Newbie Horse Rider

Blog for new adult horse riders

Month: August 2017

Mission Impossible?

My mission:  To completely overhaul my riding position.  This means keeping my legs underneath me, back straight, abs tight, thighs rolled in, calves resting softly on my horse’s side, torso up, shoulders down and back, seat deep in the saddle, eyes up,…  In short, I feel like I’m trying to do this:

Photo by Juan Pablo Rodriguez on Unsplash

While doing this:

Photo by Leio McLaren on Unsplash

and this:

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

Sure, this is challenging for any rider.  But by the time you’re 50 your body is pretty certain which body parts are supposed to be where, and this just isn’t the place.  So at the end of a lesson I feel like this:

As my mind contemplates the leg muscles that I never knew I had – despite having been a runner for 40 years – the words to Once in a Lifetime by the Talking Heads ring loud in my head:

And you may ask yourself
Am I right? Am I wrong?
And you may say yourself, “My God! What have I done?

How did I get here?  It all started when my fabulous young trainer announced that he would be moving to California to pursue a graduate degree at USC Davis.  I wasn’t really surprised by his announcement.  He is incredibly smart, and let’s face it, being a horse trainer is not an easy life.  There is no medical plan, no 401 K, no dental insurance.  If he got hurt (which would likely happen eventually), who would pay him while he recovered?  As a parent I completely support his decision.  However, I am sad that he is gone; he became an extended member of our family and things just aren’t the same since he left.

Carter with my daughter, Emma whom he coached to win a class earlier this summer

Nevertheless, when one door closes another one opens.  Yes, I am aware of how cliche this sounds, but it’s true.   In this case the door opened on another young, but equally talented young equestrian.  You may recall that I almost slammed the door on this sweet young woman when I had an initial lesson with her (sorry Anna – I was having the mother-of-all bad days). I have now had a total of three lessons with her, and…she is totally kicking my butt!  While I was pretty sure that my seat was secure and my leg position correct, I was apparently riding under false assumptions.  What’s changed?  Well – everything it now seems.  Now, to be fair on myself, Anna is correcting my position from the vantage point of a hunt seat rider, which I am not.  However, good riding is good riding.  At our last show Austin got extremely crooked, and because of my newbie status, I could not figure out how to fix the situation.  The result?  He remained crooked, I became crooked, and together we were a big hot mess.  Anna is giving me the tools to prevent this from happening again in the future.   All horses are crooked to some degree, but figuring out how to fix it is the challenge.  On the positive side, my legs and abs are getting nice and strong.  It goes without saying: when it comes to riding, we never stop learning.

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Live Your Dream


Would you jump out of an airplane?  How about run with the bulls in Pamplona?  What about swim with sharks in open water?  Like most people, the thought of engaging in these activities scares the heck out of me.  But I can’t help but wonder, does fear keep us from making the most of our time on this earth?  Is our fear of death so acute that we would rather sit back and watch; be part of the audience rather than join the actors on stage?

My daughter, Emma

A few things occurred this past week that got me thinking about this.  One was taking my daughter to the New England Morgan Horse Show in Northampton, Massachusetts where she and her horse Matt competed with some of the best junior exhibitor hunt seat riders in the country.  I watched in awe as these talented young participants rode high strung 1,000 plus pound horses with the elegance and grace of a classically trained ballerina.  Perhaps some of their bravery can be explained by their sheer innocence.  At some point in life we become acutely aware of the dangers involved in riding, and in living life in general.  We stop doing what we love for fear of getting hurt – physically and emotionally.  We tell ourselves that we’ll pick it up again – some day.  But when that ‘some day’ is here we find that we are just as fearful as ever.

Emily Dickinson’s House

The second event that led to my philosophical exploration of fear was a visit to poet Emily Dickinson’s house in Amherst, Massachusetts. I have always been fascinated by her life and work, so my daughter and I decided to take an afternoon off from the horse show and explore the house and gardens of this remarkable American poet.  There are a number of misinterpretations of Emily Dickinson’s life, particularly surrounding her decision to live a life of seclusion in her later years.  Many people are under the impression that it was fear and depression that led her to isolate herself from the rest of the world.  Depression was very likely a part of her existence, and for understandable reasons.  At an early age she became familiar with death and loss.  In addition, while not regarded as a feminist per se, Dickinson was well aware of the limited options available to women in her day.  She knew life was short, and thus decided to spend her life doing what she loved most: writing.  By making this decision she was not exhibiting fear, but rather a fierce and brave determination to live life on her terms.  As she advises us in one of her poems:

If your Nerve, deny you –

Go above your Nerve –

He can lean against the Grave,

If he fear to swerve –

I often times wonder if longer life spans have extinguished our zest for adventure and meaning.  Think of Amelia Earhart, our nation’s founding fathers, and countless numbers of writers and artists who spent their early years taking chances and following their heart’s desire.  So, stand tall in the face of fear.  Step outside of your comfort zone and do that one thing you’ve always wanted to try.  Take your horse to a show, or experience the exhilaration of cantering across an open field.  It doesn’t have to change the world; it only has to make life more meaningful for you.


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