Most of my life was spent thirsting after horses, not actually riding them.
As a city kid with few opportunities to ride, I learned to ride by the following method:
1. Find a western saddled horse whose owner is sufficiently stupid enough to let a green kid get on it.
2. Climb on.
3. Hang on
4. Get off.
Even when I finally was able to own a horse, I didn't ride Jordan all that much. He was beautifully trained and I kept him home, where I had no place to ride for the vast majority of the year, due to rain, rain, and last but not least, rain. That's where I learned that a covered arena is one of the finest things a rider can have. Not having one meant that one had perhaps a few weekends in the summer to ride...but with gardens, jobs, a household to keep and a lazy, high maintenance husband (not my current one) it doesn't leave much time for riding.
I have spent an enormous
amount of time afoot, learning to handle, massage, breed, teach (as
opposed to train) horses, but it wasn't until 2011 that I began to
seriously want to learn to ride. This was after my divorce, after my remarriage to a normal man, after I'd been laid off for the last time, after I lost hope of ever finding a decent paying job again, and finally accepting the fact and begin enjoying retirement.
Thus I began leasing horses, which in four cases was a expensive exercise in masochism. My "owners' (those who owned the horse) were whack jobs, shysters, or outright psychopaths. I had given up on leasing a horse after two years of pain and frustration when out of the blue, Sue offered me the use of Raven. For free. It works out beautifully for both of us: she works full time, I can do things during the time she's working, (i.e. have the farrier out or the vet check), sort of be her Girl Friday. (doesn't that date me. Now it's Personal Assistant. Whatever). I started blogging about it, too. I was truly lucky, but Sue took her time...a VERY long time...before she allowed me to ride Raven without her being present. I promised her I would not ride him without her permission.
One woman at the barn said, 'why don't you ride Raven?" I said, "Sue doesn't want me to ride him without her being here." "I won't tell. She'll never know." "True...but I will."
I could have snuck in a ride when she was at work, but when I give my word, I KEEP it.
When I decided I wanted to REALLY learn to ride, I realized that the best way to acquire the necessary balance and self confidence so vital to properly learning to ride could only be done by riding bareback.
When you're ten years old, rubber boned, and convinced that you will never die, you learn to ride by osmosis.
When you're in your late fifties, are brittle boned and all too uncomfortably aware that there are things worse than death: paralysis from the neck down, for instance; you learn to ride by conscious effort and a great deal of trepidation. And a helmet.
Thus I embarked on learning to ride by going back to basics: bareback.
I don't ride every day. Perhaps I would have come to this moment sooner had I done so, but there again, I have a Life. It is full to bursting with things that have nothing to do with horses. It means I ride maybe two times a week.
Thus the OMG moment I had a month ago took..oh, four years.
But it was worth the wait.
Last month I was riding Raven alone in the arena. (I was given free rein ((pun fully intended))to ride whenever I chose several years ago.) I felt comfortable. I asked, inadvertantly, for collection..and GOT it. It was an incredible feeling.
I've held off writing this till now. First, Life got in the way, but also, I wanted to BE SURE.
Within a week of that collection ride, I was riding..again, alone, bareback..and felt the connectivity I'd only felt a few fleeting times. This time, though, it lasted the entire ride. I was 'plugged in' to Raven. Our spines were connected. I felt comfortable, balanced, at home. I felt SAFE. I was relaxed and assured. I realized I had achieved something, very quietly, very softly...I had learned balance. I was one with Raven. He proved that to me within moments by shying suddenly and I rode it out..as I usually have...without a problem. I waggled my lower legs. I was as secure on his back as if I were locked on. There was two of me..the bottom half was horse and the upper half was human.
That was thrilling, but I've learned to not expect too much. However, it has remained. I went a week without riding, then me, Sue, Gretchen, her daughter JJ, and another woman who was riding her QH..were all in the arena. Everyone was swapping horses. Raven is the only warmblood and JJ had stars in her eyes after riding him. "He's Fun. He's like a rock star" she oozed.
I know the feeling...warmbloods will do that to you.
I got aboard first and he was HYPED...there was so much energy going on in the arena and he fed off it like a sponge. Really, if there'd been no one else, I wouldn't have risked it. He as that much horse. But perhaps that was perfect, because without warning, we were trotting. I was relaxed and happy. Comfortable, balanced, steering without hanging onto the reins.
I was sitting his big booming trot bareback. Sue was on Gretchen's mare and her face said it all: LOOK AT YOU!!!! oh my gosh!
Oh my god, I thought, that was so easy. It was my eureka moment, but I'll type OMG because..well, it's 2016. Nobody has any idea what 'eureka' means anymore save us oldsters.
A week later, she insisted I ride in her saddle. We are going to trot, she said, and I was ready to try, after my first two successes. But Raven can be lazy. He's got a long back and consequently is always on the forehand unless he's been suitably warmed up, as he had been by Sue. This time he was more than warm, he was hot as a pistol and ready to rock. I asked for a trot and began posting his trot like I'd been doing it all my life. Up down up down and I was even on the correct diagonal. It was easy. It was HIM doing the bounce, tossing my butt out of the saddle just enough. I have to keep my hands low, now I know, but I wasn't hanging onto his face. I was balanced and comfortable.
Today summed it up. Sue is on vacation and I have Raven to myself. I was in the arena when Missy came in with her grey Saddlebred/Arab cross, Jester. And the barnlord came in. Was she going to give Missy a lesson? Because if that's the case, I will evacuate. I don't mind leaving if someone is paying for a lesson. But, no. She's just there to watch us ride.
Now that I know what being balanced and in harmony with him feels like, I had felt something amiss with Raven's walk, so I asked the barnlord to spot me. Is he off on his right fore? She demanded I trot. So ...I trotted. Sitting his trot bareback, I went down the arena, again...comfortable and balanced. I don't think the barnlord knew that I have only recently been able to sit the trot. She had me go round and then said, no, he's okay.
Like it was an everyday thing for me, to sit the trot bareback. Like it was an every day thing.
IT IS STICKING. I am on my way! I can truly say for the first time that I am learning to ride, and I can credit riding bareback for it all. I have learned balance, harmony, and most of all, self confidence. It can be a long slow trial for older folks...I am 61 now, soon to be 62, but we CAN learn to ride. It just takes time and the right horse. And the willingness to accept that starting at the beginning is usually the best way, especially if you go bareback.
I CAN RIDE!!!