I have a confession to make. I’m not nearly as brave as I pretend to be. Some of you may have guessed as much after my last post outlining the completely irrational fear I have of mounting blocks. That didn’t go away this week, but at least it was a little better. There was only a small kick from those pesky butterflies before I braved the two terrifying steps and mounted up. No, this confession is about the arena, and the fact that I have yet to actually make it all the way around.
Last week I may have failed to mention that while I successfully walked and trotted, the latter for only about a minute or two, it was only on a 20-metre circle. You see there are monsters in the far end of the ring. Big invisible ones that have a particular fondness for horses, especially grey ones. Luc can see them. He knows they’re there. And I know that he knows they’re there. It’s a vicious circle. That’s why for my first ride back I stayed in the safe end, where the scariest thing is a hay bale, and Luc has never been afraid of food.
This week I was determined to make it to the far end of the arena, my confidence bolstered by the fact that there was another horse in the ring with us, one who was already working in the scary end. I thought Luc would feel better watching another horse not get eaten by the invisible monsters. It might have worked too. But then those monsters went for the other horse and she exploded. Then so did Luc.
Luckily for me, how out of control Luc’s explosions are is directly related to where he currently is in the arena. We were about halfway down the long side, facing the scary end, when it happened. That meant I was spared from the worst of the spook. This time it was only an abrupt stop, some noisy snorting and some frantic scanning for any trace those monsters might suddenly come for us. Once he was convinced the coast was clear, he relaxed, but I didn’t.
I’ve known Luc a long time, since the day he was born, in fact, and I’ve seen him at his worst – and knew I was nowhere near ready to deal with it. Instead I circled, cowering back towards the safety of that hay bale. Sure, I’d felt secure enough during his mini-spook, but I had no illusions it was anywhere near the spinning, bolting and sometimes rearing he does when he’s really afraid, and I just didn’t want to push things. After all, those monsters were still there, waiting to leap out at us any second now. I’d let Luc’s regular rider, his owner, deal with them the next time she got on. Sorry!
Instead, I spent the rest of my ride circling. At least this time it was larger than 20 metres. Each circle was nearly half the size of the entire ring. While I was a bit disappointed in myself for not daring to ride back down to the other end, there were some successes that I can be proud of. For one, I managed to trot for nearly 10 whole minutes without turning purple. I thought that was a pretty big accomplishment given the fact that last time I could barely get Luc to go forward.
I also braved a bit of canter, and it was glorious! Sure it was only once around my little circle in each direction, but it was enough to remind me what a great feeling it is to fly on the back of a horse. I was also a lot less sore this time around. The stiffness only lasted two days instead of an entire week. I did end up with some lovely bruises on my inner calves, two bright spots of colour on my otherwise extremely pasty looking legs. I proudly showed them off to my family and friends as badges of my ride, visible reminders that while I hadn’t accomplished everything I’d hoped to, it was still only my second ride back in more than a decade. After all, I’m planning to stay in the saddle for a long time. There will be plenty of time to slay my monsters, and maybe even a few of Luc’s.