Sunday, February 8, 2009

Why do I do This?

While this post could apply to writing, as in "why do I write when I don't make any money at it?" It's not about writing today. It's about riding.

I had my first lesson last Thursday in over four weeks. I didn't want to ride that night. In fact, I considered different ways to get out of it. My trainer has a policy that it you don't give her 48 hours notice of a cancellation, you still pay. Many times, this has forced me to go ahead and take my lesson even when I didn't feel like it.

So I trudged into the barn, resigned that there was no way out. My mare is in the first stall as you walk down the aisle. She had her butt to the door until she saw me. She turned around and poked her nose through the bars, happy to see me and probably wondering where the heck I'd been all these weeks.

Ever since I sold my first book and started writing "professionally," it's gotten harder and harder to drag myself to the barn. I have so little free time that I sometimes wonder why I continue to juggle all these balls. Lately, it seems like riding would be the first to go, especially riding dressage.

As you know from previous posts, Gailey has been in her winter shying mode, and it's been driving me insane. So that makes me dread riding all the more. Since no one had ridden her in a week, I wasn't expecting a fun time of it. So I saddled up, feeling a little better because I do love this horse. She seemed genuinely happy to see me, too. I walk to the arena, climb on, and started warming up. My mare is wound up and raring to go, which isn't always a bad thing. When she's like that, it's easier to get her to sit on her hindquarters and get her shoulders out of the ground. She has huge powerful shoulders, and she'd much prefer pulling herself along with those shoulders.

With low expectations, I walked around the arena, then trotted. My mare likes to overpower me with her big gaits so she can fall on her forehand and tow me around. So from the first stride of trot, I kept my legs on, did half halts, and kept her at a controlled pace. Usually at this point one of us starts pulling, she starts going faster, and so it goes. That didn't happen. I reminded myself not to pull, but to take then give until she started increasing her speed instead of her power, then it was take-give again.

Okay, I've ridden dressage for probably 30 years now. I understand the basics. I know how it's supposed to work. I also know that as an uncoordinated adult, the doing is much harder than the understanding. I've never been great at coordinating my seat, legs, and hands. I also have a tendency to stiffen and pull rather than relax and ask.

As our lesson starts, and my trainer asks for more power with no more speed, I actually do it without pulling. Then we canter. Lately, this has been the gait I can't seem to balance. Much to my surprise, I did it. I have this bad habit of half-halting at the bottom of the stride instead on the up-side. That night, I kept her up and balanced between my hand and legs.

And wonder of wonders, no pulling. So by now, I'm having a good time. Everything is coming together. I've totally forgotten that I'd dreaded doing this an hour before.

At a break I talk with my trainer about not having the ambition to ride and reasons that I, and many others, keep doing this. Besides all the obvious reasons which any horseperson knows--that uncontrollable love of horses--we discussed our friends who don't ride. What do they do in the winter? They sit on their butts in their warm houses and watch TV. Riders don't do that. They go to the barn no matter the weather. Dressage requires the horse and rider be in shape so you have to ride. If I didn't have this horse and I didn't ride dressage, I'd be one of those women sitting on their butts, especially now that I'm writing seriously.

My instructor's personal trainer at the gym mentioned to her that all the riders he see are actually pretty toned. I also know that when I get massages, the masseuse is always surprised how in shape I am when I tell her I don't "work out."

So I now have renewed ambition to ride again rather than give it up. I know it gets me out of the house in crappy weather. I know it keeps me in relatively good shape. I know it keeps me young, compared to all my friends of the same age. And most of all, I remember once again why I do this.

So I guess I'm going to keep slogging to the barn even when I don't want to ride. Once I put my foot in that stirrup, I forget why I didn't want to do this.

When it all comes together on the back of a horse there isn't a greater high on earth


Anonymous said...

"Once I put my foot in the stirrup, I forget why I didn't want to do this." That's me, too. Once I actually climb on, I'm glad to be there. But I can come up with plenty of excuses to avoid getting em brushed and saddled. Especially now, when they're all muddy. Not to mention its raining and I have no covered arena. But give me a run of sunny days, and I'll be back at it.

Fantastyk Voyager said...

That is so true!!! I avoid riding sometimes and then when I'm in the saddle, I wonder why? Is it the grooming and saddling that's a deterrent? Or worrying that the ride won't go well? Laziness? I don't really know. Sometimes, I think it's because I have no one to ride with. But I do know that I hate exercising and yet I stay relatively fit all year round. I often tell myself it would be much cheaper to just buy a gym membership than owning horses. And then I just laugh because I know I couldn't stand that!
I rarely get sore from riding too and that includes bareback trotting sessions so it must be doing me some good!
I managed to ride three times last week! Proud of me? I sure am!

Fantastyk Voyager said...

Oh, I forgot to say, hooray for you and your great ride. I love it when things click and you get a nice ride. It's such a warm feeling inside, isn't it?

mugwump said...

I'm battling the same thing myself. I just committed to a season of cutting so I hope that will help me get in gear!

Anonymous said...

Up until a few years ago I used to run a fair bit - trained 30-40 km per week and ran 5, 10 or 15 km races. When I wasn't running, I tried to do a bit of aerobics. I hated it so I switched back to jogging, but only managed 10-15 km/week on a treadmill. I started re-riding 3-1/2 years ago. I much prefer to get my "exercise" riding a horse, for all the reasons that horse crazy people give. It beats aerobics hands down. It's helped me regain my posture and balance and it's not so hard on the joints. It's even helped my carpal tunnel syndrome. I wish I could ride more than once a week so that I can slim down some more and look like a real rider (I've got a Clydesdale build LOL) but that's all the time my DD has right now. I still try to find some time for the tread mill while watching my favorite horse DVDs. Bottom line, NOTHING is as much fun as riding.

Jami Davenport said...

Laura, I wonder why we do make excuses not to ride. I had another great ride on her on Thursday. I'm hoping once this book is turned in the end of the month, I can get back into a riding routine.

Jami Davenport said...

FV, I used to keep my horse at home. It was very islolated. I'd often not ride because I missed the social aspect. Now, even though I have this wonderful barn, I board my horse because I miss the people. They give me incentive to ride.

Jami Davenport said...


If someone asked me: What's the one thing you like to try on the back of a horse? It would be cutting. It looks like so much fun. I'm afraid I'd fall on my butt, though.

Jami Davenport said...


I'm with you. I'd rather get my excercise on the back of a horse. I hate going to the gym. I love walking, but sometimes the weather just isn't conducive, but riding is still the most fun excercise I've every tried.