Suck it up Sally

by Scott Smith

When I was a kid I took riding lessons. There were times when I was pretty good at it in an amateurish sort of way, but frequently I was terrified of the things I was being instructed to do (make the horse jump over that really big fence then turn quickly and make the horse jump over that other really big fence). Often I did these things only because I was more afraid of the man who was telling me to do these things than I was of the actual things. I didn’t stick with it past that great teenage rite of passage, the driver’s license.

My daughter has the horse bug now. She loves it and I have been taking her to her lessons for about three years now. The funny thing about riding is that I don’t think that a person who has the bug ever really gets it out of their system. So, if you hang around a barn long enough (say, three years) eventually you are going to have an overwhelming desire to get back in the saddle. I had been having stretches of time where I would dream of riding every night for weeks. In my dreams I picked up where I left off, feeling light and in control in the saddle. The strength in my legs and back hadn’t left me from lack of use and I was graceful and lovely. So, I gave into that desire that never quite leaves the horsestruck girl last Monday.

While I had been thinking about taking up riding for months, my return was a spur of the moment decision (no pun intended). My son had also been taking lessons and has decided that it’s not really his thing, at least for right now, so I took his place. I carefully brushed and tacked up that old lesson horse and as I led him to the mounting block, trying to calculate the number of years it had been since I had last ridden with any regularity I thought, “WHAT are you thinking????” But, it was too late to back out, so I got up in that saddle, took the reins in hand and tried desperately to make my body do what I was sure it should remember, you know, like riding a bike. I kept up as best I could and as I circled the arena I felt neither light nor in control. “Graceful” and “lovely” were not words that came to mind when trying to describe how I was feeling. Unfortunately, no matter how I begged, my legs could not summon the strength to keep my seat bones from banging into that broken down saddle and it’s tree left it’s mark.

Today, after a week of stretching and whining, I can finally walk without pain. Tomorrow I will get back up in that saddle and do it again because… It’s too late to back out now.