When In Doubt, Reassess

There’s a funny cycle in this whole horses+endurance world that I dedicate myself to (actually, many, but let’s focus!). I’m awake, aware, curious, eager to learn and dedicated to serving my horse first, and best. All told I’ve been riding horses for over 20 years now and though I would have believed myself in saying that last sentence to you at any point in those 20 years, I will honestly say that I have only really begun to understand horses and reach another level of connection with them in the last 4-5 years.

 It’s a funny trick of the horse world particularly that when you state one thing, the opposite usually happens, often scarily quickly. So just about the time that I claim to possess an eager, open questioning mind, I catch myself in a totally bovine train of thought regarding a puzzle at hand. I should say that sometimes I catch myself, but often it’s my fellow equestrians who toss out a simple, non rocket-science-esque statement that hits me with a bright light of clarity, and leaves me sitting back thinking, “Well, DUH. Why didn’t I think of that?”

We’re not necessarily talking major life issues here, either. This post actually started brewing in my head because my right big toe hurt (seriously, bear with me.) Despite attentively trimming my finger and toenails before leaving for our recent multi-day ride, my right big toe hurt suddenly and terribly riding out Scrappy-Go-Weeee!! at GRS, so badly that I was hopping trying to hand walk him and get his brain back on trail. My right side is my metal ankle side and I’m always looking for/dealing with potential imbalances there, so I started focusing on how I was walking with that foot, but beyond catching myself weighting it a bit differently, and making my ankle sore trying to correct that, I couldn’t figure out why my big toe in particular hurt so badly. I hypothesized maybe it was jamming into the front of my boot, but the pain was different than that, which I’ve experienced before.

Then I talked with Mel.

“Your shoes are probably too narrow.” She typed.

But But BUT! My brain spluttered. As the sentences left my fingertips I was already laughing at myself:

“But I bought the wide Ariats and they fit great when I bought them 8 months ago.”

Sound familiar?

“It can’t be the saddle fit, I had Sparkles professionally fitted X months/years ago


“It can’t be saddle fit, I checked it thoroughly and trained X miles/months since then”


“It can’t be the saddle, it was just fitted very recently and Sparkles is 3-6 yrs old”


“It can’t be chiropractic(or similar), I just had Sparkles looked at 2 weeks ago.”


“It can’t be the trim, Sparkles loves my farrier/trimmer!”

I could go on.

The more I brewed on it, the more sure I was that we all go through this, to various degrees, and it also struck me that the ability to recognize when your brain has assumed the oxen yolk and is numbly straining in a fallow field is an important one, whether you’re thinking about your toes or your life path. One of my favorite quotes ever is credited to Lao Tzu:

“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”

You can extrapolate that to this I think..if you’re justifying your current decisions/methods with something that once was, or might be, rather than what and who you are and what you’re faced with in the moment, well, it may be a (potentially futile) struggle.
To go back to my toe, after talking with Mel I put my Ariats back on and wore them to town for errands, allowing the possibility to enter my mind that perhaps these carefully tried on, relatively expensive shoes might not be fitting my current feet. Wouldn’t you know it, just quieting that stubborn voice of “But I tried them on first andandand…” allowed me to feel just how squeezed my wide flat foot felt, and I caught myself attempting to stretch my foot within in the shoe to relieve the very present crunching of my unhappy right big toe.
Well, DUH. Why didn’t I think of that?

5 thoughts on “When In Doubt, Reassess

  1. Love the quote. And the education. Who knew you could learn so much from your big toe? 😎 Great education on why to keep an open mind (which is much harder to do in practice, I agree). As an aside, my fat little feet can't wear Ariat's at all. I've moved to trail running shoes (New Balance wide with comfy inserts) and caged stirrups.

  2. Yeah I am going shoe shopping for Christmas I guess. But I need rain sheets! 😛 I used to have some Keens that were really comfortable for my fat feet but I figured they'd be too wide for stirrups. Buuut that's one of those living in the past things, so we'll just see what I can find now..

  3. OMG in the last storm I feel asleep early feeling crappy without rain sheeting Scrappy, but he has a shed…so in the morning he was standing 30 feet from his beautiful 3 sided dry shed..soaking wet, shivering, full tragedy mode..*headdesk* I fleeced and sheeted him coz he was cold and shivering at that point but sheesh. He seemed a LOT more okay with the idea of going in the barn yesterday than usual. He gets nervous being locked up but I think he's getting used to being spoiled soo

  4. I finally retired my Keens and bought something new to me last week – Salomon Conquest hiking boots. They're comfortable out of the box, lightweight, ultra grippy, waterproof so far, but taller than Keens and maybe too narrow for you. I'm always interested in finding the perfect hiking/riding shoe, but I'm also stubborn and don't want to pay more than 150E. Let us know what you come up with.

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