Tuesday, May 10, 2011

damn right

I had my first riding lesson in months tonight. I was on a lunge line with my trainer Hollie, who was seeing how I was shaping up after a winter out of the saddle. It could not have gone better. We were both surprised at how well I did! I was posting again, and with such ease. I felt relaxed, comfortable, in control. The 15 hand mare below me read my body, and I hers, and together we were a team. It was as effortless as sitting on the couch. By the end of my thirty-minute lesson I was able to take my mount from a trot, to a walk, to a complete stop without touching the reins. It was all done through my seat. Which is to say, my butt. I had never done anything like that before. I never made any coach that proud in a lifetime of childhood sports and college equestrian shows. It felt friggin' amazing.

Hollie McNeil is one hell of a trainer.

I owe a lot to Hollie, who took this tense, scared, and out-of-practice novice rider and turned her into someone who can talk to a horse with her butt—but I think I also owe my good lesson to getting through this past winter. It was rough. So much harder than the blog describes. The length, the damage, the broken down cars, the being broke, worrying about heating oil and fixing old trucks, scary nights when I was sure the roof would cave in or the barn would blow apart.... But now with this world bursting with green again and I feel like I overcame something big. I made it through my first year as a homeowner and never missed a mortgage payment, or ran out of heat. I kept the lights on, the internet working, and the trash pickup regular. Trains run on time around here.

Tonight I finally brushed myself off. I did it. I got through the winter of 2010/11 and came out the other end a lot stronger. Someone who can set up an electric fence, a sump pump, and has a plow guy on speed dial. There was no tension or fear on that horse tonight because I think I used it all up on far scarier things long ago. So tonight I simply gave into a black saddle. It was the best 35 bucks I spent in my entire life.

After my lesson I drove home to the farm in a blue dusk. There was still enough light to see the whole farm but still do chores under moving clouds and a half moon. I let the sheep from their day pen into the big pasture, where Jasper spends his day. Jasper always perks his ears up like a teakettle is going off when I open the gate and a dozen sheep rush into his turf. Then he rears up and runs with them. It's not herding, or cutting, or even a game of tag: just an equine and ovine romp to better grass. When I call his name he turns and comes right to me. Since he's only 11.2 hands we are nearly at eye level. His head is still above mine on flat ground, but he lowers it and rests it on my shoulder when I turn my back to him. If I walk away he follows and nudges my lower back with his nose. I pet his small head and tell him he's home.

Did I partially buy a scrappy cart pony because I wanted a bit of joy after this godawful winter? Because I was through? Ready to take back the reins?

Damn right I did.

22 Comments:

Blogger jenomnibus said...

The image of Jasper resting his head on your shoulder is so sweet! That makes everything worth it, it seems.

May 10, 2011 at 10:38 PM  
OpenID parkerpages said...

From the sounds of it, Jasper (and all your creatures, big and small) enjoy your company and what you give to them, as much as what you get back in return.

May 10, 2011 at 10:57 PM  
Blogger paul said...

I'm so damned proud of you, Jenna. And inspired. It just struck me how long I've been reading this blog, and I'm amazed at how far you've come. And to think you're still in your twenties! You have (and will have) a great life, and it's great to hear you doing something simply for the enjoyment of it.

May 10, 2011 at 11:22 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

Jenna,
Here is a youtube site you should check out. It is MultiAnimalcrackers. They are in England and are clicker training a pony and now a donkey. The dog videos are great to watch also.
Congrats on your lesson! When you are in tune with the horse you are riding it is one of the most incredible feelings:)

May 10, 2011 at 11:24 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

I'm glad you had a good horse, too!

Someone once told me a Reagan quote which was that there isn't anything in this world that getting on a horse can't fix, or something along those lines. In your case, it sounds more like getting on the horse was its own reward.

May 11, 2011 at 12:41 AM  
OpenID notherethenwhere said...

Tough as they are, I guess it's those rough times that make the good ones - the spring, the riding, the pony, and all the other good stuff yet to come - that much sweeter when they do roll around. Congrats on getting through the winter, and here's to better days and lots of good to make up for and surpass the rough times!

May 11, 2011 at 1:12 AM  
Blogger embracingitall said...

Oh my, I am a sap! I have tears in my eyes. I know the love of a horse and it is a dam good feeling to love one back. I miss my days in the saddle. Jacinta

May 11, 2011 at 2:13 AM  
Blogger julie said...

good feel good post to start my day with. Thank You

May 11, 2011 at 5:15 AM  
Blogger Odie Langley said...

Good for you girl, you deserve all the enjoyment you can get.

May 11, 2011 at 7:34 AM  
Blogger Carol said...

A great start to my day. I continue to wish you nothing but the best in your journey to become a full time farmer. (Although I really think you already are one.)I'm glad you are enjoying this beautiful spring and that the past winter is nothing but a memory. I think Jasper sounds very happy at your little farm. I can't wait to hear about you, him and the pony cart.

May 11, 2011 at 7:45 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

You are making me cry at work again. My own battle is before me, I think, and I can't wait to BUY MY HORSE!

May 11, 2011 at 8:00 AM  
Blogger seagoddess said...

I made an "awww" sound out loud regarding Jasper's affections. Reminds me of my own awwws when my Sasha rests her head on my legs. Nothing better!

May 11, 2011 at 8:19 AM  
Blogger treehuggers kitchen said...

good girl!

May 11, 2011 at 8:58 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

Thank you Kate - "buy my horse" is now my new euphemism for overcoming adversity. :D

Jenna - good for you, and what a great feeling! You're one tough cookie, for sure.

May 11, 2011 at 9:27 AM  
Blogger Maggie in Tally said...

@Tara- I know you're in Texas--your land okay? It sounds like there's fire everywhere over there.

May 11, 2011 at 10:19 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

Thanks Maggie - we're good so far. It hasn't made it quite all the way to us, but it is alarmingly close!

May 11, 2011 at 11:02 AM  
Blogger tamanna said...

I don't know you Jenna, and have only discovered and been reading your blog a few months now, but I am continually inspired and choked up by your posts and this one was no exception. I'm so glad you got through the difficult winter and are getting glimpses of a joyful spring ahead - you deserve it!

May 11, 2011 at 11:34 AM  
Blogger Calico said...

Oh Jenna, I loved this. I loved the commenter who spoke about using the phrase "buying the horse" to mean overcoming adversity. I am fighting my own battle to get my husband to consider raising our own food in our next place and its not going in my favor right now,but I read posts like this and feel renewed purpose. Thank you.

May 11, 2011 at 2:38 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

Just love this! I've been out of the saddle for 15 years. Been itching to get back in. Love your words, your story, your strength. Keep trucking, babe, keep trucking.

May 11, 2011 at 3:24 PM  
OpenID ruralaspirations said...

Your lessons are making me wistful for my riding days. Your trainer sounds great - lunge work is so good for getting centred! (by the way, have you read Centered Riding by Sally Swift? I bet you'd love it). Congrats on a great lesson - I recall how such a thing could completely change the course of a day for me.

May 11, 2011 at 11:01 PM  
Blogger BJ Gingles said...

Got a silly thought reading your post. Couldn't help it. Could it possibly be that you could be controlling the horse through your butt now because it was made more sensitive by the yellow jackets earlier? I'm just sayin'.

May 11, 2011 at 11:25 PM  
Blogger BaileyDog said...

Congratulations! I don't have the words to express how much I admire you. I literally 'bought my horse' seven weeks ago after twenty some years of dreaming.

There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man (woman).  ~Winston Churchill

May 12, 2011 at 2:37 AM  

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