Thursday, September 18, 2008

Pleasantly Tired

From what I can gather, looking back over my calendar, today is the first time I've been horseback riding since April 14, or five months. Granted, that's nothing compared with the 13 ½ years between 9th grade, when I sold Snappy, and October of 2001, just after Ian and I were married and we went to Idaho for a long fall weekend of trail riding. Snappy went for $700, and Dad gave me 15% for doing part of the legwork, even though I'd done nothing to pay for her care in the 4 years that I owned her, and had even been fired by a riding instructor for not ever practicing his lessons (Deane was fired too). Nevertheless, that weekend in 2001 reminded me of all the joy of riding and interacting with horses, and when I returned to Seattle I quickly found barns—relatively close—where I could get back into it. I don't currently have a horse of my own on which to practice my lessons, although you may be sure that I would now do so. Having grown up on a farm where the horses had outdoor space and small herds (they're very social), the whole keep-your-horse-in-a-stall-all-the-time-except-for-1-hour-of-turnout-alone-in-a-muddy-paddock-each-day seems bleak to me. I will have another horse or so (three seems like a good number) someday when we have the land.

Anyway, I know that I'm pretty weak still, so I thought I'd try to get in a trail ride before the weather turned, if Stephanie (my excellent instructor) were available. She was, today at 1, and put me on a very, very safe old plug, and we wandered through the woods together for an hour. It was great to be back on horseback. I actually felt, while I was riding, like the athleticism of it was no trouble at all (of course, that's why I wanted to go on a trail ride in the first place—I knew that at least my first day back should be all walking, and that's much more interesting on a trail than around and around and around the arena). My legs stayed quiet, my hands stayed quiet, the horse, MacDuff, also stayed quiet. Stephanie walked, and we were able to have an excellent conversation covering all of the last five months in both our lives (well, touching on the all the last five months), because she didn't have a horse to pay attention to, and I really didn't either.

The only slight trouble was coming back down the hill at the end of the ride—MacDuff, unlike Shadow and her Appaloosa herdmates in Idaho, didn't automatically pull himself together so the greatest downhill force was centered in his haunches—instead, he wove back and forth across the trail, into and out of the blackberries, until Stephanie reminded me to shorten my reins and pull him together a little. Which worked—he stuck to the trail after that.

Anyway, I didn't feel tired or winded at all during the ride, so it was with some surprise that I dismounted and found my inner thighs to be shaky with fatigue. I didn't collapse to the ground in front of the barn, but I did notice a quivery tiredness throughout the grooming. So I was right to not try anything more strenuous my first day back. On the other hand, I think it'll come back pretty quickly when I have time for regular lessons again. I keep being amazed by what muscles remember how to do, by what they'll simply do, even if they really don't have the strength for it.

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