Thursday, May 8, 2014
Today I rode Ben. We both survived. Here’s how it went down without either of us going down. I gave him his daily mash and let him snurfle happily away at it while I unloaded the car of all the gear I’d hauled out of storage for the Big Day and got it stowed in the barn or laid out in the tacking-up area. By the time he’d finished eating and I’d finished my various chores, we were alone except for another boarder who’d come in with a trailer to take her mare to another barn for a training session and had her on the cross-ties near us as I prepped Ben. I got Ben groomed and tacked up without fuss. He appeared to remember the whole routine and didn’t object. I led him into the ring and walked him around for a bit to let his back get used to the feel of a girthed-on saddle again. Then it was time to snug the girth a hole or two tighter, run down the stirrups, lead him over to the mounting block, and get on. Ulp. Don’t mind admitting I felt a few butterflies flapping in my stomach, even though Ben was quite blase about it all. But I swung aboard without difficulty and picked up my stirrups as if it hadn’t been more than a year since our last – well. To be exact, the last time I got on my fiery steed was October 8, 2012. And that had been my first and only ride since May 2011. Why? A number of reasons, but the bottom line: Fear. And now here I am a few years older, considerably less fit, and still working on recovering from my hip replacement. But dammit, I want to do this. The vet says Ben will be fine; neither his sagging suspensories nor his arthritic hocks will suffer with some light walk riding. My head says Ben will be fine. It’s just my stupid gut that’s blubbering hysterically that We’re All Gonna Die! So shut up, gut, and please proceed, Ben. Ben stepped off at a light squeeze into his normal GIANT SPIDER-LEGGED walk. The gut yowled. I throttled back the panic and let him motor on. Well, okay, so I let one hand drop to the grab strap across the front of my Aussie saddle at first. So sue me – or sue my gut, anyway. But we kept going, circling the ring, turning this way and that. I made myself unfurl from an instinctive curl toward the fetal position and sit up straight. Ben took the slightest hint from rein and leg as neatly as if he’d been in work all along. I kept off his mouth, even when he got a bit lookie at a dark patch where a bucketful of water had been tossed – all he needed was a light squeeze and off he went, unperturbed. We’d been at it for two or three minutes, I think, when the other boarder told me she had to leave. So, not wanting to be aboard without anyone around to call an ambulance, I got off and told Ben what a Good Boy he was. He seemed mildly pleased. I was immensely delighted – even though my hip informed me, as soon as I slid to the ground, that it had had quite enough, thank you, of such unnatural use. Hoo-eeee. I can see I’ll need to work up gradually to anything longer than a handful of minutes. But I’m going to do it. Even though it’s such a goddamned long way down to the ground from his back.