As Gene Autry sang once upon a time, I’m back in the saddle again. Today I returned to the stable I visited a month ago. The same stable that played such an integral part in my youth. This time, however, I returned to ride. I had made up my mind a few weeks ago after helping out for the horse show that I really wanted to get back to this thing that brought so much joy and happiness into my life many moons ago.
It only took me two tries to pull myself up into the saddle on the back of a beautiful paint gelding named Zeke. It was right after the complete and utter failure of my first attempt that I realized I’m no longer the spry 17 year old I used to be and that this might not be as easy as I thought it would be. It wasn’t graceful at all but I managed to hike my now-older self up into the saddle, adjust my stirrups and I was off.
I rode in a walk/trot class, which basically means I’m at the beginner level again. I rode with a few others (all much younger than me) but I didn’t care… I was riding and that was the important thing. Besides, they were all cute little girls and they kind of reminded me of myself when I was their age. D, the owner of the stable who I worked for all those years ago, was teaching the class and kept asking me how I was doing. I was beginning to wonder if she thought I was going to pass out or something… but no, I think she was genuinely happy I was there and just making sure I didn’t get too overwhelmed my first try back in so long.
I must admit, it all felt a little awkward today. I mean, I am 15 years older now and despite my unwillingness to accept the aging process, the fact remains that we all do continue to get older and I am no exception. And as that happens, there are certain things that just aren’t as easy as they used to be. And since I stopped going out to the stable about 15 years ago, I haven’t ridden at all save one trail ride through the Pisgah National Forest when I was about 20 years old. And in all those years I’ve also had two surgeries (one on my right knee and one to remove my gallbladder), I’ve been diagnosed with a thyroid problem, and I’ve developed allergies. All that along with the fact that I’ve had a very sedentary job sitting in front of a computer for more than a decade just culminated into this awkward and physically challenging experience I had today.
But I don’t care. Riding well or not riding well… doesn’t matter. What matters is that I was RIDING and I was loving every minute of it! My form was terrible, my legs weren’t steady in the stirrups, I was breathing hard after a long trot and my face was red with heat despite the cooler weather today… but that’s okay. I was doing it. I wasn’t doing it well, but I was doing it and that is half the battle. Nothing worth doing is easy, right? Besides, form will get better, legs will get stronger, and physically I’ll be able to withstand more as I do it more. So I’m not too worried.
However, what amazed me today is just how quickly the joy returned. The joy that filled my heart as a child and young adult. The joy that these horses bring to my life. It floods back in when I’m in the presence of these beautiful four-legged creatures. For an hour today, I forgot my troubles of the past year. I didn’t think about or dwell upon the disappointments in my life of late. No, for those 60 precious minutes, it was just me and Zeke… and four other little 12 year old girls on their horses… but seriously, it was an hour I have prayed for, one I’ve waited a long time for. One single hour of pure joy, pure happiness. An hour of connection with something greater than myself.
Today I felt God with me. I felt my dad with me. I felt all the prayers of the precious few who have loved me through this last year.
Yes, I may be romanticizing this just a bit, but I think anything that brings me closer to my God and my dad, and anything that makes me appreciate the people I do have on my side and in this life with me now… well, I think that deserves to be romanticized a bit. I think it deserves a moment of reflection in order to truly get it, to truly let it fill me up. Because it is time for something positive to start filling me up again. And the challenge is to let it. So I will romanticize it, reflect upon it, revel in it… whatever it takes to completely soak it up. Every last ounce of it.
This doesn’t fix all my problems, it doesn’t resolve anything, it doesn’t erase all the hurt and disappointment. I know there is still work to be done there. I know I will still face dark times, sad moments, bad days, and fits of anger. But what this does do is it gives me something positive to start rebuilding my cracked foundation with. It gives me some hope and some joy. The hope and joy that is so necessary as I try to rebuild my strength so I can continue on this wonderful, and sometimes excruciatingly painful and difficult, journey of life. I need all the positive resources I can find.
As I build my strength and stamina to ride again so does my soul build it’s hope and faith to live again.
So today I got back in the saddle… not just on the horse, but in life as well. The darkness is beginning to lift, the path is becoming a little more clear… so let the healing commence, even if it does take a few sore muscles to get there…