Last December I published a post on this blog titled Horseback Riding As A Motivation. In it I explained that after having been sidelined from horseback riding for over two years because of numerous health challenges, I’d decided last spring that I was ready to get back to riding, only then to rupture an Achilles tendon days before my renewed effort, thus adding more than another year to the wait.
Certainly I wasn’t a great rider, but I’d become a confident one over the years and had remained relatively physically fit. I’d competed in dressage, show jumping and cross-country events. My wife, Karen and I had gone on horseback riding trips in Ireland, and I’d ridden in a few foxhunts there during which the riding went on non-stop for four or five hours, much of it at a flat out hand gallop over fields, stone fences and impossibly wide ditches. These rides were terrifying, exhilirating, insanely hard, and phenomenally satisfying.
Spurred by those memories, in May of this year, by then about 31/2 years since I’d ridden, I decided again that I was ready to give it a shot though I wasn’t feeling exactly confident or physically fit any more.
Though mounting sounds simple enough there are a number of steps that must be performed crisply and correctly so that you end up properly seated and otherwise prepared to start riding while keeping your horse calm throughout the process.
Not this time.
With my left leg in the stirrup, incorrectly I had the toe of my boot pointed into the horse’s ribs, making him jittery at the outset. As I pushed off with my left foot and rose, my right leg lurched over the saddle rather than smoothly sliding over it. Off balance, instead of quietly seating myself, I fell forward and grabbed onto my horse’s neck, then thudded into the saddle rather than easing into it, thus unnerving him even more. Then, instead of calmly finding my right stirrup, my right leg flopped around like a fish out of water, desperately searching for the stirrup, and I ended up kicking my horse in the effort, thus urging him to move forward when neither he nor I were ready.
Otherwise I’d done a great job mounting.
Fortunately, Karen had a hold of the reins near the horse’s mouth and thus was able to prevent him from doing what, no doubt, he wanted to do–dump me.
Not pretty. OK, my wife is pretty, but what I’d done in mounting wasn’t pretty.
I proceeded just to walk him around the ring for perhaps thirty minutes, most of the time grippping with my thighs, exactly the wrong thing to do. I apologized to him the whole time for how I’d unintentionally mishandled him. He shook his head and snorted. I guess he wasn’t impressed. Even though I’d done no trotting or cantering, I’d been so tense the whole time, and was so out of shape, that when I dismounted I felt as though my legs had turned to jello. I could barely walk him back to the barn and by then was so exhausted that I allowed my wife to untack him and put him away. When we got home I virtually collapsed onto our bed.
So, mister-bigshot-who-rides-in-foxhunts-in-Ireland, how do you feel now? the snarky part of me said to the then not-so-confident part of me. The then-not-so-confident part said, Shut up, as I formed images of jumping stone fences in the Old Sod, and believing that someday, in the full sense of the phrase, I’d be back in the saddle again.