Riding Against Resistance (mine not Luke’s)

“Abracadabra and fiddle-dee-dee. My ego is outraged to see the new me… Abracadabra and body-ho-ho, my former neuroses, where did they go?” – Marianne Williamson, Everyday Grace

During this rather drab, up-and-down temperature, little but snow-dust winter, I’m grateful I have a horse and dogs to get me outside. If I didn’t, I think I’d hibernate like so many people.

I complain and resist as I pile on the layers – long underwear, wool socks, turtleneck, sweater, felt-lined-nylon-wind-blocking-$80 (on sale) riding pants, knit hat with the long tassel that bebops in circular rhythm to my movements, down jacket that has taken on a permanent horsy smell, 3M miracle-material lined gloves, and insulated paddock boots that are so old the leather is peeling and cracking. There are variations of this attire for cross country skiing, dog walking, and chicken tending, but you will know a Minnesotan by her clothes, by her clothes, yes you will know a Minnesotan by her clothes. (There’s a song kinda like that, in case you were wondering.)

Last Sunday, once I was properly attired, I walked with effort to my Mini and folded myself into the seat, preparing to drive twenty-seven miles to the barn where Luke resides. According to my Mini, it was 14 degrees F out, warm compared to some of the temperatures we’ve been having but not all that inspiring. Did I mention how grateful I am to whoever invented heated seats? They not only warm your ass but feel awfully good on a sore, tight back and neck.

As I drove, I pondered whether I’d ride or simply pay my board for February, groom Luke, feed him a sweet feed and molasses horse muffin, and head back home, where Herbivore homework awaited me. I really didn’t feel like riding. I don’t think I would have even been driving to the barn if it wasn’t that my board payment was due.

I pulled up to the barn and walked inside. As soon as I pushed the tightly sealed door open with a scrooshing scrape, I heard someone call out “Hello?” — probably more to forewarn her horse that someone would be rounding the corner than as an actual greeting.

She was glad to have someone else arrive at the barn. The fun of arena riding in the winter truly comes when the sun shines brightly, heating up the metal arena roof, causing sheets of snow and ice to slide off with a glorious whoooooosh sound followed by a big kaboom, when the sheet explodes onto the ground.

The other boarder’s horse had done a 180 on such an occasion, sending her crashing to the ground a couple weeks ago, leaving her with a sore hip. Keeping her company was the push I needed to ride against my resistance.

As always, the familiar pattern of preparing to ride – the brush strokes, tail and mane combing, hoof picking, and gentle face wipe to remove hay debris, are a form of meditation. Then comes the saddle pad, saddle, girth tightening, and bridling. All familiar. All with a well-worn rhythm that precedes the next dance.

The stretching cadence of the walk. The popcorn popping motion of the posting trot. Twenty meter circles, serpentines, figure eights, a bit of a sideways dance as Luke yields to a touch on his side. A fluid downshift to stop as I drop my heels and seatbones. Our aerobic surges are broken up with long-swingy walks, turns on the forehand and haunches, and backup pattern we’ve been working on – three steps back, move haunches over, three steps back, repeat, until we’ve created a box, one direction and then the other, a bit of a butt and collection work out. Tough work for my tubby boy, but he does it better each time, and it makes for a better canter departure when we move into that gait next.

When we’re done, the routine continues in reverse – remove the tack, groom, treat, put the winter blanket back on. And of course photos to keep the memory of how I feel, how grateful I am, every time I push myself to spend time outside with my horse.

Why is it sometimes that we find it so hard to do the very thing that makes us feel whole?

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  1. I find myself in that same situation. Where I live is not nearly as cold, no snow on the ground, on the coldest days its between 40 and 50 and the nights right around 30-40… however, going out to the barn after work when its dark and wet and 40 degrees is just miserable, and once I do it, I am happy, but pushing myself out there is such tough work!

  2. Marissa – Thank goodness the days are starting to get longer. I know this must be true as my chickens are laying more eggs!

    Lori – Thanks. Luke has put on so much weight over the winter – the bad thing about an easy keeper. But he’s moving well and has good energy. I’m sure the extra weight will come off in the summer.

  3. It is so good to see Luke! He is so handsome!! What a lovely experience all around. I know what you mean about fighting it until finally giving in and enjoying it all. I think the cold adds to the resistance. Now that I’m am official wimp and live in balmy weather I can attest to that 🙂
    Sending lots of hugs to everyone there!
    Ps-cute goldies

    1. Well, you have certainly paid your dues over the years with handling winter! Luke says thank you for the compliment. He’s feeling a bit self conscious about putting on a few pounds over the winter. Hugs back at you!

  4. Glad you got the little push you needed to keep you at the barn. Luke looks good! I need that kind of prodding as well this time of year, but always feel so much better having persevered and spent time with my horses afterwards. Always! Time spent outside and with my horse is like a smooth salve to my soul…

  5. So beautifully written, and I so know the feeling. I love the snowshoe trails and it takes me forever to get out there. Once I’m there though…I feel light as a feather, an almost spiritual experience : )
    Love seeing Luke!

  6. Luke is a super pretty boy!! I just love him. I usually leave my horses alone this time of year due to non stop rain and mud, plus no covered arena. But this winter I have had to go out in it because of Rio. But it sure does feel good when it’s all done and I can go back in the house and warm up!
    Glad you had a great time!

    1. You’ve brought up the other side of the enjoyment. Having accomplished something, you can slip back into the house and feel entitled to a bit of curling up under a blanket with some hot chocolate.

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