There and Back

untitled-3673(Click on photo for best resolution)

*

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about riding, age and safety. Apparently I’m not alone. I echo Kate’s thoughts when I admit that I often picture myself riding well into my mid-to-late 70’s. After all, when I was in my 30’s I rode for about a decade with an older gentleman who was in his 70’s. So God willing and if my health holds out, the idea of having another fifteen years of riding left in me seems pretty rational.

*

Which brings me to the place where I start to think about how those rides might look. At this point, when weather cooperates I try to ride 4-5 times a week. I almost always trail ride alone, and sometimes I do a little arena riding, but not much. Either way, it’s always just me and my horse. I always wear a helmet and pack a pocket knife, and I try to remember to carry a (charged) cell phone. But I’m usually not riding in places where I can get a cell signal. This doesn’t particularly worry me … yet. It’s just part and parcel of where I ride and where I live. Even in my own back yard a decent cell signal can be sketchy at best.

*

I don’t see the facts that I’ve outlined above changing very much. It’s only when I start to think about my horse that the picture begins to get a bit blurry. I’ve grown quite fond of Dharla. She has her strengths and her weaknesses, but overall she’s a very honest horse. If I look back I can see that although she’s made good progress and matured some, she’s still very much the same horse she was when she arrived 2.5 years ago. She’s sane, but very reactive. High energy, but not hot. Smart, but somewhat independent-minded. I always try to look for the plus factor, not focus on or obsess about the opposite, because I like to believe that if you keep your eye on the good, the other traits will eventually become less and less of a habit until they eventually fade away. Or so I’d like to think.

*

That said, there are some traits that you can’t always ignore, or continue to ignore. Especially if those traits begin to rub up against your own weaknesses or worries. In spite of constant exposure to the same trails and routes, Dharla continues to be a very spooky ride. I can’t deny or ignore this any more, nor do I know how to address it. I don’t mind when a horse has one or two things they’re consistently worried about. Even Tia had her issues with certain things that she perceived were a threat. The difference is that I knew what those things were and I could be prepared to support her through or past them. Dharla’s different in that her list of Big Scary Things changes by the moment. And it’s a LONG list.

*

Part of me wants to try to understand why a horse with a ton of trail miles is still afraid of the same old things we see every single ride, and the other part of me just wants to move on. While I’m sick of this behavior and my patience is wearing thin, I get that my timetable and Dharla’s timetable is probably quite different. I want to give Dharla all the time she needs to be OK with her fears, but on the other hand it’s hard to be patient when I feel like we’re moving at a snail’s pace. I often tell myself that if it takes five years for Dharla to gain more confidence then so be it. The problem is, I’ll be five years older and those five years will get subtracted from the total years I have left to ride.

*

I guess it comes back to the age old question: Are you riding the right horse for the rider you are right now?

*

I don’t know the answer, but I think about it constantly. I do know the answer has nothing to do with liking my horse enough. I love Dharla. She’s a sweetie. But I’m really not doing the things with her that I’d like to be doing right now, and the things that we are doing don’t seem to be helping me gain any ground in that direction. There’s a saying that states: The definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. That sounds logical … except when it comes to training animals. Repetition is a key element of training any animal! So maybe I’m doing things right, but I’m just not seeing our progress? Or maybe I just need help?

*

I’ve decided to move Dharla to the barn where I’ve been taking lessons. Not forever, but I want the trainer to work with us for a month or two, see if we can tweak our teamwork a little and re-evaluate how we’re doing things. I know I can use some help and I think Dharla will benefit from the experience too. Naturally, I’m a nervous wreck. Excited, but really nervous. But I think it’s time to pull out all the stops because eventually, I’m going to have to decide if I’ve got the right horse for the rider I am right now. And I can’t do that unless I’m certain I’ve given Dharla every opportunity to be the best she can be. Her weaknesses are most likely my fault and it wouldn’t be fair to judge her without trying to fix myself first. So I’m looking at this next adventure as an opportunity for us both to learn more about life and about each other. I’ll keep you posted!

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “There and Back

  1. I love this post. I was just having a very similar conversation with a friend. Life is too short to be apprehensive with a horse. Both horse and rider deserve whole hearted trust. Skhy is so rock solid, a true prince, and not a moment goes by that I am not filled with gratitude. I admire your honesty and kindness and willingness to separate your love of a horse from the compatibility you may or may not have. You have a big heart and good head on your shoulders.

    • It’s hard as heck to be objective when your hopes, dreams and best laid plans keep getting in the way. But I want what’s best for both of us, so I’m going to approach this as a whole new plan with check points along the way. No more tossing things up in the air and hoping for the best. I don’t know if Dharla’s just hard-wired to be very spooky, but if she is then at some point I’m going to have to decide if she’s the best horse for me. Unfortunately, I think I know the answer is probably not. So I’ll give it a bit more time and get some help working on some specific stuff … and then see where we stand. Nothing ventured, nothing gained! Thanks for the kind words and support!

  2. I hope it all works out well for you. I sadly gave up riding after a scare. I still have my big boy and wish I had the courage to ride. I applaud you for thinking this all through so well and trying so hard to make it work for both of you. Good luck! And you have a beautiful photo of some beautiful horses!

    • Rhonda, you’re not alone. I know several people who have stopped riding due to close calls and post-accident fear. I came off this horse unexpectedly when I first got her and it shook me up. Now, I’m probably a more reactive rider … which could be part of our problem. I sense that while I try hard to be relaxed I’m not, and Dharla senses it and that makes HER more reactive and spooky. So I’m hoping that a few weeks or months with a pro will help us past this so we can peel the onion back and get to the root of the problem … if there is one! Thanks for your support and encouragement, it’s deeply appreciated.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s