Saturday, September 06, 2008

Back on the Horse. Literally.

One of the things that I've wanted to do since moving to New Hampshire is ride again. I started riding at a very young age. I'm not even sure how young I was, but I want to say 6 or so. It was something I remember always desperately wanting and I guess my parents finally got sick of my bothering them about it and gave in. Anyway, I started young and rode until I was in my early 20s. When I was around 9 or 10 or so I started competing some, mostly in equitation and hunt seat. But when I was a little older I became very interested in dressage and eventing (which is 3-phased, comprised of: dressage, cross-country jumping and stadium jumping) and I did that for a while. I even went to a prestigious eventing school one Summer and also taught riding informally for a Summer or two as well. Anyway, horses and riding were a HUGE part of my life. As a matter of fact, as a child I never ever even considered children in my future, but I always fantasized that there would be horses in my life, and plenty of dogs too.

Of course the reality is, I ended up working and living in NYC, not a very practical place to pursue this particular passion. If you have significant wealth, it's doable, but for the average person, it's really not the place to live if you expect to have horses in your life. So, once I moved to NH, returning to riding again was in the back of my mind. However, there was the immediate problem of all this weight to lose. No way was I getting back on a horse until some significant bulk was gone. Additionally, for people who haven't really ridden (at least beyond a simple trail ride where you're mostly just a passenger), it's a surprisingly athletic pursuit. I didn't want to be all out of shape on the back of a horse, because then your time becomes more about how out of shape you are and not about riding and improving and learning and progressing and whatever. So I decided that now that I've lost about 50 lbs and now that I am in significantly better shape (not great yet, but getting there), I decided that it was time to introduce riding. Finally.

There are a good number of stables in this area (I just LOVE where I live) and most do the kind of riding that I'm interested in. So I figured maybe I'll try a few out and see where I'm going to fit in. Today was my first lesson with my first barn. I had figured that I hadn't even been ON a horse in over 22 years. Not even for the lowliest trail ride or anything. I had no idea what to expect really. But it went great! Certainly I'm not in riding shape, there is nothing that can really get you ready for it but riding itself. The rhythm, balance and muscles used can only really develop from riding consistently. You can be in decent aerobic shape and you can be strong. You can have decent balance and all that, but the exact combination of everything to bring back your "riding legs" needs to be accomplished by merely riding. So, as a result, my legs swung, etc. but it was to be expected. But the other stuff, the stuff I really wasn't sure about seemed to be mostly there. That is my confidence and instincts on a horse. So I'm pretty encouraged, I think that it may come back afterall (with a lot of work, of course).

The owner of the barn gave me my lesson. And at the end she told me that I am going to be absolutely excellent. She said that she is actually very excited because she thinks that I'm going to be very good for them. I'm not sure exactly what she means by that, but it sounds exciting to me. I made a lesson for next Saturday too (I have to call and confirm that with her, since I just wrote it in on her calendar).

After my ride, two of the barn girls hanging around helped me wash down my horse. I have to appreciate these little girls, girls after my own heart (I was them, eons & eons ago). I also appreciate a barn that allows and expects you to help with the horses. The owner (Rowena) said that I should hang out whenever I want. Oh, the other thing was, she asked me what took me so long to come back to riding and I told her that I wanted to lose some weight first. She said, "why do they ALL say that? Lose weight on a HORSE! Just ride." I gotta love that.

Oh, one last thing. She also spoke to me about possibly thinking of "half leasing" a horse. Apparently the horse itself is essentially "free", but you share boarding costs (so you pay $250 a month), half farrier and a few other costs, but you can ride 3x a week. It might be a really interesting option for someone like me who has always wanted to own a horse, but for a fraction of the cost and not a big commitment. Time is the biggest issue for me right now, however. I don't know if I even HAVE three days free for riding. Anyway, something to think about. I would want to get my riding legs back some first anyway.

So, anyway, I'm excited and encouraged and really looking forward to getting back into it. I loved just even being around the horses, being in that environment again. This is one of my rewards for working so hard on my physical self this year, something that has been missing from my life for decades is coming back to me now and I couldn't be happier about it.

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