Watching those I Love as they Grow

I’ve been taking a step back from my personal development to give those around me their own space to grow. It started with me hiring a trainer for Max and is continuing with me allocating more of my horse money, and more, towards my daughter’s growing love of horses.

I originally hired a bi-weekly exercise rider for Max to get him reacquainted with cantering under saddle. She proved to be even more talented and horse savvy than promised, and has helped me to find the root of his “craziness” that I’ve lived in terror of all these years. As is always the case, Max isn’t working with a screw loose, he’s working with a pain in his back. She’s able to canter him by staying off his back in two point the entire time until the chiropractor makes it out to the stable. She doesn’t get intimidated if he decides to keep cantering (more like hand gallop) a few more laps around the arena before deciding that “woah” sounds like an acceptable option. Hopefully, his sore back can be adjusted and we’ll canter together one day. For now, I’m working on my two point and Max is continuing with his training sessions to gain more balance in his canter.

My daughter graduated summer horse camp with the spark of equestrianism shining in her eyes. She took to weekly group lessons with enthusiasm and started tagging along to bum rides on Max whenever I went to the stable. Just in time for her birthday, three horses came available for lease, and she was able to pick her favorite. We’ve been out to the stable every day since! It’s amazing to see her genuinely love her time with her own horse. She spends more and more of her free time away from the stable in anticipation of what she’ll work on when she finally gets there. Her horse was a barrel racer before, and was given a crash course on jumping, so he has a varied education. There’s a lot of nuances that they both can help each other learn. His best quality by far is his giant heart. He is a big cuddle looking for any chance to happen. He runs up to her and whinnies for her when she disappears around a corner. He makes her feel loved and she loves to love him back. He gives her just enough brat under saddle to make her a better rider, while carefully checking in every few seconds to make sure she’s still there and doing okay. I adore him for her and it’s just an amazing thing to experience as a parent to see her love and be loved by her horse the way I am with Max.

My daughter and I are tagging along with the stable’s show crowd to groom for the Quarter Horse Congress this year. It’s going to be an amazing experience for us both. I’m looking forward to it for so many reasons!

I’m still riding Max a few days a week. I’m probably seeing him more now than in the past few years, since I’m my daughter’s ride to the stable. I feel like Max and I are on the brink of finally cantering. I’m looking forward to what the chiropractor will find and hopefully fix. Getting older seems to add more dimension to my perspective towards life as I become more aware and sympathetic of the reasons behind the actions of those around me. I think that’s a quality we all long for as equestrians, and why we value the tutelage of old timers. It’s a bittersweet tradeoff to gain more wisdom in exchange for becoming less physically resilient. Fortunately, I still have a few more decades of bounce-back potential in me.

Time is still on my side, and I can still afford to sit back a little longer and help the four legged and two legged creatures in my life reach their full potential. Seeing their journey helps me value mine even more, as well.

Reflecting on Years of Mistakes

Glamor Shot!

I’ve been uploading my horse journal from when I first got Max. It’s been an emotional project. Without being at that particular stable, I’m not sure I would have bought Max, so for that I am grateful that I started my equestrian journey there. However, I was so young, trusting, and naive then that I was hurt a lot. So many of my entries are me blaming myself for my riding lessons leaving me in tears. I was begging to just be able to enjoy my horse and ride, and not realizing what was preventing me from doing that. It just wasn’t the right place for us. I held on for years when I could have just left at any time.

So, yesterday I just dedicated my trip to the stable to that starry eyed girl I’ve been re-reading. I fulfilled her dreams of just brushing her beautiful new horse, braiding his mane, feeding him way too many treats, and walking around with him at liberty. I followed him into the pasture and leaned against him while he grazed, burying my head in his back and getting lost in his horsey smell. I sat in the grass and giggled when the other horses came up and sniffed me.

“You’re not a horse! What are you doing here?”

I wish I could go back and and tell that girl I was, seven years ago, that it’s okay to do all of those things. Having a horse is just having a horse. There’s no end goal. You can make goals, and you should, but there’s not a finish line that you have to cross, “or else”. Being happy is enough.

All these years of experience later, my stable trip was much different than hers would have been, had she given herself permission. I know when Max is pushing his boundaries and when to react. I read one of my entries where he had played hard to get with his feet. Now, he’s got his hoof in the air by the time I bend down towards it. I remember days where I spent 20 minutes chasing him around in the pasture. Now, he comes to me. It might take him a minute to decide to leave his patch of grass, but he’ll do it. When we walk around at liberty in the arena, I know how to send him out in order to make him join up. Youtube helped me learn these things, but Max was my real teacher. His reactions to me trained me how to train him. When I did the right thing, he did the right thing. That knowledge and confidence I have handling him now came from all those days where he didn’t want to give me his hoof or come in from the pasture.

I spent so much time berating myself for “failing” when I was just learning. Learning means making mistakes and not getting the results you intended. I still do, and isn’t it funny that I haven’t learned from the futility of beating myself up? I’m looking forward to the day when I can just shrug off a bad day and keep going, because tomorrow, or the day after, or a couple months later, is going to be better. Maybe that can be today.

Cantering After a Bad Fall

Four years ago, I had a horrible fall off of Max. The fall shattered my confidence as a rider. I almost sold Max because I thought that he was more horse than I would ever be able to handle, but the thought of sending my best friend into the unknown broke my heart. My only option was to keep working on being a better partner. I learned to listen to him and what he was so desperately trying to tell me. I realized that I needed to listen to and trust myself. Today, I finally cantered again!

The Fall that Broke my Confidence

My last fall off of Max was very traumatic for me. I’ve mentioned before that his teeth grow remarkably fast, and I wasn’t completely aware of how that affected his behavior until my last fall. Max is a sensitive horse, aka a Drama Queen, who tells me something is wrong by going on strike. The day of the fall, I rode Max after a few months off. He didn’t want to do anything other than walk on a loose rein. If I tried to ask for contact or a trot, he tossed his head and came to a standstill. My trainer of the time thought it was just him not wanting to come back to work. She had taught me to snatch his mouth when he was a brat. This time, however, his mouth was in pain because his teeth were cutting into his cheeks. He finally exploded out of pain and frustration, reared, bucked, and took off. I hit the sand hard and ended up with road rash all over my forearm and a nasty concussion. It took four months for me to heal from the concussion, and my forearm is still a web of scar tissue. 

Learning to Listen to my Horse

In a way, he managed to bang some sense into my thick skull with that fall. I had suspected his teeth issue for a couple of years, but the stable’s vet didn’t thoroughly inspect his teeth during his bi-yearly shots and check-up. They said everything was ok. My trainer blamed his behavior on brattiness and him being hot and, big surprise, said he just needed more training. I finally recognized the pattern of his pain-avoidant behavior. I called a reputable equine dentist who sedated him and put a camera up by his molars before confirming my suspicions. 

After more time off, both healing from my concussion and having to work a lot of overtime to save up for a new house, I moved Max to a new barn and started lightly riding again. The first time I recognized his teeth pain behavior starting back up, I got off him and called the dentist. Sure enough, his teeth were overgrown again. I’ve kept him on a strict floating schedule since. Neither of us has had to go through that painful experience again. Still, my confidence remained shattered, and it was up to me to pick up the pieces so that Max and I could move forward as a team. 

Regaining my Confidence

Even though I knew Max had run off because of mouth pain and that it wouldn’t happen again, I still got in the saddle with the fear of him taking off because of something else. Sure, his teeth were fine, but there are a million other triggers, and just one of them could land me back in the ER. 

I’ve come to accept that Max isn’t an easy horse to ride. I recently put my Mother in Law on him for just a few minutes and ended up driving her to the ER because he dumped her off and broke her sacrum. The only thing worse than ending up in the ER because of a bad fall is when you’re driving someone you love there because they had a bad fall on your horse!!! 

I still don’t equate that to making me a good rider, and I scoff whenever someone compliments my riding. You know the saying “crazy people don’t think they are crazy?” I think good riders don’t think they are good. The more I learn about riding, the more I realize that I don’t know. Ever since I got Max, it seems like every other horse I get on is half asleep and eventually does what they are told. Max is a breath away from reacting and answers every other command with a “but why? Ok, well, why? Uhuh, and why?” 

I’ve spent four months at the stable almost every day of the week. We started with him racing around the arena at a constant power trot, yanking my arms out. One trainer told me he looked lame, or the saddle didn’t fit, or he had arthritis. Another trainer said he would eventually get tired and slow down. In the end, I realized that I had to learn to listen to myself. 

Learning to Listen to Myself

My current trainer, who I adore, was the first and only person who told me that Max always needs me to calm him down. I took her words to heart and realized that I couldn’t find the answer on YouTube. I had to be in the moment with him, hand over hoof, and guide him to a calmer frame of mind. 

I stopped the cycle of fighting with the reins by choosing not to fight. Half halts weren’t working. Making him work his feet until he decided to stop being frenetic and slow down wasn’t working. I chose to use downward transitions. Whenever he started to run through my hands, I transitioned down to a walk, gave us a few moments to breathe, and asked for the trot again. In just a week, he completely transformed. I still pull the exercise back out every few rides. 

I also realized that I had to put us both in separate canter training before we could do it together. I worked on my fitness and balance in the saddle. I put Max into training with an experienced rider. He hadn’t cantered under saddle without me falling off in the seven years I’ve owned him. He needed to relearn how to balance himself and carry a rider. They say green and green equals black and blue. I’m done tempting fate and getting black and blue instead of being patient and trusting my judgment. 

Nurturing my Newfound Confidence… and Finally Cantering!

I asked for the calmest, shortest lesson horse that could carry me. One of the reasons I got Max was that I’m short and being on a tall horse kind of freaks me out. I don’t like being that far from the ground. I can do basic math in my head, and falling from an extra foot or two means more ouch! 

Then, I committed to just sucking it up and cantering. When it came time for everyone in the group lesson to canter, I did it too. I didn’t let myself trot around until the time felt right. I had already put in the prep work in the months leading up to the lesson, and a few more minutes was only going to give my brain more time to get scared. I had to trust the decision I already made and take the leap. 

It was euphoric to be in that moment, finally accomplishing something I had feared for so long. It felt like we were racing away from the past trauma and toward happiness and the future. The lesson kept getting better, as I was finally able to follow along with everyone else. I had spent weeks just trotting around while they cantered over poles and did courses. Being able to jump in and keep up with them was such a confidence booster. I’m not going to start going around and saying I’m a good rider, but after the lesson today, I won’t be going around and saying I’m a terrible rider, either. 

I’m going to keep working on my cantering skills and enjoying seeing Max’s progress in his training. We are so close to finally cantering together, seven years after we started. I’ve learned so much from my heart horse. He’s taught me through blood, sweat, tears of both happiness and frustration to start to learn how to listen to both my inner voice and his body language. 

Aspiring to Canter

Max and I have never cantered together on purpose. I mistakenly cued him to canter the first time, lost balance, and did everything you’re not supposed to do good enough that he ran off with me. The second time, he was trying to tell me that he was in pain, but I didn’t listen, and he had no choice but to buck, rear, and take off. There’s a cowboy’s saying, “If you get in the saddle, you had better be ready for the ride,” and Max is a ride. I need to be 100% balanced and confident for us both.

The last time I cantered, I bailed out of the saddle just in time to get road rash all over my forearm and a nasty concussion which took four months to heal. I spent enough time out of the saddle to become scared. That was four years ago.

Since I’ve rededicated myself to riding in 2021, I’ve been slowly gaining back my confidence in the saddle. I’ve taken a group lesson with Max once a week and ridden him 3-5 days between classes. We’ve worked on our strength, balance, and relaxation. We’ve come far enough that when everyone else picks up the canter during group, my coach tries to coax me into joining them.

For a few weeks, I dreaded her weekly words of encouragement. She would say, “Max is ready, and you’re ready!” while my face turned white and I envisioned ambulance lights. Gradually, I started to get bored of just trotting around while everyone else got to canter and jump.
When I almost did it one week, I knew it was time to start getting Max ready to canter.

I’ve had one of the trainers at the stable canter Max twice a week for a few weeks. He’s slowly remembering how to horse. The first few rides were him racing around like a ninny while she calmly balanced in the stirrups and stroked his neck. (I want to be her when I grow up!!!) Now I can see the joy in his face when she cues the canter, and he gets to stretch out and do what he loves. He’s begun to come to a point in our rides where his head pops up to give me a one-eyed look, his ear flicks back, his back tenses, and I can feel his silent question “Now? It’ll be fun! C’mon!”.

When I was riding all by myself and almost said “yes” to him, I knew it was time to start getting me ready to canter.

I’ve been riding 5 days a week, no excuses. I’ve been pushing myself to ride outside of the arena, trotting on a loose rein, up and down hills, over poles, with enough two-point to make my legs numb. If it’s just enough outside my comfort zone to make the base of my skull buzz, I’m doing it until it feels easy. I’ve been working myself up to the point where I feel ridiculous for not just cantering already. It still sounds scary, but I’m bored of the drama in my amygdala and just want to have it all be done with!!!

I was supposed to canter a lesson pony this morning. I woke up to a freak winter weather watch with 40 degrees of nope and a wind chill that sliced down to the bone. As much as I’ve worked myself up, making my first canter in four years be on a freshly clipped pony in freezing winter weather just wasn’t going to happen.

Horseback riding is my constant lesson in life on rebalancing and adjusting to whatever obstacles come up along the way. I didn’t want to wait another week to canter, but I’ll take the week and make the most out of it. I want to work on my two-point and general relaxation. I’ve been rehabbing from starting off as a dressage rider. I still try and sit Max’s expressive trot and get him to look like a dressage horse. It’s better for us both for me to just post with light contact while he stretches out his neck. Every ride I share with him on a long rein makes me a better horsewoman.

I’m looking forward to cantering the lesson pony next week as a better rider than I would have been if the weather had cooperated with my plan today.

I don’t know when Max and I will canter together, but I’m proud of the progress that both of us are making, and I know we will accomplish that milestone together and rock it when the time comes!

Horses are Life

The amount of momentum I have gained in my personal life since starting this blog is impressive. At the end of 2020, I hadn’t seriously ridden my horse in 4 years. I was overweight and out of shape. I hadn’t written a short story or poem in a decade. I had never learned to play the guitar.

Since I’ve channeled my New Years’ commitment into a no zero year, I’ve consistently made strides in all of those areas with a blog for added accountability. Max and I ride 3-5 days a week. I’ve lost over 15lbs, three pant sizes, my stamina, strength, and biochemistry are all vastly improved. I’ve written several stories and poems that I am very proud of and am getting to the point where I actually believe I can start and finish a novel. I learned to play the guitar a little bit, got a piano, learned to play that a little bit, and feel like I’ve given music a good try.

With spring all around me, I’m feeling the urge to revisit and edit my goals going forward.

Horseback riding is what fuels me, and I’m going to rebrand my goals and my blog to reflect that passion. I’ll be setting music aside for the time being.

So far this year, I’ve checked off most of my no zero days by horseback riding. I’m getting to the point where I need to exercise daily outside of just riding my horse to become a better rider.

As a writer, I’ve dabbled in random prompts enough this year that I feel primed and ready to focus on purposeful writing. I’m looking forward to concentrating on horse fiction. I’ve always dreamed of writing novels, and I know I have a herd of horse novels in my brain, tossing their heads to be let out.

This blog has inspired me to explore my true passions of riding and writing. I’m excited to move forward on a more focused path. Keep tuned for my upcoming refresh — soon, there will be a new name, new look, and new content!

Progress in the Pasture

Today’s lesson went amazing, and left me holding the reins.

My coach has been building us up to trot over ground poles at a steady pace. We nailed it over and over again. We trotted circles, patterns; we kept going until I ran out of breath. I caught my breath, and we went some more. Max and I have practiced so many times that we were practically falling asleep.

Our coach suggested we walk around in Max’s field. We had practiced in there a couple days ago, and Max walked all over it for me without hesitation. Today was different. My mother-in-law went along on her lesson horse, and the two horses formed an impromptu herd. They only wanted to go where the other horse went, which became a problem when neither wanted to go anywhere!

Once again, Max is stepping up into the role of Master Coach. I didn’t know what step would take us to the next development in our partnership, and he pointed it out. We can trot around the arena in a semi-mindless state, but riding outside the arena and out of sight of the barn ramps us both back up to where we started a couple months ago.

I was eventually able to annoy Max into going where I wanted. We even trotted about ten feet. I got worried when he started to feel rushed, so I pulled him back into a walk.

I’m looking forward to more pasture practice. I want to translate our progress in the arena to the uneven ground and hard to see past hills out there. Our partnership is a constantly evolving journey of trusting ourselves and each other. It’s kind of like the arena is level one, and the pasture is level two.

What’s to come!

I’ve been spending all of my time on No Zero pursuits. As a result, my list of blog posts that I need to write is piling up! Here’s a look ahead at what’s to come:


Max and I have been making progress as a team.

Arena patterns have helped us so much. I need to write about a few of my favorites.

We’ve also been spending more time outside of the arena. There are many hills at our stable, and we’ve been climbing and descending them to practice for trails. I’ve also taken him on a mounted tour of his pasture, which is a trail ride itself!

Back in the arena, I’ve been remembering to focus on keeping him between my hands and legs and constantly check my balance/position. Of course, that’s something that every good rider just does automatically, but I’m still working on becoming a good rider.

I’ve been dreaming about cantering him at least three nights a week. That’s probably going to happen (finally!!!) this summer. I can’t wait to post a video!


As if horseback riding wasn’t enough…

Spring is starting in East Tennessee, and that means spending time outside, preferably in the mountains! I’ve been throwing my family in the car and hitting up the many trails that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has to offer. Each trail is worth its own blog post. The ever-changing beauty along the way has us constantly stopping to take pictures.

When we aren’t hiking, we’re pedaling along our town’s miles of connected greenbelts and parks. I’ve had the same mountain bike that I bought with one of my first paychecks at the age of 15, and I’ve upgraded it over the years. Now it’s an electric bike with an attachment to hook a dog to, which was sorely needed for my German Shepherd!

Following a strict healthy diet has given us so much more energy to get out and enjoy exercising for fun. I’m not sure if I’ll write about healthy eating, but it deserves a shout out.

Since we aren’t going out to eat, which has been the go-to activity for our family for years, I will be exploring other ways to have fun! There are a ton of places to go and spend money around here, and I look forward to trying them all out and telling you about what a great time we had!


I’ve been playing around on my digital piano. It’s incredibly daunting to learn how to play. There are so many resources to choose from. The big thing I need to work on with music is setting aside time to be consistent and practice. I’m so hyped to go out and enjoy the sunshine that I just don’t find myself sitting around and thinking about playing the piano. It’s still early in the year, specifically my first No Zero Year, and adjusting to a disciplined life proves to be a learning curve.

Writing Prompts

Seeing as most of my follower bursts happen right after a writing prompt, it’s only fair that I keep up with demand. I also want to start my novel idea as a serial novel online. It’s going to be such a vast world, and I could use the ongoing critiques and fresh eyes from the internet to help me along the way.

Looking Back…

The sunshine has flipped my focus from music and writing to horseback riding and exercising, but I don’t want to give up the momentum in the former or the latter. I’m enjoying making each day not just a No Zero Day but also a little bit of everything day! As I strive to find balance and discipline, I’m made more aware that I need to study the art of discipline just as much as my individual pursuits.

Expect to see a little of everything I mentioned in a blog post soon!


There’s a puddle on the corner of the outdoor arena that I’ve been trying to get Max to walk through. He turns around it in circles. He stops at the edge. He puts his head down and swishes his top lip in the water. That’s me and riding. The unknown is terrifying. As I push myself closer to stepping into that puddle, I gain a little more trust.

I’ve been reveling in my newfound capability to trust Max. I’ve even been practicing my sitting trot while letting him just trot. He’s living up to my trust, giving me his gentle and honest best effort to stay steady while I bounce and slide around his back. I’m facing the truth that I don’t have to be in his face, telling him with my voice that it’s okay to go forward, while my hands yell at him that I actually want him to somehow give me the joy of movement while providing the security of being completely still.

I’m having a harder time trusting myself. The more closely I realize just how much I trust Max, the more I realize that my lack of self-trust is the actual problem. He’s a horse, a prey animal that lives in a reactive mindset. I’m a human, and my brain is an overthought and tangled web of what if’s.

I’ve been working on trotting Max over poles. I point him at a pole and immediately start over-reacting in anticipation of the possibility that he might over-react. What if he doesn’t just step over the pole? What if he jumps over the pole? What if he darts off to the side? What if he breaks into a canter, which turns into a gallop, which turns into me in the dirt?

He steps over the pole, and I praise him. Am I telling him that he is a good boy, or am I really patting myself on the back for having worked through my fear? Maybe both.

Besides working through my fear of what-ifs, what did I really learn from that exercise? Did I learn to anticipate that Max will more often than not just step over the pole? Did I come one pole closer to complacency?

Riding is an ever-evolving exercise in pushing boundaries. Trotting becomes cantering. Cantering becomes galloping. Poles become jumps. Arenas become open fields and winding trails. The training wheels come off and are replaced by jet packs.

I’m going to put us in situations where the odds swing against Max’s reaction being predictable. That’s the goal. I won’t do it because I want to be dangerous. I’ll do it because I want to grow as a human. I want him to grow as a horse.

How do I learn to compliment his reactive instinct? Say we go over a pole, but instead of stepping over it, he jumps and takes off running? What am I going to do? Will I be stunned and have no skills at the ready to be his rock that he can turn to for guidance and confidence? Right now, that’s where I see myself. That’s what I’m scared of. When he needs me, I’m going to let him down. I’m going to do what I’ve always done and bail out of the saddle while he is left to race around with flapping reins and figure out what to do on his own.

Because I’m a thinking person, I can only trust the skillset that I have developed. To trust me more, I need a higher skill set. I need more fitness. I need more experience. I need to expand my boundaries to include riding faster, jumping higher (at all), losing and regaining balance in the saddle, and accepting that I could fall off and have to get back on.

Ultimately, I’m learning that the feeling of trust is complicated. It takes experience and hard work to develop. I have to do things that I don’t trust to gain mastery that I can trust. I have to be uncomfortable until it’s comfortable. Even after all that, trust won’t guarantee safety.

I want to trust myself to be a rider that Max can trust. Breaking down that goal — I want to trust myself. I want Max to be able to trust me. When Max doesn’t just take an obstacle in stride, I want to trust myself to adjust and keep riding.

Now I just have to actually do all of that.

Kissing Noises

I learned to trust my horse a little more today. My coach had us focus on two exercises.

She had us trot a figure eight through some empty jump standards and over poles. (Today, I learned that they are called standards)

She also had us trot around the arena and do a twenty-meter circle in each corner. Something about that last exercise — or it could have been the four hours of YouTube that I binged on before our lesson — gave me a huge aha moment. I developed the trust that his body was going where I told it. I felt his shoulders leading, and the tension that I’ve kept in his neck finally release. We did circles, and that’s a big deal! Once I had that moment, I felt so much tension slough away.

My coach asked if I was ready to canter him yet.

I told her that I wanted to canter him on the longe line first and develop a strong voice command, so I didn’t have the half an arena super trot while he tries to figure out what I want (while I’m scared out of my mind and not really wanting it, especially the more super his trot becomes). I told her how I’ve been trying to get him to canter, but he just speeds up his trot. A smart coach, she gets out the longe line and sees if she can get him to canter.

Guess who cantered with one little kiss sound? Today I learned you’re supposed to ask for a canter with a kiss. Shouting “CANTER” means absolutely nothing, but a tiny little kiss sound means CANTER. I didn’t make the rules! I’m not sure how I never learned the kiss command before, but at least I know it now.

When will I be ready to canter him? Probably soon. My priorities this week are to:

  1. Practice riding with a crop under my thumbs to keep my hands from waving around like an idiot.
  2. Trot over poles until I get over it. (haha)
  3. Trot between standards until they become less scary. (Yea, they scare me.)
  4. Learn how to make amazing kissing noises at Max while he’s on the longe line.

A day in the wagon

There’s something compelling about writing at least one entry a day in my blog. Blogs should have topics, and topics should be fleshed out before being blogged. I really wanted to write an entry this morning, but I hadn’t had a chance to do anything worth writing the internet about. The suspense of being one accomplishment away from a post fueled my day.

I initially tried to fill a post with a writing prompt. The prompt I chose resonated so perfectly with my tastes in literature that it caught fire and exploded into an unstoppable inferno of creativity. I couldn’t stop fleshing out the universe for my story. It just kept expanding. One train of thought turned into the plot for a book series. On the bright side, I know this will be my first published work. It will be a long while before it’s transcribed from my head to a document, but it’s going to get there.

Before I lay the topic of writing prompts to rest, I have to express my astonishment at the traffic my last prompt has brought to my blog. There really seems to be a market for short prompt responses.

I ended my day in the wagon with a horseback ride. I’ve been putting the stable off because of the miserably freezing and wet weather. Max let me know that I had been gone too long. It took him a long time in the cross ties before he stopped trying to nip me while disapprovingly pinning his ears. I enjoyed actually being able to brush all the mud off of his lower legs.

As is my constant luck with timing, I had Max tacked up just as everyone in the arena dismounted. It’s intimidating to be the only rider in the arena when I haven’t ridden properly in a couple weeks. Fortunately, I have an intelligent horse who understands that he stands still while I heft myself into the saddle. Even so, I still am gripped with unease in that moment of vulnerability where I’ve got one foot in the stirrup and am pushed into the air with the other. It’s up to my partner to stay steady while I get my balance. When I ride every day — or at least every other day — like I should, I become acclimated to and comfortable with mounting.

Max was great. He gave me his honest truth. We were both on edge and raw, but we spent a fair amount of time just walking and feeling each others’ rhythm. We were able to settle into a light trot without much tension. That’s been the accomplishment of our every ride for years. It’s something that I keep coming close to, and then taking time off from riding. Thankfully this last hiatus was just a couple weeks.

Tomorrow’s riding goal is to calm my flipping hands. I have this weird habit of extending one or both arms out to the side, like I’m trying to shake up a container of pasta so it settles evenly. I don’t know how I got into that rut, but I need to climb out of it and run far away. My restless arms and hands need to stay in the box. When I can make myself stay in one position, Max will stay in one position.

I’m so happy to have spent a day in the wagon. I’m bedding down for the night. I’m going to wake up tomorrow in the wagon and see where it takes me.