Thursday, February 24, 2011
Horseback Riding-the new Tap Class
When I was in the throes of my tap dancing fetish (An object of unreasoning devotion or concern, Webster's Dictionary)I was happy, I was exercising and I had a great time. Since my neuropathy and other health issues have caused me no lack of pain and frustration, I have not been tapping for a good long while. I miss it every day. I have experienced all those things again, and to my surprise, it involves a 1000 lb. animal. I am thrilled to report that I actually DID something I have been thinking about for a long time, and it turned out to be better than my imagination could have prepared me for. My good friend Melissa and I have been discussing all the ways to get out of our winter doldrums, and horseback riding has appeared on our collective list for awhile. We were set to get out for lunch on Wednesday, and as I was a bit early for our established time of 12:00 noon, I decided to swing into the stable I was passing by and get the particulars. Wednesdays at 7:00 PM, there was an adult beginners class. One hour for $20. Not bad. I can blow $20 very quickly and without even batting an eye at the expense-most of us can. So this price seemed fair and worth our while. When I reported this information to Melissa, we were in a quandry because she was already committed to her Wednesday night Bible Study, and so it seemed that I might have to go it alone. As the day progressed, and my powers of persuasion (of COURSE God is in the stables with the horses, it's just a different place of worship) took over, (all of which I do believe in truth), it became apparent that we would be taking our first horseback riding lessons as adult beginners. We arrived at exactly 7 PM, because although we are both timely adults, I was involved with Allison and was her ride to her friends house. We would have been early enough to witness the class before ours, and perhaps get a few pointers, but instead, pulled up to the farm at precisely the stroke of seven. Going inside the barn, which is not heated, we were greeted by our instructor Ron. He is the epitomy of a cowboy, in my eyes. I'm sure he was wearing wrangler from head to toe, but not in a fashionable way. It was strictly business. His clothes were dusty and dirty and clearly his job is in a barn. No doubt that he has a "hands on" type of job. I have been acquainted with Ron since 2008, when Allison took riding lessons in a young people's group. He was a character then, he is a character now. Inside the arena were two people on horses, riding and working with their own horses. I guessed that they board them there. Sitting on a chair right outside the arena was the cutest Jack Russel Terrier, watching all the proceedings with an acute eye, but not a sound. Melissa and I were joking with each other, because we both have that same sense of humor, which is to use jokes to cover fear. We were awash with humor. I have ridden before, but always in a very controlled and pre-planned environment. I've done trailriding on horses that were so sick of their trail they were doing it with their eyes closed. The rider could have been screamiing "WHOA, WHOA" and the horse would only have followed the lead rider, because that was the plan. This was a different environment. We would be learning to communicate with horses in order to have them (and us) understand what it was that we wanted them to do, and in turn, they would do it. This, for me, was new. For Melissa, this was REALLY new, because she had never before been on a horse. Not even at a fair where the horse rides in a circle the way you do as children. This was her first time. Scary. I admire her for stepping out and taking it on. That's a big deal. Anyway, we followed Ron, who had saddled up two horses, into the ring. He led the horses over to a double sided stairway, which I followed up to the top, three stairs, at his direction. We got me onto the horse, where I saw while he helped Missy onto hers. My horse, Smokey, was gentle and docile, and stood waiting for my direction. I had none. Once Missy was up and saddled on Jordon, we were ready for instruction. The first instruction was all about holding the reins and being "In charge". We learned to get the horses to walk, stop, circle, reverse, faster and slower. It was the first half hour where all the instruction went on. The next half hour, we put it into practice and circled the arena over and over with our charges. The other two people on their horses in the area would make some joke, and we would laugh, and it was all pretty special. Ron got on a horse and joined us circling the ring. We spent the rest of the class just riding, talking, relaxing and conversing. The beautiful and powerful horses would just move at our direction, quietly, while we held our conversations and took it all in. This is where the magic hit. It was the best time I have experienced in a long time. I am excited to report that these rides can turn into trail rides through the Adirondacks and upstate New York. Ron rides with a group who will trail into the woods and spend full weekends riding. Learning to be comfortable on the horse and hearing about all the possibilities, once we learn to really ride, was an exciting and heady thing. Being in the barn, which was a cool 15 degrees, with the lights, and the other riders, and the barn animals (yes, there were barn cats here and there, sitting on stable walls and watching us) and of course, the little jack russel who eventually came into the ring and quietly joined his master up in the saddle. It was all a beautiful experience. We finished up and carefully got OFF our horses, on the same steps, and finished up a very exciting and powerful hour. Walking after sitting on a horse for an hour requires as much effort as getting ON the horse did an hour before. We did it. High fiving each other in the parking lot was just the first of many congratulations to ourselves for actually doing something we had talked about for a long time. We were proud, thrilled and exhausted. At that point, I started to feel the cold, but it was managable. I hadn't even thought about it in the arena. When I got home, I was so happy, sharing my experience with Jerry and Allison, I felt wonderful having a new experience to share. It was just that great feeling that you have when you spend a really wonderful time in a productive and enjoyable activity. I had done something quite physical, and my legs weren't even hurting. Actually, it was probably healthy for me to get up on that horse an do something really physical. It was a thrill. I know now where you will find my on Wednesday evenings. And yes, God was there. Can you tell?
at 1:10 PM