Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Comfort Zone

When I was growing up, I loved watching the television show "The Twilight Zone." (Okay, that information really dates me.) Today I still love suspenseful movies that are filled with horror/chills/mystery as long as the violence isn't gratuitous. And the novels I write for children have tight plots, cliff-hangers, and spine-tingling scenes. But in reality, my life is more "The Comfort Zone" than "The Twilight Zone," especially when it comes to riding.

Laura has discussed in many posts about the traits of a sane horse and how she is now more excited about a pokey trail ride than a wild gallop after a cow. Me, too. Some of that is age (maturity, please) and some of it is the amount of time I have to exercise/train my horse. So in order to keep my rides free of gut-wrenching, hair-raising horse scares, I have perfected "the comfort zone."

I ride alone in wide open fields. Relish and I have been together for seven years since he was a two-year-old. He is not mean or ornery, BUT he is physically strong and mentally strong-willed. Every time we ride, his thinking process (as far as I can tell) goes like this: okay, she's made me walk back to the barn for seven years, but maybe this ONE time, if I break into a trot, she'll forget and I'll get to gallop . . . So we have had our moments. However, they have been few and far between because I have chosen to be cautious--not "scared out of my pants" cautious, but "let's avoid that" cautious.

I have only come off Relish once when a coyote leaped from a bush in the woods directly in front of us while we were trotting. Relish spun, the saddle slipped, I plopped to the ground, and he stood and stared at me as if to ask, "What the $%^& are you doing down there?" I was lucky he didn't take off with the saddle under his belly--a sure disaster. But I have mostly managed to avoid this type of accident, which is bound to happen on the trail, by sticking to my and Relish's comfort zones. Someone zooming a four-wheeler around the field? We go the other way. Wind blowing like crazy? We stick to trotting behind the barn. Spring fever making Relish antsy? Lots of circles on the only flat spot (groundhog holes carefully marked with sticks)in the field.

Some would say I am a chicken, and yup, I don't mind giving them a cluck or two. But at this point in my life, I am not interested in training a horse for competition, so for me, out alone on an unpredictable (by nature) animal, being chicken is fine. Not that I can avoid all disasters. Like the coyote they do happen. And I do spend time (when I can) getting Relish used to new 'spooks' (such as the blowing bag adventure) but I continue to minimize the risks I take and the bones I break by sticking to the comfort zone.

So how is your riding these days--are you into "The Twilight Zone" or "The Comfort Zone"? I'd love to hear your stories!


Laura Crum said...

Alison--Like you, I stick to my comfort zone--and yes, my friends have teased me about what a chicken I've become. I do love trail riding, but if its muddy, or too windy, or someone is using a chainsaw nearby (or anything else I deem "scary"), I stick to the arena. I'd rather be a chicken than laid up with injuries, thank you very much.

Laura Crum said...

Oh, and we just got "Bell's Star" yesterday. My son is very excited to read it. He is still in the middle of "Risky Chance," and enjoying it very much. I'll have him write a review for Equestrian Ink when he's done. I've read both books, and I think they are delightful reads for horse loving kids of my son's age (he is eleven). Thanks so much.

TBDancer said...

I prefer comfort but often have a mix of both zones while out riding. Today we started what will be a lengthy trek back to fitness, lengthier for ME than for the horse, I'd wager, but a nice leisurely walk around the neighborhood. I live in the Mojave Desert in a housing development surrounded by many dirt roads, so there are lots of trails to travel.

Unfortunately, many who live here do not "get" that livestock has the right of way. They figure if you're on a horse and the horse is spooky, it's your own fault if something happens (caused by their driving too fast near you). We had one minor spook--a diesel pickup swung wide to turn (we were both at the corner, us up on the trail--which would be a sidewalk if it were paved). It was already noisy but he didn't slow down OR turn carefully.

We enjoyed a "walk on the buckle" the entire way to/from the house, our first ride in over a YEAR. It was a very "comfort"-able experience.

Unknown said...

I prefer reliable. But currently have a horse who is a lot greener on the trail than I'd originally thought. Relaxing doesn't fit into our trail ride vocabulary yet, but I have hope in time it will get there.

Anonymous said...

I'm working on slowly extending my comfort zone again after my bad fall off Pie. I'm fine in the arena, even riding a hothead like Dawn, or dealing with Drifter's evasions, but on the trail I'm still coming down from being on high alert all the time, which doesn't help Pie. We're getting there - we have a good friend and her mostly very calm Morgan mare to ride with, which helps a lot. I'm not doing a lot of solo trail rides yet - must get Pie measured and saddle ordered . . .

lytha said...

This is a topic that has been in my thoughts a lot lately as I realize how out of the zone I am almost everytime I ride a different horse. I'm searching for my second horse after so many years of comfort zone on my dear first and only. I tell myself this is how a beginner feels, this is how my husband feels: this uncertainty not having built a relationship - not knowing what will happen from moment to moment. (He's not afraid, but he's certainly not in the zone.)

I have to relate it to skiing - I never know what's gonna happen and when I'll end up falling again, so it's impossible for me to enjoy it. It's the slick icy mountain controlling the skis, I am just a passenger.

I tell my husband, "Once you have a trust relationship built riding a horse, you can start to love it."

Oh, and I found that if possible, using my own saddle on a test ride on a green horse makes me so much closer to my comfort zone. That is just a trick the saddle is playing on my seat, which tells my brain I'm "home", I think, but somehow it works.

~lytha in germany

Alison said...

I've enjoyed all the response to "The Comfort Zone" and it sounds as if I am not the only one working for it.

Laura, I think us "mature" ladies aren't chicken--we just are well aware of the value of a intact, non achy body.

TBDancer-I think we all have a mixture and it sounds as if riders in the dessert are just hitting their peak riding season. Stay safe with the cars and trucks--you're right--it's THEM you can't trust.

Angie--good luck with your green horse. I hope you have someone with a 'packer' that you can follow.

Kate- YAY for the calm friend on the calm horse. Better than prozac!

Lytha--good luck finding your new horse. I know it took Francesca a while but now she is 'in love.'

Francesca Prescott said...

Hmmm...I think I'm ambidextrous when it comes to this subject as I like a little bit of both!!! Qrac was definitely a bit of a twilight zone for me when I first bought him back in April, but he's gradually moved into my comfort zone while still retaining just enough errr....twilightness to keep it stimulating. Nevertheless, I keep the twilightness to a minimum as much as I can. I always wear a helmet (and I know I'm not wearing one in my photo, but that was a while ago, and it was a fluke as I'd simply forgotten to get it out of the cupboard and couldn't leave him alone to go back and get it), and go out of my way to avoid potentially unpleasant situations (bulldozers, trucks, unidentified moving objects, etc). And as you said, I totally love him!

Alison said...

Cesca--a photo would have hidden your beautiful face.

I like the term you came up with: twilightness. Despite all my comfort zone efforts, Relish still veers into twilightness, too.

I love that you have found your soul mate (horse-style.)