In some ways, riding is probably my least favorite part of owning a horse. I suppose a diplomat would call me risk-averse, but in plain english I'm a bit of a coward. If you think about it, riding is physically and mentally demanding. It requires trust and balance (I have neither in abundance), a certain amount of physical fitness (ditto) and guts—guts that I just don't have. Very often, I am afraid.
So it is funny how much I miss riding right now.
Muscle memories are a strange thing. I can be sitting at my desk, and all I have to do is close my eyes to feel the trot.
I have not been thinking about riding on an academic level as I should be. A better (or at least more determined) rider would be using this involuntary break to read up on training, develop a competition strategy, maybe increase her core strength or take lessons somewhere. And while I like to think of myself as being on the cerebral end of the horse-owning spectrum, I can't shake the fact that I am feeling how much I miss Blue a lot more than I am thinking about it. I thought I just needed to ride a horse, but I rode Quincy on Saturday and he didn't scratch my itch.
I caught myself cantering down the trail just before I drifted off one night. I could feel Blue there as surely as I could feel the sheets and hear Brian's soft snoring. This is dreamtime, so the sound of snoring seems perfectly natural to me as we roll down the last flat stretch of Renegade into ridecamp. Blue has never been to Renegade, but that doesn't keep my subconscious from wanting him there.
Of course, in a lot of ways, I am seeing more of Blue lately than when I was riding him. My board situation was not set up for stall care, so I'm doing my own mucking every day. In college, this was one of my part-time jobs, the other being copy editing the newspaper. I miss the energy I had then—up at 4:30, drive to the stable, turn on NPR and listen to the news while I clean the stalls of eight or ten world-class reining horses and however many mares are there being bred, drive back to the dorm, put in a day of classes and a quick afternoon nap, then down to the newspaper office for the seven-to-eleven shift. Wake up and do it all again the next day. No problem.
In retrospect, both jobs asked the same question: Can you be meticulous and fast? Can you make yourself care just enough to remove the bad stuff but not so much that you start taking away the good stuff too?
Thanks to those sainted reiners, I know that some horses spend their whole working lives in a stall. I tell this to Blue when he gives me one of his baleful "why won't you let me buck and run?" looks, which he does EVERY time I take him out of The Pen and tie him up somewhere else.
I can't really explain to him that his current situation is his own fault, nor can I tell him that it is temporary. Worst of all, I can't tell him how much I need him to be stoic in his frustration. I can't say that every day that I am not on his back, a little of the old fear creeps back in. When he is finally free again, he will need to be brave enough for both of us, just as he was before his accident.
I am still afraid. But now I'm afraid of asking too much from him.