August 12, 2013
(If I could come up with a photo today, it would be of me wearing a determined face. You’ll have to use your mind’s eye to see it!)
Yesterday as I rode my motorcycle, I was thinking. I haven’t been able to think clearly for a while. There is nothing like the time spent on a long distance ride to make you think about the things that are going on in your life.
I was once again having somewhat of a pity party, thinking about how I wish I could go back to the 1980s and get myself back on the path I thoughtlessly abandoned. I want to go back there and shake myself by the shoulders and say, “Stupid girl! Get back on the horses!” Since I had already done it while I was growing up, I don’t know why I totally abandoned it when we moved here to Arizona. I worked briefly for an Arabian farm back then, but the horse market was not good and my timing was bad, so things got derailed.
I thought about all the things I’ve done over the years, probably to try to fill the void left by riding. First there was working out at the gym, the “old school” gyms where aerobics was the most popular sport, and no one who led it knew what they were doing, including me. We mostly were jumping around and going crazy to music, which was super-fun at the time (remember Flashdance?), but I am sure there are many people, again including me, who achieved not only fitness but also sports-induced chronic injuries. Tendonitis would be one example.
Next, there was figure skating. I watched the winter Olympics in 1988 and decided skating would be fun to try. I learned the basics of figure skating properly, then tried the jumps. I could get doubles some of the time but seemed to end up a quarter turn short most of the time. When your blade is sideways on the ice, it’s difficult to land gracefully, or even standing up. When I got tired of slamming myself into the hard surface of the ice, I changed to ice dancing. I enjoyed that a lot and found that I was good at it. But then I moved (“moved house”), and it was too far to go to the one ice rink in town at the time, at least not every day as I was used to. I gave it up because I guess I knew in my heart that I wasn’t ever going to be anything of note. It was fun, but I wasn’t a star at it.
While ice skating, I took up bicycling as a cross-training activity. Soon after I gave up ice skating, I was sucked into the world of mountain biking. At first it was hard, and I crashed all the time. But then as I learned how to finesse a bike through rough terrain, I tried mountain bike racing. I finished on the podium every time I raced. I only got first place a couple of times, but I was consistent enough to be in the lead in the points race all season – until the last race. I missed the championship by three or four points that first year. I continued riding and always was on the podium. It is a hard sport, though, and after five years I was physically tired. I still ride for pleasure and the challenge of technical terrain, but by 2002 I was done racing.
The natural progression was toward motorcycles after that, and I wanted to learn so I could ride dirt motorcycles. I learned to ride motorcycles in September of 2002, but somehow I got sidetracked into riding street bikes, and riding at the track. After a fairly bad crash in 2004, and then a minor crash a few months later, I gave up track riding, and got into long-distance riding. It wasn’t until fairly recently that I finally got a good dirt bike. You know from my stories how much I love it!
Tick-tock, and the alarm went off in my brain to get back into horses. I don’t really know what triggered it, maybe reliving those years as I researched my book, but I suddenly thought I need to get back to where I was, which was moving toward dressage riding. I also thought about how all the sports I’ve done might have been fun, but were ultimately poor substitutes for horse riding. All of this “stuff” I’ve been doing has been a search, a making up for not being an equestrian any more.
Now I’m back, with a vengeance. I’ve had four “real” horse rides, and I know I am back on track. At my first ride, I was disappointed that I wasn’t perfect, wasn’t where I had left off 30 years ago. Duh, it takes time to get things back. I couldn’t make my body go where it should have been in the saddle, couldn’t tell the horse to do what I wanted her to, even though I know where I wanted “us” to be. It was frustrating at first, and I cried on the way home. I was sad that I had to ride a horse that I hadn’t trained, a horse that I didn’t own, but I knew I wanted to be that talented equestrian again. I thought, this is the horse I have to work with, and I need to make things work for now. This is what I’ve been given, and it’s either that or I don’t ride. I made the choice to man up and do what I need to with what I have.
My last dressage ride was very positive, and I am learning quickly, soaking up knowledge like a sponge. I feel like I am almost back where I was. After I get back there, I want to take up where I left off. I call it “horse girl, interrupted.” It sucks that I am an old hag now, but I have a young body and mind. For that I am grateful. Either I do it now or I will never know how far I could have gotten.
I was at the tack store tonight trying to get some proper riding pants (“breeches”) but nothing fit me too well. While I was there, the owner, an older gentleman, listened to me complain about how fat I am. After he considered that for a while, he said “everyone else is worried about staying on the horse, and you’re worried about what your a** looks like while you’re there.” My answer was, “I learned how to stay on the horse when I was 9, and I’m worried about other things now.” He walked away, shaking his head, but I know a small smile played on his lips. I love that guy, he is so blunt; he’s why I go there. I didn’t get my riding pants this time, but I will, eventually. For now, I will have to wear 15-year-old jodhpurs and try to overlook the fact that they are not “proper” for dressage riding. I have to remember that at least I am on the horse and am able to do what I do, proper riding pants or not.
I am very determined that I will get somewhere with this. I might not have a horse, and I might not ever own another one, but I want the opportunity to ride a top-notch dressage horse. I have some work to do to get there, but it will be worth it in the end.