In which our blogger rediscovers her happy place.
I began my riding experience as a very timid rider. Many assume that those of us suffering with this particular ailment are fearful due to the size of the animal… not the case for me. On the right horse, the horse that I connected with and communicated with on that level, I was fearless. I had no traumatic event, no precise fear to pinpoint. Going fast and jumping high just wasn’t really on my radar and the pressure to go there intimidated me.
My first horse, Sabastian, taught me more than I could have ever imagined, both about riding and myself. After he passed away, I picked up the reins and assumed ownership of my mother’s horse, Toy, a, then 10 year-old, Trakehner who had spent the majority of his life as a glorified pasture potato. Together, we went on to show in the low hunters, explore foxhunting, and take on the trails.
Life went on, as it does, and before long, I was getting married, buying a home, and thinking about babies. Toy continued to be a big part of my life and we eventually moved to a 50-acre farm in Virginia. After a couple of years, our biggest life adventure began. In January 2012, we welcomed our first child, a daughter.
Around that same time, my horses likely became convinced that I dropped off the face of the earth, taking their Stud Muffins® with me.
How It Happened
There are many schools of thought on riding during pregnancy. Some doctors will tell you that you should go as long as you feel comfortable. Others will set limitations based upon how far along you are. For those of us who have had to struggle with infertility, the risks may seem a bit higher. My doctor’s response was, “Why take the chance?” and so I chose not to.
Just as they say that falling off and not getting right back on can have long-lasting impact on our psyches as riders, so too, can lengthy time out of the saddle. It began as nine months, then the reality of taking care of this new little being hit home. The time that I once had to leisurely stroll around the property or hone in my flatwork skills was quickly replaced with life as a new mother.
I was still getting “barn time,” sure. Heck, I was cleaning stalls up until the moment my husband kicked me out to go to the hospital! Even so, there just never seemed to be enough time and the stress just continued to mount, keeping me from doing so. I was also encountering a whole new line of concern: If something happened to me, I had my daughter to worry about.
Getting Back There
Something changed when my daughter was around 18 months old. Perhaps, it was the further development of her mobility: She is really getting to be my mini-me and loves to spend time with the horses in the barn as Mommy’s “helper.” Maybe it was the height of frustration in this long-lost, yet crucial, part of my identity as a horseperson.
Whatever the case, I finally have decided that enough is enough. I spend time each day caring for these creatures, making sure that they are comfortable, healthy and happy. We break our backs… figuratively and literally… during the hottest days of the summer growing and baling our own hay for them. (And it is always 120 degrees on baling day!)
The time has come to get back in the saddle and reclaim that part of myself that I have let go for too long! Last weekend was my first time on the back of my horse since my daughter has been alive. To say that I was terrified is an understatement of epic proportion.
Toy has never given me a reason to be afraid. At 18 years old, my distinguished older gentleman is as calm and confident as it gets. Yet, as we walked around the ring to have a look around, I whispered to him prayers that he be a good boy and not go crazy on me. My hands and legs were trembling as I climbed the mounting block (since when has 16 hands been so HUGE!?). Yet sitting from the seat of my saddle looking through those perfect dark bay ears, my whole world outlook seemed far better than it had from the ground. Our world is going through a lot of craziness these days, but you wouldn’t know any of it existed from up here.
I hope that you are able to connect with some part of my journey into rediscovering the rider, whom I left behind, and that you will join along with me in this process. Toy and I are pretty out of shape, so we’ll be taking it one step at a time, but I know that we will get there in the end!
Lauren is a 28-year-old Project Manager for a historic restoration company. She lives on a small farm in Virginia, along with her husband, their 20-month-old daughter, and a veritable cornucopia of pets and livestock. She is a Type-A overachiever who thrives on deadlines and limited amounts of sleep. With experience showing hunters, her current riding goals include re-establishing fitness following pregnancy and enjoying the more casual-side of riding outside of the show ring.
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