Riders are well versed in pain. The pain from having your foot stomped by a creature weighing 10 times more than you do. The pain from getting nipped on the butt by a playful 4-year-old Dutch Harness Horse or from getting kicked in the shin by an ornery Thoroughbred. The pain from having a finger chomped by a horse who mistakes it as a carrot. And that pain is even before we throw our leg over the saddle. Bounce, bounce, half halt, squeeze, squeeze. And we don’t limit ourselves to physical pain, we go for the mental agony as well. Let’s break this down.
We work hours and hours in the saddle practicing circles and transitions, video tape our rides, take lots of photos, and then spend another three hours analyzing every stride. Did the horse track up 1.5 or 2 hoof lengths in that medium walk? I think my right foot was rotated 5 degrees more than my left…no wonder the horse’s left shoulder fell left on that circle. Did we take an equal number of strides on each half of our circle? I think the right hind leg was trailing 2 inches in that final halt. Oh no, at the canter I look like I’m doing the chicken dance with my wings flapping. We agonize over minutia that no one else would ever notice unless they too are a dressage enthusiast…although, everyone can notice my chicken dance. When I need an ego boost, I share my photos and videos with my grandmother who tells me I look so thin and talented. Go Gram!
Once we are done beating ourselves up, we then head to our weekly lesson or monthly clinic and pay to hear what our faults are. Yes, they are there to help us improve, but admit it, you like when they point out all your errors. Gives us OCD types something to obsess over when we ride again by ourselves. Why stop at trainers and clinicians? We then decide to pay for the privilege to be judged and flaunt our inadequacies in public. After all they only have to provide comments for the low scores.
Those hours in the saddle also take their toll on our bodies. For various reasons, some unrelated to equine pursuits, a part of my body always hurts. I then head to the barn to attempt to make a 1,200 pound creature succomb to my will. Bending a giraffe neck plus the 84 inch body can be a challenge some days. “No, I do not wish to turn in that direction. I want to go back to the barn with my friends and feed bucket.” Shifting shoulders to even obtain the slight angle of shoulder-fore can be like moving my Ford with my bare hands. Physically impossible and bound to require the assistance of drug-chemistry to do it again the next day. At my age, I’m not above utilizing drugs to mask the aches and pains.
Luckily yesterday and today were good days. Ike was cooperative and responsive. Perhaps he felt he needed me because of the hawk who watched us ride. [“Mom, please keep me safe from that bird.”] Whatever the reason, I enjoyed the past two days…