Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Year on the Ground

Well, this is it.

My longest drought since I got into the game.

People ask me how I manage.

"I stay busy," I reply.

Christmas Day marked 365 days since I was on the back of a horse, and I can hardly believe it. Not in a where did the time go? kind of faux-nostalgic way, because years are long, and the only reason why people think they are short is because they don't want to admit that they put off their Christmas shopping until the last week of December again (you know who you are).

Years are long.

Especially when you haven't been on a horse.

But I stay busy, as I say. I don't want to go so far as to say that 2011 was my best year ever because I didn't get on a horse, but then again, my knees, ankles, lower back, and ring fingers are all simply thrilled with this turn of events, so there is that. My middle-section was less than enthusiastic about the sudden lack of exercise, sparking my decision to go on a diet which I never would have considered were I still flinging manure and posting trot for miles on end, and since said diet has left me healthier than I have ever been in my life ever, there is that, as well.

Now, this isn't too say that I don't  think about horses. I think about horses roughly 75% of the time. I just think about them differently. More abstractly.

Instead of puzzling over Gelding A's mysterious lameness and Mare B's chronic rain rot from hell and Colt C's addiction to biting, I think about horses in the plural. Hundreds of thousands of horses. I worry over them. I research them. I write about them. I obsess over the horses of the world much the same way I used to obsess over the horses in my field.

I'll always be a horsewoman. You can't take that out of a person. But we all have different ways of contributing to the horse world. For me, right now, it's to spend my days at a desk, puzzling out how to turn retired racehorses into gold medalist Olympians. I spend so much time on Retired Racehorse Blog, I have to figure out a blogging schedule that will stop it from interfering with my fiction writing. In fact, when I have weeks like last week (ten thousand page views as the whole Thoroughbred world came to back up my post "Show Jumping's Wake Up Call") it's hard to think how else I could be of use to horses.

And I have to admit, I like the hours I'm keeping much better now. I never was a morning person. As Robert B. Parker once wrote, "Racehorses get up early as hell." Like, right around my preferred bed-time.

This year's goal, though: get on a horse. A couple of times. Maybe once a month. Dressage lessons in Prospect Park would suit me just fine. It's going to take a few more book sales to make that happen, though. So I guess I better get back to my novel.


AareneX said...

First off, thanks for writing the "Show Jumping" article. It rocks. I don't suppose, anywhere in the 86 comments, that anybody mentioned Standardbreds? >g<

Second off, girl, go get on a horse. Your knees may be enjoying the respite, but your heart will remember why you love horses when you get back on board.

Best wishes for the new year!

Laura Crum said...

Natalie--I loved the show jumping article, too--though I know nothing about show jumpers, TBs or warmbloods, really. But what you said (and quoted) in that article makes perfect sense, and what an incredibly good solution for TBs that need homes (so many) and people who can't afford the warmblood they think they need to win (lots of those, too).

And yeah, I hope you get to ride in 2012. Having owned horses non-stop since I was 15 (and I'm 54), I actually can't imagine living without them, though I can see what good work you are doing for horses in general. I did have one year I didn't ride--year I got pregnant at 43 and had my baby. But I hope that's the only non-riding period. Knocking on wood here.

Happy New Year to you!

Laura Crum said...

OK--I just read some of the 86 comments on the "Show Jumping" article, and what I saw was a lot about what TBs are like to ride and train. I could not help noticing that my breed of choice (QH) got slammed a bit. Now I know the subject was potential show jumpers (again, something I know nothing about), but I would like to make a general comment about QHs.

I have trained a bunch of QHs, almost all of cowhorse bloodlines. I trained them to be cutters, cowhorses, ranch horses, trail horses, and rope horses. As a group, they were very well adapted to these pursuits. I trained exactly one TB horse. He was very much as many described TBs in the comments on your article. Smart, hard tryer, well intentioned, full of go, hard keeper, extremely athletic, made the QHs look lazy. He was very fast (by our standards as ropers). He was also much less sensible, inclined to view "charge" as the answer to any dilemma, and far more inclined to hurt himself than the more laid back QHs. I found him harder to train, primarily because I wasn't used to such a collection of attributes. He never did make the kind of solid trail horse that many of my QHs made--he was bold and willing, not spooky, but again, simply resorted to charging ahead when things got tough, rather than looking hard and being careful. And, as I was training him to be a rope horse, it took me FOREVER to teach him to rate off. He wanted to beat the steer, not fall back when he caught up. It was all quite fascinating and I did love him. We just put him down this fall at 27. But I would say that QHs are better suited to some pursuits and TBs better suited to others--not that one is more difficult to train than the other. It all depends what you want to do, and what you're used to.

Natalie Keller Reinert said...

AareneX and Laura... I PROMISE I will try really hard to find my way on to the back of a horse this year.

As for Standardbreds and Quarter Horses... well, I can only keep up with that conversation over there.

Alison said...

Natalie--great post. You seem too young to have all those physical ailments! But I know that any sport, especially one involving racehorses, can be tough on one's body.

Good luck finding that horse to ride and keep up the good work (and writing.)