Last weekend I was at the show enjoying my role as trainer. I don't know how she recognized me on my trike, but a para rider rolls her wheelchair up to me and introduces herself as Charlotte Merle-Smith. She invites me to ride her horse between shows. I thank her and tell her I may just take her up on her kind offer. She must have been able to tell I was half hearted as I was so after my realization that riding without a relationship didn't satisfy me. She said, "You HAVE to.... No, you really need to..." And I'm so happy she pressed me because I had such a great ride. Big Ben. He's 17', was her Intermediate event horse, and he's like a giant Roxy... sensitive, well trained, and amazingly kind. I could do shoulder in to haunches in, half pass zig zags (all at the walk, of course), and when they led me in trot, it was so big my flopping head made me giggle so much I nearly fell off! I realized that what I actually missed when I rode the therapy horses is the sensitivity to the rider. They're trained to not be sensitive for safety, and here I am expecting them to listen to me. It just seems unfair which is so unsatisfying.
So I went home that night and formed all these plans to improve what Charlotte had said was the problem in their test: turns on the haunches. Of course I could do the right one beautifully as it was mainly left leg, but after many efforts the right one was to no avail. I knew what I wanted to do, but for the first time, I was frustrated at my inability. I asked Charlotte if Koryn, who's my working student and was there to help, could get on and she'd be my body. Charlotte said, "That's ok, this is for you, you have fun for you!" I replied, "My love is training horses; that's what I want to do!" Unfortunately, they didn't have a helmet big enough for Koryn's head, so we couldn't do this either. I left feeling down trodden.
Then we went to my barn for another painful realization. Steffen Peters had generously taken time out of his busy schedule to come ride a couple horses for me. I realized that, for how much I'm thrilled with the job Jenn is doing with my horses and how tickled I am that I can make such a difference from the ground, there is a certain amount that one just has to feel in order to do. But the next day when I taught Jenn, I was able to see and use everything that Steffen had done. I realized that this is exactly why I did clinics even when I rode: to bring my focus on something else. It was absolutely ideal.
Between the two things it was a roller coaster of emotions. It the end though, both led to extremely valuable realizations, and, even for the initial pain of the aftermath, they were both extremely enjoyable times. And I'm so thankful to Charlotte and to Steffen for giving me these opportunities.
I just want to be clear that I have no intention of foregoing riding completely...no, no, no! Roxy is on the mend and will carry me again soon! I just won't ride for the sake of riding. It's great fun, but it's the relationship I crave, and I leave with an empty feeling... missing more than just my coordination! I'm happy to wait for her; in the scheme of things it's not long anyway!
I thought it was time for me to update all you ever caring individuals. I am not riding now. Even though it's great to ride at Vinceremos, and they have a wonderful program, I miss, and am used to, having a special relationship including overseeing the care of the horse I ride. I'm spoiled that way. (wow, holy run on sentence). So I'm sad about that, but in the meantime, I'm enjoying writing for Dressage Today, and I really appreciate the emails I've received telling me they've helped. I'm thrilled with how my horses are progressing and the great job Jenn is doing with them, and how Koryns riding is steadily improving. These things make me feel somewhat worth something. My therapy continues to help I feel, but my insurance company just wrote that they're suspending coverage because I'm "not progressing enough". That makes no sense to me; if I'm not progressing enough, shouldn't I get more therapy? We'll contest that, but it makes me even more thankful for my amazingly generous medical fund. Otherwise I'm enjoying the warmth of Paradise, taking daily walks or trike rides, going to grocery store or Target, doing a bit of painting or pottery,oh! And I downloaded this occupational therapy app on my computer! So that's the update. May we all fave a fantastic 2012!