Thursday, April 19, 2012

I am Afraid and Other Observations

I realized something last night . . . I'm afraid to get on Ashke.

To make that statement make sense I need to share a story. I started riding at four or so, with my mom. (I still have a very clear memory of the black mare she rode named Button who was a beast to mount.) From that point, I wished for my own horse. . . . on every first star, every birthday cake, every Christmas. At eight, my parents got me a shetland pony from my uncle. He was a nasty piece of work who scraped me off under our apple trees the first time I rode him. He bit, kicked, bucked and ran away with his rider. At thirteen, for Christmas, I was given my Appaloosa mare, Queenie. She was my heart and soul for years. We had a great relationship. That relationship is my guidestar for Ashke, based on trust and mutual enjoyment.

That sounds great, doesn't it? So, you ask, why am I afraid?

Because I've been thrown off more times than I can count. I've been kicked and bit and bucked with and I am too damn old to keep hitting the ground. I had my first really serious fall when I was 13 and my last really serious fall in 2006. After the toss in 2006, I spent three years in incredible pain, seeing a chiropractor to fix the damage I had done to my lower back. It was during that time that I told J I was never riding again. And that was my intent. However, that's not how this story has ended.

Two months ago I went riding with L. Her horse VK has a stablemate that gets very little exercise. I was invited to go with them for a ride. Twist was a nice horse, with a damaged leg and significant weight issues. I wondered how I would do onboard. I haven't really ridden since 1994. That's a long time. However, I had no problem swinging up and settling into the saddle. My body remembered even if my mind did not. I had no problems riding, at a walk or trot or canter, although we didn't ride the canter for very long, considering Twist felt like she was laboring. My hands remembered, my legs remembered and my soul remembered.

It's just my mind that's having an issue.

I think about what could go wrong. He could rear and go over backwards and squash me like a grape. He could buck violently and throw me into the fence. Or onto the ground. Or in a manner that would squash my L5 vertebre like a grape. Or he could kick me in the face. None of which he has even attempted to do. This mental image I have of the horse is the opposite of how the horse actually feels.

Must I be clear? This has nothing to do with Ashke and everything to do with my fears.

I have been relatively pain free for two years now, instead of the constant lower back pain I have dealt with since I was young, and especially without the debilitating back pain from the ruputured disc. I also have a 12 year old son with whom I enjoy camping, hiking and general mayhem. I don't want to risk any of that in doing something stupid.

Is there some risk involved in getting on Ashke? Yes. There is always risk, most of which I was blithely ignorant of when I was young. Why else walk your horse across a train tressel just because you can?

Do I think the risk is high in this case? No. I think Ashke hasn't had an issue with anything I have asked of him in the past three weeks. He has behaved exceptionally. Even with the saddle, there has been very little issue. He is a little touchy with the girth, but nothing else.

Do I think I can stay on him if he acts up? Yes, I believe I can. One, I will be ready with countermeasures to redirect his energy if he decides I am trying to eat hiim. It is really difficult to get a good buck on if your head is pinned to your shoulder. Also, I will not have a camera in my right hand, my reins in my left and my feet out of the saddle, thinking about taking a picture of the swans on the lake. (When I was thrown in 2006 all of those things applied.) I will also have a bond with this horse, like my bond with the little black BLM mustang mare when I was 16. She trusted me to get on her back two weeks after being pulled in off the range. I know I have both the skill and the knowledge to do this. Too bad I don't have the body I did when I was 20.

Why am I worried about this now? Because it is easier to work him if I can ride him. I can work him in the arena to turn the weight he is gaining into muscle. I can work him to redirect his energy and attention into learning things he hasn't had the opportunity to learn yet. I can give him a job and teach him to be a great partner with me. I don't see how I can teach him to lunge, when that means teaching him to work away from me. I want him to work with me. I can walk him around, which he really likes, and which I intend to do for at least the next two weeks. But none of that will really address the true issue.

I need to find my trust in myself again. In my ability to ride anything with four legs. To know I can deal with anything a horse can think of doing. After some of the horses in my life, Seabisquit, Sham and Keili to name the top three insane horses I've ridden, dealing with Ashke should be a piece of cake.

I mean, does this horse look like he has an issue?

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