Last fall, I pulled the “horseback riding” card from my life-long bag o’ dreams and went out and pursued it. That’s how I came to realize that I live and love in horse country, Virginia. My town is small, and usually when we head anywhere, we head toward northern Virginia. However, when I went to Ironwood Farms for my first lesson, I discovered a whole new world–a side of Virginia I’d never seen before–and it’s practically in my own backyard.
Since then, I’ve devoured all that is close-by and horse-related. My favorite part of all this is Sebastian.
He’s an older, male Norwegian Fjord, and boy do I ever heart Sebastian. He’s gentle and kind. The trainers and instructors call him “Lazy,” but I call him “Love.” We have a connection, and when we practice jumps, the instructors always say, “He probably won’t jump. He’ll just trot over the bar because he doesn’t do anything he doesn’t want to do.” I love when they say things like that. I lean down next to Sebastian and rub his shoulder. I say nothing, but I think, I love you so much. You’re more than that. And he jumps. Just for me.
In lessons, I’ve ridden other horses. Like, last Thanksgiving I rode a gelding named Sage. It felt more like wrangling than riding, but I enjoyed the experience. This past weekend, I rode Haley–the farm’s prized mare. She wins shows and contests. She’s power, and I’m new. When it came time to practice jumping, she took the bar like a champ. I came down in my saddle too early, bumped back ends with her, hers won, and threw me loose of my stirrups and reins. The next thing I knew, I was in the dirt and, on impact, I became scared stiff. I lay there like a rag doll, refusing to move.
Within minutes, I found that I could move. I remained in shock, because it never occurred to me that I might fall off a horse. Oh, I know that it happens–I figured it happens outside the training ring, with the unexpected and unpredictable. And I know my error, I realize exactly why I fell off the horse, but I’m still shocked that it happened. Before now, the ring seemed like a safe and cushy little area where I played with horses.
Tell you what I’m thinking about today: scary what if’s. It’s my first day alone with the fall. I had company over the weekend, and my husband was home. Man, do I love that husband o’ mine. He makes me feel better like nobody’s business. It’s like he’s got a storage bank of the right things to say, and he’s just always prepared with the perfect verbal gift. But today, he went to work and they make him earn his paycheck or whatever–something or other about I can’t call him every five minutes to gain reassurance about my horseback riding fall.
And every time I move, I’m reminded of what the fall did to my body. I’m also realizing, right here in the middle of April when I’m usually bikini-judging myself, that man, do I love this body o’ mine. I love the way it moves, functions, and performs. It takes my spirit for horseback rides, jogs, and plays active games of hide-n-seek (and giggle) with the kids. I love it–every single working inch and pound of it–and I’m so grateful.
So, when I got up from the fall, I closed my eyes for a moment of peace and then I got back on the horse. She felt bigger and more powerful than she had even moments before, and I thought being in the saddle was enough. I’d gotten back on the horse. The instructors didn’t agree. We had to trot and practice jumping twice more. I can still do it, I just secretly wish it would always and only be with the gentle Sebastian.
It is not enough for a man to know how to ride; he must know how to fall. ~ Mexican Proverb