Shortly after I adopted Calico, Amanda Miller - a personal life coach, Mary Kay salesperson, and friend of mine - asked me what my goals were with my horse. My first thought was: um, goals? I had some short term plans on learning more about horses and horse training and actually riding with certain frequency. They were vague. A far cry from the details of my yearly business plan.
"Are you going to show her?" Manda asked.
I had absolutely no plans on showing. With my history in doing physical activities, the best way for me to find my balance in the saddle likely wouldn't look pretty for judges - no matter how good the communication between me and Cali ended up.
Then an idea hit me.
When I started working for the Bay State Equine Rescue, the summer of 2003, Prez Susan told me about a Sponsored Trail Ride fundraiser. Naïve me immediately thought of the trail rides often offered by farms where you hop on a stone-cold lesson horse and wander through trails in a big group of equally naïve horse people. I could do that!
Susan asked if I had a horse, and I said no. She asked me who I'd ride. We both ended up confused.
I had no idea that people who owned horses actually loaded them up in trailers to go walk on trails through the woods! And that they needed, like, vaccinations and permits to do that. And that there was organizations where you counted miles you did that!
Most horse people - at least those I've met - have this vague notion of the trail ride I was thinking of: clueless city refugees sitting awkwardly in saddles, afraid to actually steer their horses (I don't want to be mean!) and following each other in an guided line through woods or beaches or whatnot. But that's not what they think when they think "trail ride."
So, now that I had My Own Horse, I could do a proper trail ride!
That would be my goal. My goal was to ride Calico in the BSER Sponsored Trail Ride. And finish it safely.
(Now, earlier this year, I also learned about the Breast Cancer Ride for the Ribbon, which I took part in, but did not end up finishing that whole trail for a number of reasons - one of which, admittedly, was my confidence. I was given an "out", and I took it.)
But today, TODAY, I finished the BSER Trail Ride. Another of Amanda's students and her aunt were there, so I had companions to ride with (Phew! Calico doesn't like not being with other horses!) We wandered through Old Sturbridge Village for about an hour, then spent a little over another hour doing the shortest loop trail. Yes it was short, but we finished it!
It was just the right length for us. I have one saddle sore and some achy muscles, but I couldn't be happier!
It was an accomplishment for me and Calico as a team. We took turns being the "confident" one in several situations. Together, we'd never crossed bridges before. On all but one of the dozen or so bridge crossings, we were in the lead… and I may be anthropomorphizing here a bit, but I swear she had a swagger to her as if to say, "Really guys? This is a bridge!"
(Coming across a gentleman changing trash bags was an altogether different story, but I got to be the confident one there.)
Now, last week I had the good fortune of helping blaze this particular trail. It had a lot of downed trees that we made detours around, a water crossing, and a few especially (to me, Ms. Horse-Owner for < 1 year) steep hills. Ones I was being cautions on while on my own two feet.
Yeah, Calico didn't see any issue. (That may well be due to all the hill drills that Amanda had us do in lessons.) She was through them before I even had a chance to think about falling. And by the time we got to them, I wasn't the least bit wobbly.
In fact, there wasn't even a single time I recall feeling less than stable on her back. And the group of us were handing cameras back and forth, chatting, and Calico even had that one spook with the trash bags. With both of us, we were moving so easily together! In the ring, on occasion, she has "choppy transmission" where she'll almost stop when going from a trot to a walk. We transitioned probably about twenty times between walking and trotting through the trails and not once was she anything but smooth!
I've summitted a couple of mountains, canoed, gotten utterly lost for miles and then found on hikes… and as much as I love those activities, I've never felt near the ecstatic accomplishment as I did when we got back to the trailers after our ride. It wasn't just me accomplishing something, it was me as part of a team that depended on each other and trusted each other in the unique way that only a horse and rider can do.
It was awesome.
* And apologies for the extensive blogging hiatus. I've had a ton of deadlines and work - but it's all paid stuff! Anyway, I've written a blog or two about having to get back into the blogging saddle… so here I go again! [Ok, I didn't tag my back-in-the-blogging-saddle posts…. and I'm ready for bed.