I started riding again, which is true if you think of riding in very loose terms. It wasn’t hard. It also was not easy. I have had some trepidation about this act of sliding a leg over the back of a horse, giving him my body to carry. I know the rider version of me and she has pretty much packed her bags and left town. The version of me left behind is unsettled and existing awkwardly within her newly-shaped body, often overly reflexive in protecting its still healing parts.
It took a while to own the awareness that the only chance I ever have of finding me, the rider, was to accept this current version and trust a horse to do right by me. I am in need of a gracious spirit here, one who will hold space for me in this new arena. I can’t play the way I used to. I can’t keep up with the bold physical expression of a horse so inclined to dish that out. That struck Andante and Beamer off the short list, right there. They have always had that extra “button” of free wheeling expression.
Their abilities are what compelled me to become a better rider, but it would not serve me well now. So, Loosa was to be my first; Loosa, kind and dear who has carried small children around on his back with gentle ease and grace.
It could have been Legs, he is equally patient and gentle when it comes to such things.
But Legs is a tall horse and I wanted to be, you know, a little closer to the ground — just in case.
I sent mental pictures of my intentions to Loosa as I groomed him or hung with him in the pasture. I wanted him to know I was not a lost cause, but that I also was a little bit afraid. I wanted to know back that it would all be okay. My commitment to Gordy is that I not ride when I am home alone. So this last weekend with Gordy present, I said it was time — throw me up. Okay, boost me up. Okay, grab my hand and pull me over because my leg is stuck. The point is, I got on bareback (which is not always easy to do, people) and during the whole process, Loosa did not move a muscle. Perhaps, his laugh muscles twitched a little, but to my feel, he remained evenly committed and serious.
Gordy stayed tethered to us as we ambled around the barnyard and then the small pasture. I was a passenger, not a rider. I was a child getting a pony ride and deliriously happy about it. Loosa was soft in his body and his broad back felt warmly welcoming beneath my legs. As Gordy and I chattered, Loosa flicked his ears back and forth between us, interested in what we had to say; three buddies on a walk, together. When it was enough, I swung my leg back over and jumped off, landing with a bit of a thud, my body surprised at how close the ground was to my upright legs. From the top of a horse, I feel taller, further from the ground than I am. That time, I know Loosa laughed. He likes to be big. And special. And oh, how he special he is.
This weekend I rode. Pretty honest to the meaning of the word: rode. Loosa is round and pudgy from pasture life, I am contracted and misshapen, so our expectations were low, very low. “Just have fun”, Gordy said. So we did and in the midst of that we also managed to walk, trot, canter and, in my case, stay on.
Admittedly, Loosa did not want to leave Gordy, not at first. I was hardly oozing a fountain of confidence, so why would he? Okay, we’ll just walk then. And we did — over here and over there, along the fence line, big loopy circles. He settled and I settled and then I got cocky. “Hey, how about a trot?” I asked. “How about a canter?” Loosa responded. So we did, because they are, after all, his feet.
And that felt so right. It was a thoughtful, collected canter, not a mad dash to the other fence line; easy to sit, easy to follow. Well, it made me just got down to the business of trying to be a good enough rider to have earned that offering.
We did that for a good long time, talking to each other through our collective body parts until we were in sync and he figured I could handle his trot and so we did that, too.
This all may not look like much, but when I study these pictures I get all emotional. I see me — trying, still awkward, but all in on this. I see him — his face showing concern and then relief that we have figured out how to do this, that I can give him a place to settle in to. Not to get all mushy on you, but hell if that doesn’t sound a lot like a lesson in healing. My teacher, my horse.
In the end, it was Gordy who walked Loosa back to the barn, fed him treats, took off his tack, and told him what a good, good boy he was. Loosa stood tall in his stall, listening to every word. I think Loosa misses his friend, Gordy. I think he would like for Gordy to swing a leg over and go for an ambling ride through the property, like we used to.
Maybe this weekend I can “graduate” to Legs so we can make that happen. Maybe Legs has something to teach me, too. What do you say, Legs?