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.”
“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: