Back in the Saddle

Time, the most valuable resource and there never seems to be enough of it. A toddler mom, with a demanding career that requires travel, five horses, four ponies, two sheep, and I’m not even sure how many chickens is always running out of time during the best of weeks. Everything must be prioritized, decisions must be made.

Clean house? If you spend more time in the barn there’s less time to make things dirty in the house, and if you’re in the barn you won’t notice whether the house is dirty or not. Laundry? Throw in a load on your way out the door, on the way back in the house move clothes to the dryer, and throw more stuff in the washer. There is nothing more exciting or satisfying than a successful laundry pile scavenger hunt when you have less than two minutes to find clothes for work. Clean laundry won’t see a closet until the next time we have overnight visitors.

It’s entirely possible to train two horses, three ponies, put in a full day of work, and spend time with the family if you’re training when everyone else is in bed. Training at night is also a great de-sensitizer. Shadows, deer, and cats springing out of nowhere give you a great idea how your horse spooks. So round and round we go at night under the stadium lights and hopefully fit in four daylight training sessions on the weekends when Offspring is taking his nap.

Then once you think everything is manageable and under control, everything spectacularly goes to shit. Your toddler comes home from daycare with germs of nuclear proportions. It feels like Hiroshima in your body. You just don’t plan for a full week of downtime, and mentally you’re not prepared either. Now you’re stuck in the house you should have cleaned better with piles of laundry you do not have the energy to deal with. You’re also jonesing for a ride like a crack addict craves coke. Dragging your diseased butt to the barn to see if you’ll have the strength to ride, you just return defeated to the couch. Then you scroll through your show calendar to count the days slipping away.

No equestrian can stand being side-lined. We will ride with broken bones, dislocated shoulders, and head injuries. Every equestrian has either experienced or witnessed a magnificently horrendous incident at a competition that would constitute a career’s end for any other athlete yet equestrians will get back on for one more ride before allowing the ambulance to haul them off.

All the while you’re on your death bed, your horses in work (currently on a week vacation) are being pumped full of high energy feed and supplements. You’re trying to build up top lines and muscles after all. Even though they’re on turn out, they are quietly grazing in the field letting all of that energy build.

The moment I could keep food down, I was headed to the barn. I still felt a little weak, but I wasn’t waiting to ride any longer. We had goals, flying lead changes by February. Comanche came bouncing out of the field. He was vibrating with energy. I had hoped for a leisurely ride, but the moment my butt hit the saddle he was off like a rocket. We’ve been working on standing after mounting, but tonight was not the night for that lesson. When I reined him back Comanche gave me his best grand prix piaffe imitation (moves like Jagger this one) so I let him out, and off he went full extended trot.

He felt six inches taller, we were catching so much airtime in between strides. It took a solid 15 minutes of this relentless trotting before he started to settle down into something resembling a horse and not a psychotic deer. We even managed a quasi controlled canter. I had planned on simply hacking this ride, put Comanche through his gaits, but he honestly felt so good I asked for the flying lead change. He popped up, kicked out the change, but then bolted sideways. We couldn’t end the ride with that sort of behavior, so now I was committed to a training ride. Round and round we go, will we stop? No one knows.

Comanche has trouble downshifting. Any leg pressure at the canter triggers full race mode. I’m not sure if this is a carry over from whoever put his first training rides on him or if he simply was never desensitized to a supportive leg. Whatever the case we are continuing to work on it. After about thirty minutes of canter serpentines, he gave me four decent flying changes and we called it night. The euphoria of being back in the saddle was beginning to wear off as the fatigue of my first physical activity in a week started to hit me.

So we’re one more ride closer to goal with some decent flying lead changes under our belt which means the next ride will be two steps backwards. Comanche will probably forget how to canter next time. It’s just the pattern I’m used to with him. Everyone in the family is finally over their colds, and hopefully Offspring is beginning to build up some immunity. It’s hard enough losing training time to the unpredictable Texas weather and my work travel schedule without spending an entire week inside on my death bed.

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