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woman and horse

“In mythic symbolism world-wide, both horses and ponies represent the following things: Physical strength, inner strength, vitality, appetite for life, the driving force that carries you forward, the driving force that overcomes obstacles, passion, movement, flow, self-expression, and that which makes you thrive. They are also symbols of vital life forces held in perfect, exquisite balance: love and devotion paired with freedom and mobility; the wild and instinctive supported by the disciplined and domestic; strength balanced with vulnerability, mastery with modesty, power with compassion.” ~ Teri Windling, “Mist, Wild Ponies and the Animate Earth” 

Horses and all they represent have lifted and carried me at times in my life when I felt powerless, weak and afraid. They have provided me moments of grounding and peace when I most needed them.

However, like all beings, horses age and as they do so, that strength and vitality begins to wane.

horse being nebulized

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horse trail riding

horse trail riding

“The Feeding of the Muse then, seems to me to be the continual running after loves, the checking of these loves against one’s present and future needs, the moving on from simple textures to more complex ones, from naïve ones to more informed ones, from non intellectual ones to intellectual ones.” ~ Ray Bradbury

I believe to write well, you need to live well. How else can you describe a scene with all of its smells, sounds and textures? You have to pay attention. You have to run after loves.

Not all the things I’ve come to love started out that way. Bike riding didn’t. But I’m a curious soul. I read about something or hear someone talk about it, and I want to see for myself what this “thing” is like.

But there’s more than curiosity and wanting to live well that drive me to run after loves. I’ve also found that having as much in my life that I love, that challenges me and, at the same time, makes me feel at home in my own skin helps me to deal with the anxiety and fear that shadows my days.

Life is pretty good right now. So why would I feel anxious, overwhelmed and afraid? This is a question I’ve asked myself throughout my life. Sometimes there’s been a good reason for these feelings but more often lately, there is not.

And who knows why… Genetics. Environment. Trauma. Habit – a groove dug so deep in my brain that it would take more than a bump of a hand to send the needle sliding to a different beat. Hmmm, a record metaphor. I think I just dated myself.

Finding the why is futile and meaningless, at least that’s what I’ve come to believe. I’m not willing to waste any more time on it. Anyway, finding out why has been for other people’s sake, not mine. To explain and justify. To find understanding. To stop people from telling me to “Get over it.” Or accuse me of not trying. Or of doing this to myself.

In other words, this undetermined, unreasonable anxiety is a character defect that some weakness and flaw in me refuses to overcome.

I know the things I love doing — the things that get me outside in nature and engage me physically and mentally. The things where I feel connected to the bigger, natural world and its occupants.  I also know that some of the things I love doing mean facing fear, which generally comes from doubt in myself. Take horseback riding.

horse trail riding

Yesterday I went trail riding on my own. I’ve gone out alone once since I moved Luke to his new home. There were points during that ride and during many previous rides when I would see Luke’s head shoot up, feel his back drop and his muscles tense. Sometimes he will stop or he might start to nervously gait. If something really blows his mind, he might spin around to head back towards where we came from at a dead run.

These things don’t happen often, but they have happened. I’ve never gotten hurt by Luke through any of his panics. But as a I age, I’m not as confident in my physical strength and ability to ride out a storm, should one occur.

Riding past my fear means putting what I’ve learned from my meditation practice into play — deep breathing and relaxing my muscles from head to toe — not just for my own relaxation but so Luke doesn’t pick up any trepidation on my part.

To make an already long story shorter, Luke and I are both still alive. There were a few tense moments from the sound of a dirt bike on the other side of the river and, as we approached the trail head, we ran into a whole lot of horses, people,  and trailers. Luke heard them before we could actually see them, which was a big part of the problem.

Since we’ve been riding in arenas for the past four years, Luke is no longer used to so much commotion. But once we came out into the open, where he could see everything plainly, Luke relaxed and we calmly rode the rest of the way back to the barn.

After the ride, I felt happy, light, and kind of proud of myself and of Luke. I realized that what frightened Luke on the trail was not what he saw. It was what was out of site and unknown.

It’s the same for me. Which may be why I want to know and experience so many things. The broader I can make my view of the world, the less there is to fear.

prairie restoration

horse trail riding
horse trail riding

Trail Riding in 2012

Okay, so this blog post has been through a couple reiterations because I wanted to quit writing about my up-and-down, roller coaster life and start writing posts that would be useful to people. What I discovered is that I may not be any good at being useful.

So here’s the scoop, I’m trying to simplify my life. Right?

And I was going to start doing that last week, after my Tuesday morning blog post. Well, about four hours after I published my post, I received a text message that the barn I’m boarding Luke at was closing and I should find a place to move him as soon as possible.

Now the point of writing this is not to complain about the people running the barn. Shit happens. No one knows that better than me. I really like these people and I wish them all the best, but I had that “What the f’#!” reaction accompanied by a shortness of breath and I’m going to barf feeling.

I called and emailed as many boarding places as I could find in my area that I could afford – which amounted to five places. Only three of the five responded back to me. I visited one boarding place a day.  The third one I visited didn’t actually have any spaces, but I had heard good things about it and since they offered to show me around, I stopped in so I would have information for future reference, which I’m glad I did. I met a couple really nice people there and learned about an amazing saddle I now wish I could afford – an Ansur saddle.  Lighter than what I have and sounds like it would fit Luke so much better.

Oops, I wandered off topic with saddle lust…

The other two boarding places I visited were small, backyard setups with no indoor arena and no place to park a trailer. One of them doesn’t have an outdoor arena either, but it is right across the street from one of my favorite parks to ride — the one I’m pictured riding at above. There goes any immediate need to know how to hook up and back up my trailer in order to go trail riding!

So that’s where I’m going to board.

Finding a place to park my trailer was another challenge, but a very generous friend has volunteered to let me park at her place.

I did get a follow up message that something has been worked out at the barn Luke is at and he could remain where he is. But we’re still moving since trail riding is what I want to do, but haven’t been able to do for the past four years. I hope Luke hasn’t forgotten how to be brave on the trails by himself.

Who am I kidding? I hope I haven’t forgotten how to be brave!

We’ll find a way to deal with all that. Because what initially sent me into a panic looks like it could turn out for the best.

Funny how that works…

horse in trailer

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