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.