Some weeks ago, I openly questioned in this forum whether I was too old, too injured and too heavy to ride. I shared that I needed a 3-step mounting block to mount during my first 2 lessons, and that I felt that perhaps my teacher didn't know how to tell me that it's just too late for me to overcome my obstacles and learn to ride at 46, overweight, and with old injuries that will only heal to a certain extent. Although she didn't refuse me further lessons, she did say we should go slowly, and that she felt that new riders need to learn to mount from the ground as a basic and important skill. What I heard, through the filter of my own doubts, fears and insecurities, was "you can't do this".
Fortunately, I couldn't accept my own bleak interpretation. Instead, I asked for yours, and I received many valuable messages - all of which I needed to hear. Yes, lose the weight. Try these exercises. Consider driving. Use the blocks - many do, and it's easier on the horse, no matter your weight. But most importantly - you need this, you love horses as we do and it's your dream, so you can't give up.
I decided to willfully suspend my disbelief and give myself faithfully to the effort. I went on holiday a couple of weeks ago in another Province, turning 47 while I was away. To celebrate, I went to a horse farm, asked if I could sign up for their trail ride, and said nothing at all about my doubts or limitations, letting my appearance and limp speak for themselves. Yep, there was only one person heavier than me on the ride, and he was a tall male. Yep, several skinny girls. Yep, most people knew what they were doing, and I don't. Helmet on and walking to the horses lined up at the fence, my heart was pounding so hard I was sure everyone could hear it. They matched the riders to the horses, gave a way-too-brief intro, and proceeded to saddle us up.
I'd spotted a 3-step block at the top of the line, but thanks to you all, I was also prepared to use the fence, dignity be ****ed! I was prepared to do anything short of making the horse uncomfortable, including look stupid. No worries - I simply looked the staff in the eye when she came to me and said I needed to use her block. Without batting an eyelash, she grabbed it, I climbed up, easily settled - without thunking, again thanks to you! - and, just that like that, was no longer blocked about the block!
I realized in that moment that I am my own biggest obstacle. I sat up straight, talked to my beautiful horse, took a deep breath, and followed the line.
It wasn't perfect, and it was a lot more challenging than my previous circles around the area in lessons and my very tame first ride in Kentucky a year or so ago. There were hills, there were bugs, it was very hot and humid, there were parts of the trail we had to avoid because of poor footing, and at one point a horse two ahead of mine was spooked, causing the horse behind him, as well as my mare, to skitter to the side of the trail into the bush a few feet. I had always wondered if I could handle any surprises, as I'm pretty sure I don't bounce anymore, but I held it together, looked in the direction I wanted my horse to go, and calmly asked her to walk on -- and she did!
So, it wasn't perfect - it was imperfectly perfect. It was best feeling in the world. Although you are looking at all this beautiful natural landscape on the trail, it's like a secret, sacred communion with your horse - like a song only you and she can hear. A part of me that's locked up all the rest of the time is accessible when I am with a horse - the part that believes in wonder, connectedness of all things, and even in God. In that moment, I'm more than I ever hoped to be.
So, I'm going to do the work. All of it. I've lost 10 lbs now - a drop in the bucket when you start at 250, and it took 6 weeks, but I'm moving in the right direction. I'm doing the exercises, practicing mounting on stairs and chairs, and I'm going back to my teacher's barn in a couple of weeks to help out with a show. I'm thrilled to just be there, but once it's done, I'll be letting her know that I need instruction - now, and just as I am, which includes using a block until I can mount reliably from the ground. If that doesn't work for her, I must find another teacher.
I do believe that when the student is ready, the teacher will come, and in my case, I suspect my truest teacher has four legs.
Thank you so much for helping me focus on the can, not the can't. I'm still intimidated and have many questions big and small (like, what the heck would I have done if she bucked, rather than merely skittered away from the trail to avoid the action ahead of us? And why does she follow the horse ahead so closely? And how can I help her when I see bugs biting her front legs while we are on the trail?)
It makes me so happy to think I can be a learner at this phase of my life, and thank you all for being here to learn from.