It's been a year since I decided to start riding our daughter's horse, Champ. Formerly used in APHA and 4H shows, he comes with many buttons that I knew nothing about. He'd been sitting idle for a year in our pasture after our daughter headed off to college. I hated to see all that talent wasted. Last year at this time, I returned Champ to the facility we formerly boarded at and arranged to start taking lessons.
I've been reflecting today on Champ and my journey this past year. From my first lesson, held outside his stall because I was too afraid to ride, to my accomplishment of finally getting up the nerve to lope a month ago. I am grateful for this last year and thought about the ten things that I couldn't have made it this far without:
1. My husband. Always there to support me. I'm grateful for his patience and presence when he comes to watch and the space he gives me when he isn't there. He carries my tack when I ride and gets up early every morning to feed our horses at home. Today, the guy who threatened to divorce me if I ever got a horse loves them as much as I do. And I love him for it with all my heart.
2. My trainer, who has the patience of a Saint. Any trainer who will encourage the rider for eight months to lope (we called it 'getting my wings') before it finally happens has got to be a Saint (that's two months after my initial lesson). She never pushed me to lope (although she suggested it plenty of times). She tells me where I need to improve but also tells me where I've improved or done a move well. After jogging for ten months, I was totally comfortable but bored with it and found I was ready to take the next step without any drama. I use my wings quite often these days.
3. The mounting block. Champ is a tall horse. The block makes it easier for me to climb up on and I'm sure it's more comfortable for Champ. This starts my rides out on a positive note.
4. Poles. These have helped me learn the buttons Champ has as well as work on my balance. Initially walking or trotting over them, I'm now able to back thru all sorts of pole configurations, like a V configuration. I can also sidepass both directions and do haunch turns. I love the communication with Champ when I play with the poles. Next step will be loping over them.
5. My helmet. It's ugly green and banged up. Not fashionable but it's a necessity and I never ride without it. I've had my concussion Thank You and never want another one when I fall off. I also feel responsible to my family to take the necessary measures to be as safe as I can when I ride. And I want them to wear a helmet when they ride too so I practice what I preach. There's no guarantees when you're up on your horse that you won't have an accident and you do the best to avoid it. At +50, I'll take all the insurance I can get to be as safe as I can from injuries.
6. Eating right. The years of not eating correctly have caught up with me. I found if you pig out before you ride, you'll pay the price. There is nothing worse then the ugly feeling of crawling up into the saddle feeling stuffed. Your balance will stink and your energy level will be low. You'll peak out early in the ride, cheating you and your horse out of why you're out there. Eating lighter will give the opposite of those experiences. I don't know how many times I've wanted ice cream (my downfall) and reminded myself of how I'll feel on the horse if I indulge. Makes it easy to turn away from the temptation and although the pounds aren't dropping fast, they are dropping steadily.
7. Music. It helps me relax and have a good time. Some songs inspire me to try different things and the music alleviates the anxiety that might come along if I was out there in silence. Riding to music is just fun and keens your spiritual awareness of being one with your horse.
8. Pants. Yup, pants! I initially started riding in my department store jeans. After my pant legs kept riding up and zippers and metal studs carved ugly scratches in my saddle when I dismounted, I needed a change. Enter my Women's Wrangler Stretch Jeans. They fit me great and are perfect for riding. Long Live Cowgirls.
9. 50+ Ladies Night. Held every Wednesday night at the barn, we get together and take a group lesson. We cheer each other on and the night is always full of lots of laughs. These gals are my soul sisters and I don't know what I'd do without them. We finish our evening with snacks and the beverage of your choice, recalling our rides and what we'll do the following week. We are currently working with our horses on learning how to sort cows. We're also talking about Dressage.
10. Ibuprofen (sp)?. When I've had a few days off from riding and return to it, I pay the price of sore muscles. This helps me relieve some of those, "Ughs" that come from me when I get up out of a chair after those first few rides. Luckily, I find the more often I ride the sooner the pains go away. Recently my husband told me I had legs like nutcrackers. I am so stupid, I went to work and told everybody, thinking of the Nutcracker Ballet. Took me a few days to figure it out. :)