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Essay: The Backwards Half Chaps

“I was not helping the horse her do her job. I was a pile of mismatched laundry on horseback.”

Still frame courtesy of Candace Wade

I’m a late-in-life-rider who is trying things on a horse that I never dreamed I would. I’m attempting the fine-tuned entrances and departures of dressage – riding at speeds bareback — learning the partnership of baby-jumping (not jumping babies, jumping low oxers) and, after drooling over the cross-country field, attacking the beginning-beginners cross-country course. I was high for three days scrutinizing the video of myself. Then life crawled in and squatted.

My self-confidence was in over-drive. I had planned to go higher and faster on my next lesson. Let me at ‘em. But, I got rained out twice. Then my husband needed me to bully him after his hip replacement (“Get up and get it yourself.  While you are in the there, I left dishes for you to wash.”) Plus, my brain was an Interstate-on-Thanksgiving Eve clogged with boring “life stuff.”

Finally, a day to ride. No rain. Temperature not polar. My husband could do dishes and navigate the stairs. I’M GOING RIDING!

Excited, I zipped my paddock boots and laughed as I fumbled to get my half-chaps on ‘cause my mind and soul were already at the lesson barn.

Blah, blah, blah, opted for the show arena set with jumps because the clouds were trickling a bit. Down to it, my lesson horse and I just weren’t gliding over the jumps. She seemed disconnected and I was continuously two steps behind the correct position.  Bummer.

The wise-older-woman-rider in me decided this wasn’t our day. I kicked my feet out of the irons and la-de-dah walked/trotted my sweet lesson horse around the arena. We headed out for a stroll around the pond, looking at the geese and smelling the pine trees. That was it.

When I got home, I was mortified. I had my half-chaps on backwards.  My lesson horse probably saw it and wanted nothing to do with such a feeb. I realized everything about me was backwards that day. I was not helping the horse her do her job. I was a pile of mismatched laundry on horseback.

Still, I had fun. For most of us, riding is supposed to be fun. My Thanksgiving resolution is to remember that progress is great, but fun is the best.  Be kind to your lesson horse and have fun – oh, and make sure you have your mental half-chaps on right.

Am I the only equestrian goofball?  What “what-a-mess-I-am” things have you done – and lived to tell about?

Happy Thanksgiving.  Be thankful for your lesson horse, please.

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