You say you’re not feeling particularly motivated to ride in the winter? You know your horse has had a few days off, and yes, you’d like to compete this spring, but it’s just so wet and raw out, and—
Oh, pffffft! Let me turn up the volume on that: PFFFFFFFFT!!
I’m preaching to myself when I write that if we really want to engage seriously in our sport, and we don’t have the deep pockets for the indoor arenas, we have to simply suck it up and go tack up. And my friend, Janet Stone (no relation, unfortunately), would tell you that you might want to do it now, as none of us know what the future may bring.
Just barely now into her sixth decade, the future for Janet as a young woman arrived with a diagnosis of Lupus 28 years ago. Despite the countless trips to ER, her compromised immune system and joint replacements— all thanks to the steroids that keep her going, there she was, standing on the slick tailgate of my truck, sleet bouncing off her helmet.
Tailgate? Well, yes. When your joint mobility doesn’t allow you to step deftly onto the mounting block and swing your leg with ease over the back of your horse because said horse is being a little fidgety, your friends carry the mounting block to the truck, assist you in carefully ascending it, and from the tailgate, you slip your foot in the stirrup as the horse is lead up to it!
The four of us, my friends/students included, all cheered the desired result as Janet, with her trademark optimism, laughed and said, "Isn’t this crazy to need a support team just to get on?" And Condor, her coming 7-year-old Zweibrucker, whom she sent to me for a month’s training, stepped carefully away from the truck and delicately made his way down the bank into the arena, carrying his mistress for her turn in the saddle after I had the pleasure of warming up this lovely boy.
“My goal is to be able to ride eight strides of his trot,” Janet announced as her stamina is currently a work in progress. A former event-turned-dressage rider and breeder of champion warmbloods at her Flying Changes Farm, Janet is a dream student because she has devoted herself to theory and asks great questions (“Do I apply my inside leg as his hind leg comes off the ground?”). And Condor, whom she bred herself, has quite a bit of spring to his trot to the point that she jokes, “catapults [her] out of the saddle!” However, between us we were able to help her keep her horse straight, soft and reaching into his connection, and Janet managed to ride his trot twice around a 20-meter circle after 15 minutes of lateral suppling at the walk. The weather became atrocious—miserable, really, but the sun came out in the form of Janet’s face wreathed in smiles.
Go tack up. No excuses. Go ride your horse.