Fat to Fit to First Level: Exploring Options, Part 2

“Another way of asking the question ‘do I enjoy riding’ is far more fear-filled: ‘What happens if I get injured so badly I can no longer fulfill my responsibilities and obligations?’ That, friends, is a question only a mature rider must face. Adulting is not for wimps!”

Last week I shared some questions that have been rattling around in my head over these past few weeks while I’m grounded. This week, I have been focused on one question, and it’s a doozy:

Do I enjoy riding?

Checking the girth. Photo by Tess McHone, Everyday Beauty Photography

For some people, this would be an easy question, perhaps laughably so. For overthinkers like me, the answer is much more challenging to discover. But, because I’ve always promised you Horse Nation readers “raw honesty,” I will articulate my thoughts here, at the risk of being judged or condemned or scoffed at and called a “nonhorsewomen” or a “has been” or whatever.

Why would I do this to myself and write so publicly over the next few weeks about such a very personal thing as deciding whether to continue riding or not?

Because I know there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other riders just like me. Women (and men) who are not youngsters and thus presumed to be bounce-y from a fall. We are riders for whom the carefree days of “just” school and riding are well behind us. We are riders who do not ride professionally, nor do we have an endless source of revenue to fund our riding habit.

We adult amateur working riders are horsewomen who have heavy responsibilities: some of us have jobs that directly provide for the care of our horses and pay our mortgage, some have children who need their mother healthy and whole, some have aging parents who need their daughter healthy and whole, some run their own farm. There are no “paid sick days” for a farmer, folks. Nor is there paid time off for the self-employed or mothers or caregivers.

So, to all of you who have to walk through the dark tunnel of risk analysis to figure out “can I afford the risk of continuing to ride” – these next few columns are for you.

Another way of asking the question, “do I enjoy riding” is far more fear-filled: “What happens if I get injured so badly I can no longer fulfill my responsibilities and obligations?”

That, friends, is a question only a mature rider must face. Adulting is not for wimps!

The superficial answer to this question, “do I enjoy riding” is, for me, personally: “yes, of course I do!” I love horses, riding is great exercise, and there’s nothing quite like building a partnership of trust and communication with a thousand-pound animal who has a mind of its own.

Beyond that reflex answer, however, are other, equally valid nuances to my answer.

I enjoy riding but I do not enjoy getting injured. I live alone on a working horse farm and the chores simply must be done. Every. Day. I am self-employed; getting laid up for even a few days means zero income during that time. And, to top all that off, those of us who are not hard-wired with vast amounts of confidence certainly do not benefit from being hurt.

Yes, I got up and got right back on Kaliwohi; I am a horsewoman and I won’t end a training session on such a wretchedly negative note. So, you “cowgirl up” and mount up, school the horse, finish the session, and then dismount and figure out what’s broken or otherwise out of kilter in your body.

The statement “I don’t enjoy being injured” really translates into, “is the risk worth it?” That’s the question that is mulling over in my mind these days, and I have promised myself not to rush the answer. Riding, or not riding, is such an individual and very personal decision, it merits lengthy contemplation.

Another nuance is this: the riding I like best is trail riding on a loose rein with a quiet, steady horse, meandering along wooded trails and enjoying the sounds and sights of nature. My first horse, Sam, and I enjoyed such journeys over the span of twenty-six years, with nary a misstep, let alone being unseated.

My second horse, Grace, is much too keen to enjoy trail riding – she loves the discipline and study of dressage, and so I transitioned from a trail rider to a dressage rider.

My hope for Kaliwohi has always been to do both trail riding and dressage riding.

“Is the risk worth it?”

The good news for me is I recently had some friends offer to let me trail ride with them anytime I want. These folks own some of the finest Missouri Fox Trotters east of the Mississippi and they’ve offered to let me ride one of their beautiful gaited horses if I want.

So my riding days are far from over, for sure. I am grateful for this. I am grateful for having the luxury of knowing that, if I choose to, I can ride occasionally with friends on rock-solid, trail-savvy horses.

As I further ponder the question, “do I enjoy riding,” another nuance emerges for consideration.

“Do I enjoy riding Kaliwohi?”

The answer: Yes.  And No.

I enjoy riding Kiwi when he is laid back and quiet and listening to me. I don’t enjoy feeling like I’m on a runaway freight train when he spooks and bolts. SO not fun.

Considering my yes/no answer generates a couple of intimately related questions. First: “Is there a way to help Kaliwohi stop having these moments of unpredictability?” And second, “How can I ride him better so, even if he does spook, I can ride through it and get him back with me instead of getting unseated?”

A future column will address these two questions.

A final nuance of the question, “do I enjoy riding” is this question: If I stop riding on a regular basis, whether for six weeks, six months, six years, or the rest of my life, how will I invest my time? That’s another complex question, and one to be considered in a future column, as well.

The point is: these questions are serious, they are legitimate, and they are potentially life-changing. And, in order to ride well, they must be asked.

And answered.

Mounted on Kaliwohi. (Taken several weeks ago on the day of the “unplanned dismount.”) Photo by Tess McHone, Everyday Beauty Photography

Join me on this journey on Facebook: Fat to Fit at Horse Nation (page and group), and my blog www.appalachianchic.com.


Go riding.

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