The Arabian horse's ears perked up as we went through the narrow gate but his attitude didn't change. He was still very much in baby sitting mode. I quickly stuffed whatever concerns I had brewing over my own competency and set about schooling my horse. A little flexing, a little bending, and I thought I was finally focused.
Other than raising up out of the bridle at audible noises my horse was being "good" meaning he felt right underneath me. I wondered what the deal was with his lack of commitment to the bridle. Then I realized, between the position my legs were forced into by my too short stirrups and my exhaustion, I was riding the horse without the use of my legs. No wonder my horse wasn't committed, I hadn't officially asked him to work yet.
I had to think about it to get some semblance of balance to even use my legs in that awkward position. It also took an unusual amount of focus to get my legs actually to do something at all. I remember the odd amount of concentration needed as I literally "willed" my legs into use.
The effort was astronomical. The response from my weak limbs, just barely a squeeze. There was probably more tension in my b*tt checks than movement in my legs and even the tension was exhausting. My obedient horse rolled over into the bridle despite the poor cue . I felt the lift of his back as he moved through my legs and into the bit. As I felt this sensation it pushed me forward just enough to make me realize I was swimming in this saddle. I lost so much weight during my illness my backside was nowhere near the cantel and there was just as much room between me and the pommel in the front. If I needed support in this saddle there was none to be had. I grabbed at the horn to correct my position and my horse went to work.
I thought about the fact I hadn't been using my legs and wondered how much else I had lost. I had assumed 'it' was all there when I had decided I was ready to ride. But was it? Was it a mistake to feel competent with the strength of a gnat and the stamina of a slug? Probably not, but my horse was engaged and that smile once again broadened across my face. My horse still had "it." That part was clear.
We walked around the field in that ground covering gait that first attracted me to Scandalous, my foundation mare. Smooth and correct it didn't take work for me to balance. I just rocked in the saddle relishing the feel of that stride. I recollected visions of that walk in my western classes and judge's eyes watching to see if I was asking for that true gait or if my horse was being pushy. There was confidence hidden in that memory that fueled my weakened body.
In typical fashion, I soon became bored with "just" walking. Despite the promise I had made myself that I would only walk on this first ride, I found myself squeezing, probably more figuratively than literally, my horse more deeply underneath me, thinking about the jog. My horse moved into the next gait as requested feeling the changes in my body despite my weakness.
It wasn't the best jog he's ever produced but it wasn't bad enough to throw me off balance. I think I did more willing of him to get underneath me than actual use of my legs to correct the problem but it did happen. It took a couple of small circles and some half passing to really get him engaged and my legs shook at the exertion.
I still recall the frown that forced the grin off my face when I felt that first jog. My brow wrinkled and my eyes narrowed as I tried to sort through the cause of that incorrect gait and how I was going to fix it. What normally would have been an automatic response took conscious effort. The cancer's toll on my body and my mind was evident.
I believe the poor jog was caused by my improper position in that saddle but once my horse realized what I wanted, I got it immediately despite my poorly balanced weight. I did not have to work to keep it there and that was a good thing. I had little left.
I pushed myself to do a little jog at both directions before rounding my horse up again for the transition down. With all the mental strength I could muster I thought about "Whoa" and all it entailed to get it. My horse responded with the roundness my fragile body required. We stopped without disturbance to my marginal balance. My legs shook uncontrollably from exhaustion. My body was done.
I dropped the reins to my horse's neck. Then I leaned forward to steady myself against him. Somehow I managed to raise my offside leg to dismount. I remember getting it stuck on his croup and dangling there precariously for a moment. Caught between on and off, I tried to muster the strength to get past this dilemma. To be honest, I have no idea how I got it done.
By now my whole body was shaking from exhaustion as I slid down the side of the saddle against my horse. I prayed as my feet hit the ground, my legs would support me. My knees gave but I mustered the strength to grab my horse around the neck blocking my fall. Burying my face in his neck, I stood there sobbing almost hysterically as my horse held me up.
The stallion didn't budge or fidget as I hung there. Gradually I found the strength in my knees and was actually able to get myself onto my feet. As I transferred my meager weight from my horse to my legs, my horse gently nuzzled me. I could read the concern in his eye as he studied me waiting for what came next.
To be continued.......................
Tasks at Hand....
Tuesday, April 24, 2012