Along for the ride:

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Back in the Saddle.

Gary Cooper is a really odd name for a young palomino riding school horse. No matter. I am still having a hard time transitioning from saying "Good Dog" to "Good Horse". Maybe I should just call them all "Dahling" as one of my girl friends  recommended long ago in a conversation about amours of the two-legged variety.
When my foster dogs were finally (after 6 months) situated in great homes I had a doctor look at my poor ankle. I knew I had twisted it months previously but I had kept up the-five miles a day, tired dog is a good dog-regimen which is my recipe for success for animals and children alike. I was O.K. walking off the stiffness every day but I was awake most nights with pain. I was supplied with a leg brace, ibuprofen and told to sit and stay for three weeks to allow the tendon to begin the healing process.
I went to all my Christmas parties wearing my nice supportive, flat and surprisingly fashionable riding boots; cleaned and polished for the occasion, of course. Now, after six  weeks, I am beginning to have whole days without noticing a twinge in my ankle. I'm off the pills. I started walking again; although it is not as motivating alone. The greatest thing is that I once again can snatch some time to ride.
There is a picturesque horse barn at the top of the hill, a couple of miles from my home. Situated next to an open space preserve, surrounded by their own vineyards, they cater to private livery horses, a vaulting team, Western trail rides or lessons and English Riding Instruction; with wine tasting available for good measure.
I had ridden there before but the one instructor I like (she's German) only had mid-week, mid-morning openings and I am supposed to be trying to earn a living too. In addition, the school horses were over-bitted to keep them safe for all comers. I am uncomfortable trying to ride on the bit when a horse has a hugely strong contraption to worry about. I had given up and started riding elsewhere. The lessons fit my schedule on a Sunday morning, the bits were mostly snaffles and the teacher had some knowledge to impart. The negatives were the lack of a covered arena, so no shade from our California sunshine, and a group of horses that, although well-fed and only worked a couple of hours each day, had seen better days. Nacho, my designated mount, was responsive and rewarding to ride but often slightly lame at the beginning and prone to stumble for no apparent reason. He fell to his knees a couple of times over the months I rode him and I became wary and was sitting deep in the saddle trying not to get myself killed. The foster dogs came along and the decision was made for me as I no longer had the time for both. Even though I have a couple of rides to my credit, I have been hesitant to go back to where I feel guilty about riding the horses.
There are other barns and equitation centers around. Not many give instruction to those who are not interested in buying a horse. There are a few good ones that I cannot afford. $90 for thirty minutes is beyond my budget. Life is all about choice and compromise and sometimes luck.
I started the week with stressful thoughts about business, the economy, clients etc. and couldn't go home on Monday evening feeling as twitchy and negative as I was feeling. I let my car pass the turn off for home and drove up the canyon to at least breathe in some horsey air.
There was a lesson in the arena and I stood and watched as dusk fell, surrounded by the sounds and smells that are so familiar to me and yet mostly missing from my current life. I went into the office with the notion of reading the notice board. Sometimes a horse owner needs someone to share the load and will propose a part lease; again not a perfect solution but I am open to suggestions. The notice board was not there, the office recently repainted. "Hello" greetings with the friendly gal behind the desk who did not need any explanation when I said "I was stressed and needed some Horse". It is like being adrift in a wide shipwrecked ocean and being thrown a life raft. "I know what you mean" she said. "Hang out. Go say hello to the horses in the barn". I feel the tension dissolving between my shoulder blades. Maybe I won't cry or bite someone today after all. "Does..T? still teach here?" "Does she have any openings that fit my schedule?" "Friday at 5pm? Great!"
All week I looked forward to getting back into the saddle. Gary Cooper happens to be ridden in a snaffle and I think we can both help one another and make some progress. I had to lengthen my stirrups a hole to accommodate my gimpy ankle. I might ride without stirrups entirely a few times just to avoid irritating it all over again. I already ride longer than you would expect if you saw my short legs so no big deal. This coming week we're planning some turns on the forehand and serpentine work. G.C. needs some balance support and I have "repressed muscle memory" issues to work through.
An offshoot of the morale boost that I got from planning something just for myself was the incentive to plan something else. We are booked into a cabin by a lake Friday and Saturday nights with a pontoon boat at our disposition. The locals are supplying a map so that we can find where the migrating Eagles are nesting (with safety instructions on staying well clear). I hope to see something wonderful that I have never seen. If not, there will still be lake views, deer, quail and unspoiled Nature. Not too shabby a downside. A definite win, win situation and I'm riding on Thursday so I won't miss a thing.


  1. It was obviously meant to be, you and Gary Cooper.
    Sounds like everything is on the upswing with some pleasant times to look forward to. Plus you've given me something to consider next time I'm snarky - I might just mosey on down the road and take a few inhalations by the paddock.

  2. "I need some Horse." Love it. All I need to do is just walk into a barn with horses and peace sweeps over me. It's a beautiful thing.

    Glad to hear your ankle is better and you are getting some saddle time in. Sounds as if you and Gary could be a match made in heaven...or at least on that hill.

    Just being with a horse is something special.

    Another thing the non-horse world would never understand.

  3. What a lovely post from you, I could feel the tension dissipate as you discussed 'getting some horse', how lush. That is a gift we want to give to our daughters: time to ride.
    I'm right with you on the whole tendon thing, slow progress, indeed, but it is getting there, on my end, slow but sure.
    Enjoy those rides, I envy you.

  4. Glad to read you managed to fit in some quality saddle time :)
    Good all horsey magic.

  5. Good that you are back in the saddle again. Be careful out on that lake.

    We have Bald Eagles that winter here. I love watching them.

  6. Great to hear you're back riding, I'm sure Gary Cooper will do the trick. I need my horse fix too and with all the snow I haven't ridden in a couple of weeks, far too long. I look forward to reading about your progress in the saddle.

  7. I'm so happy that you have found some time to do something you love again! My daughter is 6 and is begging for riding lessons. I still think she's a bit too small but we are getting closer to that day. Have a wonderful time getting some horse. :)

  8. Glad that you're doing better and have found a partner to get you back in the saddle! I hope you have a great weekend getaway too. Sounds divine!

  9. fantastic! I miss having a horse of my own (one I can ride).. sitting up on the pony for five minutes at a time doesn't really count, but puts the yearning on hold for a bit.
    It's strange to hear horses being overbitted and such a shame, especially just so beginners can ride them, perfect for ruining a mouth as I'm sure you know. Glad you've found a nice fella, gary Cooper is such a cool name too!
    Hope the ankle gets better, i know the twinge. I've broken both of mine, three times between them, lol. I'm past fixin i reckon :-)

  10. Hey, sounds like you almost found your pony there...

    Take care of that ankle... pain free walking is a pleasure to treasure (this from someone who has sprained or broken both ankles at various times... the last time a few years ago got me six weeks on crutches, and then a long rehab program involving jumping on a trampoline...)

    Always a pleasure to read you... true grit...

  11. This was such an uplifting post. I hope you and GC go on to have a lot of fun together.

  12. You are all wonderful and your comments are greatly appreciated and carry me forward. I have not had time to commit to the individual answers you all deserve. Please forgive this general response for once.
    I have been busy with work this week, which is a jumping up and down good thing. I have had some creative demands to meet designing for clients. I have had to resort to using my rowing machine to loosen the muscles in my back that I annoyed by my return to equitation. What's that darn "no pain, no gain" truism? I have also had my nose stuck in a book my sister sent me for Christmas, full of lesson plans and school figures for the horse and rider. My husband took a look at it and decreed that it looked from the figures as though it was all about riding in circles. He's not so far wrong in that. The difference in our points of view is that I see that as a good thing.

  13. Go Gary! Sounds like this is a great start to 2010.

  14. Trudi, to be continued...can't wait!

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