Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Six months in the saddle...

"Every horse you meet will teach you something"
"You are safer than you realize"
"There is a cowgirl in you somewhere"
Etta Arcand Langer

WOW! There wasn't much else I could say when I looked back last night to see exactly how long ago I had started riding and it turned out today marks 6 months. Just like so many other things it seems like just yesterday, and at the same time it seems a life time ago. In ways it was, I am such a different person now. As we have joked at that barn more than once, I am now "a whole lot more cowgirl than princess". While I still have my great heels and my nails and I still like the dressing up I had discovered in the first year of my transformation, I have to admit, I am pretty darn happy to have "traded Nine West for Ariat".

I was asked yesterday why I think I have taken so quickly to horses and riding. I am sure, like with most things, the answer is a lot simplier than I am going to make it, but I came up with two reasons...

1) I have no history with it. My life comes with a whole lot of baggage. Dysfuncational family, abusive parents, eating disorder, weight issues and most of all the nerve damage/strokes and paralysis. Most everything in my life I run through one of those filters and I measure how I used to be able to do it versus how I can or cant do it now. Riding has none of that. I had never done it before I was "broken" so there is no measure of how much harder it is or how much worse it is, it just is. It gave me a clean slate, a brand new story to write, unincumbered by the past. It has no tie to my mother, to being sick, none of that. So I can just do it and figure it out now and not feel I have to measure myself against the past.

I have found a level of pride in my accomplishments riding that I have never felt (or allowed myself to feel) in anything else I have done in my life. I dont need to measure myself against other people or be the best. I have found great joy in just my "baby steps" of riding, and that is new for me. I have gotten a greater high crossing a stream or walking over a log than in anything I have ever done.  I see my accomplishmemts, which I normally don't.

2) It involves the most honest "me" of anything I have ever done. Most of my life I have felt I was playing roles people wanted... the good student, the happy family member, the confident business analyst...sometimes parts of it were true, but more often than not they were truly a role. A facade, a face for the world. Trying to be what I thought people wanted me to be so I would fit in or be liked or accepted. Then I would come home and take off the mask and hide out so people wouldnt see who I really was. But with riding, I haven't had to wear a mask, truth, you can't fake it on a horse. You are who you are. There isnt time for pretend and imagery. And even when people do try to pretend, it is blatantly obvious very quickly. Your horse calls you out on it really fast! All your good and your bad is brought to the surface and exposed for the world. I can tell by watching how someone treats their horse how they treat people and what matters to them and how they feel about themselves. You see the most honest reactions and emotions around horses.

And for me this honesty is liberating. I spend all day smiling and pretending for clients, for people around me, and it is exhausting at times. The barn and with my horse is where that mask comes off and it re-energizes me.

One of the realities I have faced in the last six months is how much I have turned out to be, at my very core, who I fought for the last 30 years not to be and have found peace with that.

I grew up in a small town very much like the Hugo, MN area (where the barn is). That small town country girl is who I really am, even if I thought I had to become someone else for the world to love and accept me. I have done it, I have faked it (I can easily stand in a board room on 5th Avenue in New York City and reshape a fortune 500 company's future, I do it all the time), but at my heart, I'm simple, I'm small town. I'm country music, I am a few close friends and a bon fire much more than I am big cities and night clubs. And I am finally accepting that of myself!

I can't in any way take all the credit for my success this six months or even that I got on the horse the second time. I have always said the right people cross our path when they are meant to. For as much as I believe I was meant to do this "horse thing" at this point in my life, I am not sure if my first day hadn't gone the way it did, had it not been where it was, and the instructor who it was if I would be on a horse today. I consider Woodloch Stables and Etta the happiest accident of my life. I could not be riding at a more welcoming, friendly supportive barn. From my initial fears that I was too fat to ride (met by a comment from my instuctor I will NEVER forget..."Have you seen the size of cowboys"), to the other riders who welcomed me riding with them from day one, to the amazingly helpful barn staff who have never made me feel dumb (even when I ask things like 'do I have the right horse' or 'Has anyone seen my horse, he's missing'). I have never felt once that I didn't belong, and again for me that is unheard of. THANK YOU.

Thank you to my horse friends (and a few non-horse friends) who have listened tirelessly to my stories and accomplishments. Whether you are here with me in person, or an online friend. I love the new dimension of people riding has brought to my life, and the way some of my existing friendships have been deepened.

A huge debt of gratitude to those who have loaned or leased me your horses to ride, for an hour, a couple weeks or months. Etta, Mary and Jessica. You sharing your ponies with me is a gift I wont forget.

Finally the most important thank you. My trusted steeds. Snapper, no matter how many horses I ride in my life, you will always be the most dear to my heart. Your patient, calm, caring way is a gift to all of us you teach to trust ourselves to ride. You do a very important job at Woodloch and hope you realize how loved you are and what a "rock star" you are to so many people who meet you. Cheyenne, I still miss you! You had a caring in you that is hard to explain. Cody, thanks for teaching me I could ride even if Snapper wasnt around. Gunner, just one ride, but you changed how I ride, you taught me how to use my body to ride. Kola....my dear friend. We rode for only a couple weeks, but we somehow bonded. You are still there for hugs anytime I come to the pasture. You made me feel loved and still do. And my special gelding Joker, you my friend are teaching me bravery, in myself, how to trust, that taking a chance is ok. I look forward to what you have to show me in the future. And I look forward to all the horses I am yet to meet......

And to think it all started out with a LivingSocial coupon.............

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