It’s been a while since I rode. The last time was at a polo lesson last August. The last time I rode Berry was a few months before that, although I can’t remember exactly when it was. Late Spring, I would guess.
I hadn’t been riding Berry because of the trailering incident. I probably rode her at home once or twice, but since those rides are usually casual I didn’t track it. My main goal was getting her loading into the trailer again, and I’d been spending every evening sitting in the trailer with a bucket of grain, trying to get her to load.
I rode at a polo lesson when I was in the first trimester of pregnancy. Riding a polo pony is like riding a sports car, and I had fun, hoping my tiny little baby would be enjoying it, too. But I couldn’t do it again after that. It made me too nervous that I might lose the baby. If I’d been riding regularly before that, I may have felt better, but being out of practice made me feel uncomfortable about the whole thing. I decided to just not ride while I was pregnant.
Once I was no longer pregnant, it was tough to find time. Spare time does not come easy once you’re taking care of a baby. The time I did have seemed to be better invested in getting work done around the farm. Although that is very satisfying, it’s not nearly as fulfiling as getting a ride in.
Last week, I decided just to go do it. No excuses, I need to just get back in the saddle. I took my opportunity, gathered up all my stuff that had migrated into my house, and marched down to the barn.
I’m not going to pretend I wasn’t nervous, because I was. People rarely expect they are going to fall off, and the one time I’ve fallen off of Berry I definitely hadn’t been expecting it. I was nervous Berry would explode and send me right off. I was nervous I wouldn’t remember how to ride, and I’d basically be a complete beginner again. But I decided to just not think about any of that, go on autopilot, and climb aboard, like I’ve done so many other times in my life.
To add to my poor decision making, I decided to use my old helmet instead of my new one. I’ve had the old one for probably 8 years now, but the thought of wearing my brand new helmet, falling off, and then needing to immediately buy another helmet was just too distasteful. Apparently more distasteful than the thought of falling off with a helmet that has long had all the foam compacted and may or may not actually offer any protection. Luckily I didn’t fall off.
Heart racing, I led Berry down to the arena, and climbed up on the mounting block. I was certain she could sense my fear. The moment I went to mount she strolled on away from the mounting blocked. This isn’t something new; past Courtney stupidly just flung herself on up and ignored that trait of hers. For present Courtney, already on edge, it was nerve racking.
After forcing her back and trying to make her stand still, I still ended up nervously flinging myself up there, and getting in position fast. I’ve had worse mounts where I end up on the neck or one very enthusastic mount, all the way over, so this mount actually wasn’t too bad.
I probably should have lunged her first. That would have been the smart thing to do. But it wouldn’t have been the lazy thing to do, so I didn’t. “Walking” her around the arena, I could definitely feel how I should have lunged her. She was ready to go. And I knew she’d be like this, because she’s always been like this. If I ride her every single day, sure, she’s going to be super casual when I get on, but after every break in schedule, she’s very “up” next time I get on. It wasn’t new, and I was expecting she’d be like that, although secretly hoping she’d have turned into a plodding old horse sometime into the last year.
I remembered exactly what I used to do to calm her down, and we just walked around in a figure 8, practicing our bending. She spooked twice at deer in the neighbor’s property, and I know she was just testing me. I refuse to be bullied by a horse, and with what I’m sure was a death grip, I stayed on.
Since I passed the test, we moved on. I tried different aids to see how responsive she was, and she’s exactly how I remember her. Just like riding a bike. She did feel stiff though. She’ll need some miles on her to get back in shape.
I rode for probably 15 minutes, and then decided to end. The deer were still hanging out, and I didn’t want to risk them taking off and starting a chain reaction. It wasn’t much, but I was so happy, and relieved I got that first ride over with. It felt like a piece of me had been missing, and I just got it back.
Berry might have been feeling sentimental too. She followed me around after I turned her back out. I had some chores to take care of, and she just wanted to hang out with me. Or she was just expecting the treats I used to give her after rides… probably that.
Even though it was just a walk, I was sore the next day. I had bruises on my legs from the saddle. Ouch. My shoulders and back hurt. I think I was holding them very tense during the ride. Ouchies all around.
I’m excited to work riding back into my schedule. I won’t have anything planned this winter, just get myself, Berry, and hopefully Pony back in shape, and maybe take a few trail rides. Basically just relax and have fun. I’m also planning to work with Stu, but not ride him. Thinking of everything else I have to do, I have no idea how I’m going to get everything done, but I’m going to try!