So I went to the local tack shop and asked about local barns. Things had changed a lot since high school—the barn where I worked and rode was long gone, lots sold off to home builders. Other stables had suffered the same fate. Hey, wait a minute, isn’t this part of Virginia still considered horse country?
I wanted to avoid a long drive towards Middleburg—the ultimate horse country in Northern Virginia, but hard on the wallet to fill the gas tank and traffic. What luck! I found a place less than ten miles away and made an appointment for an evaluation ride with an instructor.
I was so nervous. Butterflies and no appetite. Worried if I had a chance in hell that my old britches would fit. What if I completely forgot everything I knew? Would I embarrass myself by getting on the mounting block before lowering the stirrups? Would I forget to tighten the girth and suffer the horror of upside-down-saddle-syndrome? Oh jeez.
Remarkably, I calmed once I walked into the barn. They say that smells evoke the most powerful memories—so true. Hay, feed, horses, dust, dirt, leather—that barn smell. You know exactly what I am talking about. Wonderful!
I felt better after meeting my horse—an elderly, calm, quiet gelding. But, my stress-out moment is always when I go to get on a horse. I guess I have had so many of them walk off (or run off) with me as a kid. I’m fine when I am in the saddle, but I always have that split-second thought of “uh oh” when my left foot goes in the stirrup.
Having survived that moment, my small triumph vanished as we walked, trotted and even tried a short canter (the instructor convinced me that the horse was very smooth). Oh, wow, I felt so out of shape and about as coordinated as a colander of cooked pasta. Swinging lower legs, upper body tipping forward, eyes down, piano hands, what a mess! But, I was elated and counted the days until I could return.
What was your back in the saddle experience?
Coming soon: profiles of friends who have found their way back to the barn and in the saddle...