Just before I went into surgery, I had told everyone that when I had lost enough weight I wanted to go horseback riding. Well, some ten months and a few weeks have flown by and I’ve lost a lot of weight — enough that I’ve begun to think I’m about ready for that horseback ride.
Why now? Well I came to that decision because I’ve recently run into a kind of weight loss/emotional slump. The weight loss is slowing down and I’ve been feeling a bit down lately – so I began looking around for something that would reenergize me – you know something that would pull me up by the bootstraps! Horseback riding might just be the ticket!
Now I realize that you just can’t hop on the first horse you find and head for the open prairie – you need a little instruction — at least I do. I haven’t been on the back of a horse since I was about four years old and according to my teenage daughter – that was when? – The Dark Ages! So I “googled” beginning horse riding lessons for adults, plugged in my zip code for good measure and was offered up several hundred stables that fit those set of key words.
Since I know absolutely zip about how to select an appropriate equestrian instructor, I relied wholly on the guidance of the all-knowing right hemisphere of my brain in the selection of a stable and an instructor. Late one night sat looking at about seven or eight stables closest to my house and I began narrowing it down to three that looked promising.
As I was looking and wondering if I was ready for this new adventure I ran across the Gilley Equestrian Center and got all gooey-eyed over a mature grey horse named “Sam” with a penchant for Starlight peppermints. The manager and principal instructor was Holly Gleiser. My right brain immediately sized up this young woman as a kind and competent instructor of children and adults in the art of horsemanship with infinite patience! So before I could change my mind I made my appointment and showed up for my first lesson.
I showed up early, eager and excited — because I had arrived about fifteen minutes before my scheduled lesson time, I tagged along as Holly finished her chores. The barn was neat and clean and I knew that I’d picked a good place to learn. Holly said I’d pair up with Oti, a chestnut gelding with big soulful brown eyes. I learned to curry, brush and clean Oti’s hooves. I was thrilled to be getting into the thick of things. While brushing, I began to lose some of my nervousness and enjoy the contact with this large gentleanimal. I asked a lot of goofy questions and chatted with Holly and Oti as I continued brushing him. Next was saddling up and putting on the bridle and reins. Now it was time to walk Oti into the arena!
I had my daughter video my first ride so I tried to be nonchalant about the whole thing, but I can tell you I was thrilled and a little terrified at the same time.
Here I was down one hundred pounds and small enough and in good enough shape physically to climb up on the back of a horse and ride! It wasn’t an easy thing to do either! You have to be an active participant when you’re on a horse, not just sit there like you’re sitting on a barstool.
After my first few lessons I’ve already learned it is difficult to communicate through your body to an animal what you want it to do. It’s even more of a challenge for me because I’ve realized I haven’t learned how to move around in my thinner body. Being on a horse showed me just how disconnected I was! How’s that for a lesson in humility? If I can’t communicate my intent to Oti, he doesn’t know what I want him to do. I’m glad that Oti is also very patient – when I don’t give clear instruction (which is often) he stops and looks back over his shoulder as if to say, “You poor thing, you don’t what you’re doing do you?” And he’s right; at the moment — I don’t!
I know that over time all this will get easier – but for right now I’m enjoying learning a new skill and learning something new about myself. I’ve grabbed my bootstraps and am pulling hard and with each lesson I feel a bit more in tune with myself and that’s probably what this is all about – communicating with yourself and learning to control your body and build confidence!
Let’s hope Oti and Holly can continue to be patient while I get to know myself. Hey one day I may even — post a trot!