Back in my 20’s, I rode up to two hours a day with no problem.
Lessons were where I started, first at college then with a private instructor. She was a tiny little woman, but she had the courage of a lion and knew horses well. She had me ride bareback to develop my balance and the grip of my knees. And she had me jump low barriers as well, bareback. Yep, it was good. So good, in fact, that I bought my first and only horse, a wonderful twelve year old roan mare.
The mare and I rode for hours and I even showed her. My husband would tease me saying I kept her stall cleaner than our house. He was right! I was deathly afraid of her getting thrush because at that time, the accepted wisdom was that horses with light colored hooves contracted thrush much more easily than horses with dark colored hooves. I kept that stall as clean and dry as I possibly could. We made the monthly trip to pick up a truck load of wood shavings so I could completely change out her flooring.
Well, now it’s 2016 and American Pharaoh’s Triple Crown win has got me falling in love with the whole horse thing all over again after 37 years. I can safely say I’m addicted. It started innocently enough with a casual trail ride at a local stable, riding Western. Being out in the country on a horse again was pure bliss. I wanted more. So, after that initial ride, I went back for about a month for regular lessons. But the “lessons” weren’t like anything I remembered. Time to look elsewhere.
About an hour away, a stable offered English riding lessons and it sounded like it might be a good fit, and it was. I am riding an older lesson horse, a mare, who is so patient and so even tempered that she even puts up with me!
The part that I’m working on is getting on and off. I just don’t have the hip and leg mobility that I did in my ‘20’s, despite doing yoga and Tai Chi for two years. My instructor, Amber, and my patient mount, Diva, have been absolutely wonderful. We get the steps, we line Diva up, and then I grab her mane, put my foot in the stirrup and attempt to swing that other leg up and over. We’ve been working on this for a little over a month now, and it is getting easier.
Thinking of some of my past lessons, I asked Amber if I could ride bareback. She agreed to go as far as taking the stirrups off and for thirty long minutes, I worked to maintain my seat and my knee grip. It was exhausting work, and led to some discoveries. I have aged. In my head, I can still ride as if I were in my twenties. My body tells me otherwise. Amber and I discuss this and we agree it might be wise if I see a physical therapist.
So I trot down to have myself checked out. And we find things like arthritis. Scoliosis. Stuff like that. I am set up for six weeks of an exercise routine to build up my core and my seat. Turns out I’ve over compensated with my legs which are fine and dandy, but the muscles supporting my core are not strong. This getting old stuff has me shaking my head; it’s so easy to not be physically active but I am committed to getting back to something I love: the world of horses. Is there anything better?
PS. Thank you, American Pharaoh for the inspiration!