I think I have been a horsewoman all my life. Ever since I have known what “horse” meant, I have been enchanted with them; as a girl, I spent three summers working as a stable hand. To say my family was less than pleased about that would be an understatement.
For the next few decades, I rode scarcely at all: an average, perhaps, of once every five years.
Then I met my partner, Philip Gold, who encouraged me to go to horse shows, then to take riding lessons, then to work with a horse, then to get her.
I found my horse in a pasture in the spring of 2006. She was a chestnut Arab mare with a white blaze who looked cranky but was extremely kind and easy to handle. A good horse for a novice rider.
I started working with her, and then we hit a point in the fall of 2006 when I felt, I am only torturing this mare. Everything I did seemed to hurt her and, never forward (except at the beach; she is after all, an Arab with a need for speed), she became even slower. The cranky expression on her face was pain.
I had her chiropracted by Fred Loertscher of Aberdeen and Brent Sund now trims her hooves: he told me emphatically that she did not need $300 shoes, but a good, basic trim, and then after that if I wanted to shoe her, I could, but since her workload doesn’t require shoes, I won’t waste the money. Then, because she was beginning to put on muscle, I eventually bought one of Len Brown’s Corrector Pads so my saddle would fit her better. Her trim, which needs to be done anyway, sets me back $35; the chiropractor was $40, and the pad, $250. For that small sum, she can now walk. And trot. And canter.
In January, I began riding a little again, just walking in circles on contact, no trotting because it hurt her. Then I began to lunge her in sliding side reins, bringing her head down, her back up, and her butt underneath her. Maybe rode once a month. Just took my time, following the advice of Alois Podhajsky, the wartime director of the Spanish Riding School, that with time and patience and gentleness, what was once difficult will become very easy.
I rode her yesterday. No pinned ears, no tail wringing, like we’d had in January. Walk, trot, canter. Strike easily off both reins into the canter, from the walk. Up and down the arena. When I ride again, it will be just circles: at the walk, to the trot, to the canter. From the walk to the canter. From the canter to the trot. Even from the canter, eventually, to the walk. Making her strong and supple for the trails and the beach that we love.
You will note that after all this work, she looks younger in the last photo than in the first. I expect that by this winter, she will look younger still.