Monday, July 9, 2018

Back in the Saddle Again. For Realz!

I'm going to skip blogging another snippet this week. If you're interested, you can catch several here:

New Scene from StarDog (All New Scene) -- May 28, 2018

Scene from StarDog (More About Hero Taro Shall) -- June 4, 2018

Story Bloopers that Make You go *Headdesk* Part I -- June 11, 2018

Story Bloopers that Make You go *Headdesk* Part II -- June 18, 2018

This week I want to talk about something else that's going on in my life. And, for me at least, it's kind of a biggie.

I just climbed back in the saddle again after more than 15 years! And I mean that literally. On an actual horse.

Me with one of our past Thoroughbreds, Africa.
I know, I know. People get the impression that I ride a lot. Well, I used to. And yes, we have horses. We've had them all of our married lives and we were both involved in equestrian pursuits prior to our first meeting, but the truth is in the last decade-and-a-half, life happened...a lot (to borrow a buzz phrase from my friend, author Pauline Baird Jones).

I'd been so busy with 50+ hour work weeks, managing a small Thoroughbred breeding operation, and doing all the author-ly related timesuckers to boot, that I just hadn't had TIME to actually get on a horse.

I've been retired for two years now, so a few months ago, I started giving that another look. Hmmm.

Actually, the thought was a little daunting. First of all, I'm no spring chicken anymore and I don't bounce like I used to. Heh. So I knew it wasn't going to be an easy thing. Though a lot of people ride well into their 80s, in the majority of those cases, the individual has been riding all of their life, and certainly not with a 15-year break. And riding a horse the correct way actually requires a lot of muscle, effort and balance.

So I started prepping about a month ago. I began an exercise program that's building up to about a full hour a day (I'm at about 45 minutes now) to strengthen legs, arms, and core, and to start re-using some of those muscle groups that have been on a very long vacation. And most of my riding equipment is so old now, I also had to invest in new gloves and helmet, for starters.

I found a local trainer that focuses on meeting personal goals and enjoyment of the activity, toured her serviceable but not fancy facility and talked to her about my goals. She's very knowledgeable, low key and seems like a good match for me at this early re-boot stage. That's important. In my dressage days, I trained under some instructors who were very demanding and meticulous. It's going to be a long while before I get back to the "demanding and meticulous stage"...if ever. Ha!

I hope to work up to being adept enough to do some hunter under saddle and low hunter classes at Edgewood's shiny new horse arena. Possibly I'll return to riding and showing in dressage at some point, though I'll have to find a different trainer to do it. And, of course, after David retires, we'll have time to go on trail rides or jogs around the property together.

My ultimate goal? To ride Stars--the 3-year-old Thoroughbred filly that we bred and raised. That may be a pipedream, but we'll see how things progress for both of us as we work in that direction. She'll probably be at least a 4YO before we're ready to seriously consider that. :)

Sooo....My first session was last Friday as part of a group of five other adult riders. After the day started out a bit ugly, it actually turned into a perfect day for riding...not too hot (we've been hitting the high 90s), not too sunny, not to windy, a bit overcast with no threat of thunderstorms. The cloudiness meant it wasn't so great for photos, but I'll post a few below.

Was I excited? Yes! Intimidated? Well, to be honest, yes. A little. I wasn't as worried about being in the saddle as I was about coming out of it. I don't have the same flexibility or reaction time that I did when I was younger. But I knew I'd be starting out on a seasoned schooling horse so wasn't anticipating any rodeos, and figured it would be just the basics we'd be working on--seat, posture, balance and hand position at a slower pace for these first few sessions.

Introductions and safety briefing. I'm on the little paint--Ginger.
The instructor is to my right on a dun.

Fortunately, I wasn't totally out of my element. My fellow classmates all had their own challenges. One hadn't ridden in six years. One was only twelve (a very mature 12--she looked more like 19). One had had a hip and knee replaced in the last year. One had taken a bad spill years earlier and was trying to regain her confidence. One was taking lessons on her new, and somewhat volatile horse, she brought to the class. So at least I didn't feel like I was in over my head.

It did turn out to be a little more adventurous than I bargained for when the assistant instructor got thrown and we had to contend with a loose horse. Then a couple of the riders had some issues with their own horses, which they'd trailered in for the session. All-in-all though, it was fairly stress free.

Doing some cone work (practicing leg work--or aids--while weaving in and out
of the orange cones.)

We also did a little bit of very elementary barrel work, which also required
a lot of use of leg aids.

So how did it go for me?

Well, some of it was like riding a bike. It came back. My mount, Ginger--a solid little mare with a stunning chestnut overo coat--was a little more of a challenge than I expected. She was a bit barn sour and though my main goal was a good ride, hers was getting back to the gate. ASAP. We had a few battles of will, but it was all good. She did give my legs a pretty strenuous workout, though. (To the point that when I tried to dismount my ankle and calf muscles were so fatigued they wouldn't support me, so it was kind of a "sack of potatoes" landing. Shhh. Let's keep that our little secret. LOL)

We'll see where this goes. Wish me luck...just please don't say "break a leg." :/


  1. Sounds like fun! Just listened to 87-year-old Bill Shatner recount how he's still working out with his horses--in the saddle and in the traces, too, with his "trotters." I'd say that's pretty brave for an old man! So, you're on track for many years of riding ahead!

  2. Good for him! I know he owned and showed Saddlebreds in his day--even rode one in one of the Star Trek movies. Maybe he's switched breeds in all the years that have since slipped by.

    So glad you got to see him in person at Shore Leave, Donna. Hope it was a great experience. I really hope to get there in the next couple of years.

  3. This is very cool, Laurie! I have to admit I might have run for the hills after seeing an instructor get thrown my first day. Ginger looks a lot like LuLu, our chestnut paint. Good luck with it, and have fun!

  4. Eep! Sorry I missed your comment from so long ago, Sharon. I think Ginger and Lulu are probably a lot alike. Love those paints! If Ginger were just a bit taller, I'd really give some serious thought to buying her.


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