I'd been given a new challenge. Riding without stirrups. The first few times my trainer, Rachel, suggested it she got a firm "No!" from me. But this week as I got more adjusted to riding Poco in Champ's saddle, got those muscles in my seat back, got my "groove" going, she suggested it again and I decided to give it a try.
I started with taking my feet out of the stirrups at a walk. My legs went behind me and I tilted forward. It wasn't pretty.
Then I recalled all those years as a kid when we never had time to saddle our horses. We were always in a hurry to ride and rode bareback. In the summer we'd take our horses swimming.
As a child and teenager I had the most wonderful exposure to water and horses. During warm weather my friend and I would take the horses down onto the Browns Point beach in Northeast Tacoma, WA. We'd usually ride the beach for miles, strolling along talking about whatever entered our minds.
On our return we'd take a dip in Puget Sound. The salt water always smelled so good. From the initial shock of getting my legs wet and then up to my waist (and above), the water initially shocked me but felt so refreshing.
My horse and I would go out deep. We'd be floating, his nose and upper neck the only things visible besides the upper part of me, reminding me of a little tug boat. It was true teamwork as I gave him his head, put a hand on his mane, floated over his back and let him swim unhampered from my guidance. I always felt that when I was out in the deep water swimming on horseback it was as close as one could come to flying with their horse.
We'd come back up onto the beach, both of us refreshed. I'd laugh while he shook. At this point there would usually be some coltish antics he'd put on, a sure sign that he was feeling good at the ripe age of 20+. I'd be wet, glued onto this back and never have an issue staying on while he went thru his 6 second routine. I always laughed at his little bucks, bareback in cutoffs and a halter top, no helmet, no fear, no worries. Falling was the furthest thing from my mind. I was young and free.
So when I pulled my feet out of those stirrups this week the above memories came back to me. Yes, I stumbled at first, but then my legs went forward and my heels naturally went down. For a brief moment I was again fifteen, back on that beach. I was riding my good old friend, Rusty, next to my best friend, Jayne, on her horse Northern Fly.
Rachel's amazed look and exclamation of "Wow! Good Job!", brought me back to the reality of being 50+, on my horse Poco, helmet intact, riding in an indoor arena in safe surroundings, no water in sight.
As I trotted around without stirrups I looked down at Rachel and grinned. I knew then that I'd never forgotten. I still remembered how to ride free.