Bow Legs

“You would like me to do WHAT!” I asked, not sure I heard correctly.

“Stand up in your saddle,” she patiently repeated.

I heard this time and immediately felt cortisol coursing through my body.  Is this lady mad?!  I’ll fall off the horse!  Sure, I am wearing a helmet, but no, not doing this.

“Hold on to the horse’s mane, it will help you stabilize while you push down with your heels in the stirrups” she encouraged.

“The horses MANE!” I repeated, “wont that make him angry?” as I was thinking about someone grabbing onto MY hair holding on for dear life. No way!!

“He wont mind, just stand straight up and once you’ve tried I’ll have you do it while he is walking,” she added, cool as a cucumber.

I couldn’t think straight, my head was spinning and I was starting to regret all the gear and the big idea of wanting to learn how to ride a horse.  In the end, my desire not to be defeated won out and I tentatively grabbed a handful of Olaf’s mane and clumsily pushed myself upwards.  I was standing!  I couldn’t believe it!  Standing in the stirrups, just like that.  Wow I’m a pro, I thought to myself as I unceremoniously settled back into the saddle.

“Good job,” Laura encouraged, “Now ask Olaf to move forward by pushing your reins forward and moving your hips gently in the saddle.  Remember, ask, tell, demand.  You should be able to have him respond to the change in your breathing.”

With that, I relaxed in the saddle, gently pushed my hands forward, relieved the pressure on Olaf’s mouth, pushed my hips forward and quietly sighed.

He moved forward with ease and I immediately wanted to jump up and down and declare myself the winner, but I didn’t. Instead, I gave Olaf a congratulatory “Good boy!” as we moved down the track.

Not to be distracted by my subtle, yet effective ask to move forward, Laura reminded me of my next task, “Now that he is moving, stand straight up until you get to “L”.”

This lady is relentless!

I grabbed onto Olaf’s mane pushed my heels down and stood up straight.  I could not believe myself, we were doing it, we were riding around the track, Olaf and I.  Me standing up! 

“Ok, now I want you to squeeze while wrapping your calves around his belly. Zip up your abs. You will feel this in your ankles.” Laura explained.

And she was right. By the fourth try, my ankles were screaming at me “What are you doing to us?” and I wondered if at the end of the lesson when I was asked to dismount, if from my feet to my hips, would my legs be permanently contorted into the shape of two bows pointing away from each other?

The World of Riding

One thing is for sure, my feet were feeling itchy for some change. A year cooped up, working from home, masked in-person meet-ups, plenty of time for self-reflection, booking reading and mental gymnastics had me thinking “Hmmm”.

Before our premier announced today “Do not make any plans for Easter…, this is an announcement about an upcoming, unplanned announcement!”, before that, I decided to dip my toe into the world of Horseback riding.

After much googling and reading reviews, I decided upon a Stable / Barn / Ranch that would be adequate for safe, in-person, private lessons and a Store from which to buy suitable gear. I researched boots, helmets, pants and armed with all the information I could find, marched into an equestrian outfitters.

Before I go further, I want to point out that from the very beginning of this notion that this would be a good idea, I felt out of place. An interloper ready to give away my money to a sport that will most likely eat me up and spit me out. This really isn’t my game but I want to play.

So, in I marched, ready to talk gear and immediately I felt out of my depth. The lady was very helpful, asking me questions for which I should have and answer, such as “how much are you planning to spend?” and “What size of pant are you.” Easy questions and I just had a huge brain block.

“I am willing to spend as much as it means that I will be as safe as possible if I am thrown from the horse and / or if the horse decides to kick me in the head.” Why am I doing this? I can back out; I hadn’t bought the ticket and the train was still in the station. I stuck to my plan, buy gear no matter the cost!

I picked a helmet, boots and breeches. Now the breeches are really just fancy workout tights with rubbery designs across the buttocks and down the inner thighs – $170 please! The boots, a return from a lady who paid $$$$$ for custom footwear and for whatever reason decided against the purchase? On sale, but still steep. The helmet, for an extra $30 you can replace the front, decorative bezel. Decorative! $30! I bought the helmet, not because of the $30 interchangeable bezel, but IT’S ON SALE. Again, still steep but on sale.

I left the store a bit sheepish, still a bit unsure of the WHY I was doing this, and announced to the sales lady, “Well if all else fails, when I fall off the horse I will be doing so IN STYLE!”

She laughed and I dashed out to my car.