I ride. I breathe in the air, watch the sunlight filter through the trees and savor the movement of my horse. My shoulders relax. A smile rides my sunscreen smeared face. I pull my ball cap down and let the real world fade into the tracks my horse leaves in the dust.
Time slows. Flying insects buzz loudly, looking like fairies. My
gelding flicks his ears and moves down the trail. I can smell
his sweat and it is perfume to my senses. Time slows. The rhythm of the walk and the movement of the leaves become my focus. My saddle creaks and the leather rein in my hand softens with the warmth.
I consider the simple statement; I ride. I think of all I do
because I ride. Climb granite slabs, wade into a freezing lake, race a friend through the Manzanita all the while laughing and feeling my heart in my chest. Other days just the act of mounting and dismounting can be a real accomplishment. Still I ride, no matter how tired or how
much my seat bones or any of the numerous horse related injuries hurt. I ride. And I feel better for doing so.
The beauty I've seen because I ride amazes me. I've ridden out to find lakes that remain for the most part, unseen. Caves, dark and cold beside rivers full and rolling are the scenes I see in my dreams. The Granite Stairway at Echo Summit, bald eagles on the wing and bobcats on the prowl add to the empowerment and joy in my heart.
I think of the people, mostly women, I've met. I consider how
competent they all are. Not a weenie amongst the bunch. We haul 40ft rigs, we back into tight spaces without clipping a tree. We set up camp. Tend the horses. We cook and keep safe. We understand and love our companions, the horse. We respect each other and those we encounter on
the trail. We know that if you are out there riding, you also
shovel, fill, wait and doctor. Your hands are a little rough and you travel with out makeup or hair gel. You do without to afford the 'sickness' and probably, when you were a small girl, you bounced a model horse while you dreamed of riding a real one.
"My treasures do not chink or glitter, They gleam in the sun and neigh in the night"
Attributed via email chain to an 87 year old active rider & mother
|Posted on December 2, 2009 at 11:37 AM||comments (0)|
Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow and the Day After
Yesterday, for the first time,
I was too tired to ride
I was afraid I would be hurt if I was thrown
I heard someone say my barn was too shabby
I let someone tell me I was too pudgy to ride
I realized I was old
I had to face that I could no longer keep up
I had to let go of my dreams
I felt my heart break
I turned my back on my friend
I knew I was done
Today, for the last time,
I felt warm, braided leather in my hands.
I ran my stirrups up so they wouldn't bang my mare's sides
I released the buckles on the girth and watched my girl sigh
I slowly dropped the bit so it wouldn't hit her teeth
I gave my mare a cookie to thank her for the ride
I buried my head in her soft, warm neck
I inhaled the sun and the dust in her long winter coat
I closed the gate and trudged to the muddy porch
I tracked hay and horse hair into my house
I pulled off my boots and felt the sting of warm blood returning to my
Today, for the first time,
I cried after my ride
I felt my hands shake as I set the saddle on its rack
I hugged my young trainer a final goodbye
I waited for the new owner's trailer to arrive
I set my boots in a box to go to the Goodwill
I sighed at the wear on my riding gloves
I had no hay in my hair
I did not hear nickering when I opened my back door
I felt worse leaving the barn that I did when I entered
I had no one to check on before going to bed
Tomorrow, for the first time,
I won't have to buy hay
I can stay in bed longer
I won't see the poop pile grow
I won't be able to fly on four legs
I will be sorry I listened
I will regret letting her go
I will be angry at God
I will be angry at myself
I will cry the day away
I will be glad to die
Day after tomorrow, for the first time,
I will awaken in tears
I will know I was wrong
I will defy all the judgment
I will ignore my old bones
I will return the buyer's check
I will bring my friend home
I will take my boots out of the box
I will be reborn
For the rest of my life,
I will have a horse in my yard
I will ignore the cruel judging
I will watch the poop pile grow
I will have hay in my hair
I will track mud in my house
I will bury my face in her soft neck
I will let my soul fly
I will never be alone.
|Posted on December 2, 2009 at 11:37 AM||comments (0)|
To have a horse in your life is a gift. In the matter of a few short years,
a horse can teach a young girl courage, if she chooses to grab mane and hang
on for dear life. Even the smallest of ponies is mightier than the tallest
of girls. To conquer the fear of falling off, having one's toes crushed, or
being publicly humiliated at a horse show is an admirable feat for any
child. For that, we can be grateful.
Horses teach us responsibility. Unlike a bicycle or a computer, a horse
needs regular care and most of it requires that you get dirty and smelly and up
off the couch. Choosing to leave your cozy kitchen to break the crust of ice
off the water buckets is to choose responsibility. When our horses dip their
noses and drink heartily; we know we've made the right choice.
Learning to care for a horse is both an art and a science. Some are easy
keepers, requiring little more than regular turn-out, a flake of hay, and a
trough of clean water. Others will test you - you'll struggle to keep them
from being too fat or too thin. You'll have their feet shod regularly only
to find shoes gone missing. Some are so accident-prone you'll swear
they're intentionally finding new ways to injure themselves.
If you weren't raised with horses, you can't know that they have unique
personalities. You'd expect this from dogs, but horses? Indeed, there are
clever horses, grumpy horses, and even horses with a sense of humor. Those
prone to humor will test you by finding new ways to escape from the barn
when you least expect it.
Horses can be timid or brave, lazy or athletic, obstinate or willing. You
will hit it off with some horses and others will elude you altogether.
There are as many "types" of horses as there are people - which makes the
whole partnership thing all the more interesting.
If you've never ridden a horse, you probably assume it's a simple thing you
can learn in a weekend. You can, in fact, learn the basics on a Sunday, but
to truly ride well takes a lifetime. Working with a living being is far
more complex than turning a key in the ignition and putting the car or tractor
In addition to listening to your instructor, your horse will have a few
things to say to you as well. On a good day, he'll be happy to go along
with the program and tolerate your mistakes; on a bad day, you'll swear he's
trying to kill you. Perhaps he's naughty or perhaps he's fed up with how
slowly you're learning his language. Regardless, the horse will have an opinion.
He may choose to challenge you (which can ultimately make you a better rider)
or he may carefully carry you over fences - if it suits him. It all depends on the
partnership - and partnership is what it's all about.
If you face your fears, swallow your pride, and are willing to work at it,
you'll learn lessons in courage, commitment, and compassion in addition to
basic survival skills. You'll discover just how hard you're willing to
work toward a goal, how little you know, and how much you have to learn.
And, while some people think the horse "does all the work", you'll be
challenged physically as well as mentally. Your horse may humble you
completely. Or, you may find that sitting on his back is the closest you'll
get to heaven.
You can choose to intimidate your horse, but do you really want to? The
results may come more quickly, but will your work ever be as graceful as
that gained through trust? The best partners choose to listen, as well as to
tell. When it works, we experience a sweet sense of accomplishment brought
about by smarts, hard work, and mutual understanding between horse and rider.
These are the days when you know with absolute certainty that your horse is
enjoying his work.
If we make it to adulthood with horses still in our lives, most of us have
to squeeze riding into our oversaturated schedules; balancing our need for
things equine with those of our households and employers. There is never
enough time to ride, or to ride as well as we'd like. Hours in the barn
are stolen pleasures.
If it is in your blood to love horses, you share your life with them. Our
horses know our secrets; we braid our tears into their manes and whisper
our hopes into their ears. A barn is a sanctuary in an unsettled world, a
sheltered place where life's true priorities are clear: a warm place to
sleep, someone who loves us, and the luxury of regular meals. Some of us
need these reminders.
When you step back, it's not just about horses - it's about love, life, and
learning. On any given day, a friend is celebrating the birth of a foal, a
blue ribbon, or recovery from an illness. That same day, there is also
loss: a broken limb, a case of colic, a decision to sustain a life or end it
gently. As horse people, we share the accelerated life cycle of horses: the
hurried rush of life, love, loss, and death that caring for these animals
brings us. When our partners pass, it is more than a moment of sorrow.
We mark our loss with words of gratitude for the ways our lives have
been blessed. Our memories are of joy, awe, and wonder. Absolute union. We
honor our horses for their brave hearts, courage, and willingness to give.
To those outside our circle, it must seem strange. To see us in our muddy
boots, who would guess such poetry lives in our hearts? We celebrate our
companions with praise worthy of heroes. Indeed, horses have the hearts of
warriors and often carry us into and out of fields of battle.
Listen to stories of that once-in-a-lifetime horse; of journeys made and
challenges met. The best of horses rise to the challenges we set before
them, asking little in return.
Those who know them understand how fully a horse can hold a human heart.
Together, we share the pain of sudden loss and the lingering taste of
long-term illness. We shoulder the burden of deciding when or whether to
end the life of a true companion.
In the end, we're not certain if God entrusts us to our horses or our
horses to us. Does it matter? We're grateful God loaned us the horse in the
- Author - Unknown