I should know by now that, even though add title is at the top of the screen, one always adds the title last. Just like I should know by now that “i’ll do this tomorrow” always means I’ll most certainly not do it tomorrow.
I wanted to ride today so bad that it hurt. At least, I hurt. I don’t know if it’s PMS or just a random bug, but I’ve been fighting a losing battle over the past few days to keep moving. I even tried to compromise by just heading to the barn to lunge Maximas, but getting dressed was enough to make me dizzy. I laid down in bed and woke up an hour later to my grocery pickup alarm.
I fought back by listing a bunch of my unwanted crap on the FB marketplace.
Writing was the one thing I could do from a sickly state. I found the perfect writing prompt to wrap up a day of closet emptying and classified posting. “I Don’t Want This Anymore”
I didn’t do what I wanted to do today, but I did accomplish what I needed to do.
Maximas is finally worked down. I got on him today, walked him around a few times, and braced for the zoomy trot — but I got a lesson horse trot, instead! He settled into one speed, exactly as fast as I made him go, and went where I told him to go! I was amazed. I was able to check his shoulder and make sure I was on the right diagonal. I could let him go around on a loose rein. I don’t know what caused it to click for us, but I hope it stays that way.
I saw a Reddit comment a few days ago that has been helping me a lot. They advised me to put my weight along the outside of my foot. It’s really helped me drape down and around, as well as find my balance easier. While I was playing around with that, I found a nice groove to fit my legs into, and the combination makes me feel like I’m finally balanced and snug. I can go right up into two-point. I’m still working on maintaining two-point, but that’s a given. It’s easier to practice with a horse that’s not trying to win the Kentucky Derby.
I could have worked us for hours today. What if I don’t have another good day for weeks?
I was able to look up, which I’m always getting in trouble for not doing in class. I could feel Maximas’ shoulders, and I started getting the feel for giving little half halts and leg nudging when he lost balance. I also worked on lowering my post. That one did a number on my abs. I’ll take a number on my abs over jackhammering Maximas’ back.
Tomorrow, I plan on laying out some cones and poles and trotting us around/over them. My trainer spent our last lesson trying to get us over poles. We threw ourselves at it with the gusto and anxiety of a Grand Prix jumping course. I’m looking forward to redeeming ourselves in our next lesson.
After our ride, I popped my helmet on the kid and led Maximas around as he gave her a pony ride. She’s going to start lessons this summer. I wonder where she will end up in the horse world. English or western? Trails or competitions? I wonder if Maximas will be her partner, too. If I keep riding him five days a week, probably not!
I’ve been manically consuming anything to do with horses for the past week. I finally had the ride today that I needed. I was able to get Maximas to stick to the speed I wanted, instead of just running around and making us both look like ninnies.
I also wrote a poem from a writing prompt on one of my facebook groups.
There’s a lot of busy human energy around me. Everyone either wants to win the giant lottery jackpot or is convinced that the presidential inauguration will be the end of the world as we know it.
I took this picture as I was leaving the stable. The sky was so pretty and calm. I want to be like that sky.
I get stuck in rabbit holes. I’ll find something that interests me so intensely that I hyper-focus on it and wake up to find that days have passed. My brain hurts. I’m dazed.
I’ve been down a horse rabbit hole for the past few days. I’ve learned a lot, but all of that information has overloaded my processor. I want to break it down and document it all, but I just need to force myself to step away for a bit.
I’m going to go back to watching mindless youtube videos, now…
Those soulful eyes set above a thick, strong muzzle drew me in as I read the short description. “Need home ASAP for Bella. 3 years old. Super sweet, but she doesn’t like men. Potty trained. Can sit, down, and stay.” I nestled into the pillows in my bed as my hand ran through my hair. Had it come to this? Was this the only way that I could feel safe? I sighed and pressed the reply button. It brought up a phone number.
Is Bella still looking for a home? I texted.
I flipped back to her picture and spread my fingers apart on the screen to zoom in closer on her face. Maybe it was my imagination, but I thought I saw a hint of sadness. She had a reason to hate men, just like me. A notification made the phone vibrate in my hand.
Ya. When can u meet?
I don’t have a car, can u bring her to my place? Anytime tonight would be gud.
Sure, what’s ur address?
I blew out a sigh of relief. My car hadn’t left the garage in over five months. I sent my address and waited.
Cool. I’m ten minutes away. Be right there!
Ten minutes? I groaned and inspected my studio apartment with disgust. Crap was everywhere. Who was going to leave a dog with me? I checked my phone. Eight minutes, time to think fast. I grabbed a trash bag and started shoving everything inside. Three trash bags later, and it was completely bare: rocking those Minimalist vibes. I fluffed the comforter over the mattress and threw the trash bags into the shower stall. There was just enough time to brush my teeth and run a brush through my hair. Perfect timing.
The knock on the door sent a jolt up my spine. My heart raced as I flipped up one of the blinds and scanned the parking lot. I knew all the cars that should or shouldn’t be there. Only one stuck out. Hopefully, it was Bella’s. I glanced through the peephole. A pleasant enough looking girl, her arms full of dog bowls, blankets, toys, and food, stood next to Bella. As I took them both in, the girl squatted down and looked into Bella’s eyes. Bella’s tail wagged, and she licked the girl’s nose. She was perfect. I opened the door.
“Hi! Oh, she’s so cute!” I squealed. I felt my heart speed up, but this felt nice; no, it felt amazing.
“Yea. She’s my- I mean – a baby.”
I gave her a sympathetic look. “Wanna come inside?”
Bella walked in ahead, her nose twitching as she slowly inspected the room. The girl watched her without moving. I stood by the doorway. It was a relief that she wasn’t coming in. Bella finished sniffing everything and sat beside me. She nuzzled my hand and licked my fingers. I wiggled them against her muzzle, and her tail thumped on the ground.
The girl watched us. “So… you like her?”
“Yea. She’s awesome. You want any money or anything?” I didn’t have any money. I hoped she didn’t want any money.
“Naw. Just… take good care of Bella, ok? Oh, and you saw that she doesn’t like men, right?”
“Yea. It’s just me, so she’ll be fine. I’ll text you if I have any questions. You can text me too if you like, wanna know how she’s doing and stuff.” I added in the last part, hoping it would make her feel better.
“Thanks. Here’s her stuff.” She cast another sad look at Bella before turning and jogging to her car.
Bella started to follow her. I instinctively put out my hand, and Bella sat back down. We both watched the car drive off. I shut the door.
Bella followed me around as I laid out her bed and filled her food and water bowl. She sniffed the food, drank a little water, and hopped up on the bed with me. I pulled the blanket around us. She laid her head on my thigh and drifted off to sleep while I watched T.V. I felt the weight of five years start to slide off my shoulders. Maybe this would work. My hand sunk into her fur, and I felt my eyes begin to drift shut.
A familiar banging startled me awake. Bella was growling, and the hair down her neck and back stood on end. I fought the urge to hide under the blanket, like usual, because I was sick of being scared.
“Go away, Luke!” I yelled.
“Open up,” he screamed back. He started banging on the window. I could hear him try to pry it open. “I’m going to kill you!”
“Luke, just leave me alone!”
“You’re mine! Open the door!”
I opened the door.
Bella shot out around me, and Luke screamed. Her face had stuck on to his leg. Satisfaction burned in her eyes as she whipped her neck back and forth. He fell on the pavement.
“Call off your crazy dog! Help! HELP! IT’S GOING TO KILL ME!”
I contemplated his words.
Bella came back and sat at my side. She licked her lips.
“Leave us alone, Luke. Next time, I’ll let her kill you.”
I made a massive breakthrough with my riding! I am so excited. In my last couple of entries, I’ve expressed how frustrated I have been with my lack of security. It’s caused me to be heavy on the reins. I freak out whenever trying to trot. Today brought me a giant step closer to overcoming that block. I can’t say that I’ve entirely broken past it, but I think I’m pretty darn close.
All I had to do was make better use of a piece of tack that I’ve already been using. In my opinion, everyone who rides English can benefit from this piece of equipment.
I originally started using this running martingale at the advice of my first trainer. Maximas’ teeth grow very fast, making him a rodeo horse unless the dentist floats them every eight months. I had to “randomly” deal with a rodeo horse before I knew that about him. His mouth pain would trigger him to jam his head up into the air, twist it sideways, and off we would go. (and off I would go) My trainer advised me to use a running martingale to prevent him from doing that to me. It works by threading each rein through a metal loop that affixes to an extended piece from a breastplate.
“Running martingales help give the rider extra control by discouraging the horse from raising its head beyond the point that the bit works correctly in the horse’s mouth. It works by stabilizing the reins and applying downward pressure on the mouth via the bit and reins when the horse raises its head too high.”
Horse and Hound
While I was riding today, I remembered one other essential function that my trainer had pointed out – the breastplate “seat belt.” I held onto the breastplate that loops over the horse’s neck, and I suddenly felt at complete ease. I had an anchor for my hand that kept it from flailing all over the place. I instantly felt the difference in Maximas. He evened out into a rhythm and relaxed (a little bit). I wasn’t able to send him crazy signals to his hypersensitive mouth just because I have spastic, noisy arms while I come back into riding. I’m hoping that a few rides with that anchor will help me to imprint that consistent hand position into my muscle memory. During this first ride, I kept one hand anchored to the breastplate. If I needed to pull on that rein, I would switch my other hand to the breastplate.
When I first started riding, I held onto the front of the saddle when I felt unsafe. As I learned better riding position, I felt more insecure when I moved my hand that far back and down. When I use the breastplate as a handhold, I anchor my hands at Maximas’ neck base. There’s enough give in the breastplate that my hand can raise a few inches in the air. I could maintain a safe balance in the saddle between my feet in the stirrups and my hand(s) on the breastplate if we have another rodeo moment.
My trainer was in the ring with another student (it was a beautiful day out, just before a winter storm comes into town, so the arena was full of everyone riding their horse). She turned and boggled at me a few times while Maximas and I happily trotted around. I’m not saying we were the picture of perfection, but at least we were going all the way around the ring, I was letting Max have his head, and I was able to take on the role of soothing “good boy!” rider instead of freaking out and yanking on the reins the entire time.
I signed up as an Amazon Affiliate for this post. I wanted to link to the exact running martingale I use. I know from experience that it’s stressful to figure out which product out of an internet full of brands will work. I’ll probably link more products in the future for that reason, so I figured I would go ahead and set up with Amazon. I buy everything from Amazon because of their fast shipping and how easy it is to make returns. I had one fantastic experience when Maximas tore up a brand new $200 blanket on the first day. They took it back and gave me a full refund, even after throwing it in the closet and forgotting about it for a few months.
Yesterday stood out as one of those days where disaster tinged everything I tried to do.
Wednesdays are horseback riding lesson days. I usually have a 40°F cutoff for riding. Anything below that and my horse skitters around with winter glee while my fingers freeze off. I broke that rule because this is my magical No Zero year. The result was pretty crappy. The McDonalds I grabbed on the way home from dropping off the kids was determined to consume my mind with the urgent need to go to the bathroom. It could have also been that I was just a scaredy-cat. Maximas was a complete sweetheart, winter skittering aside, but I couldn’t relax. My teacher kept assuring me that my horse was going slow enough to drive his fuzzy mind crazy, but the thought of him going into a working trot just terrified me.
My last fall would blare at full blast on a replay loop in my head. I would fall forward, so Max hurried up to catch me, which prompted my legs to flail out. Max would decide, “welp, crazy lady up here is having a meltdown, so I’ll just figure out where to go on my own.” The voice in my head would say, “SEE!? He’s going off in a random direction! Stop him before you end up galloping across the arena and end up on the dirt!!!” All of this in the space of 5-10 strides. My arms bodily yanked the reins to make us stop. I could hear the inner groan in my teacher’s head.
I’m also working against four years off from riding. My muscle tone and balance have evaporated. I have moments where I start to feel the rhythm that Maximas and I used to take for granted, but it is impossible to maintain. I’ll fall forward, over post, or keel over sideways. It’s hard to accept my best effort when I know I have done so much better in the past. I know my horse is doing what my body is telling him to, and it sucks, and I’m getting tired of forgiving myself every second for repeating my mistakes.
The only thing that will fix it is more practice. I have to keep messing up until I get it right. My horse forgives me. I should forgive myself, too. Hopefully, today will be a little better.