“There are no safe paths in this part of the world. Remember you are over the Edge of the Wild now, and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go.” *
At some point in our riding career, we are over the edge. The sun baked afternoons of childhood, Breyer models pushed through the grass, the Black Beauty VHS watched until the tape falls out, the ever present imagined horse galloping alongside the car–meet high school, (maybe) college, (a) job(s)(hopefully), bills, and a whole lot of other things that don’t end up seeming like much fun. Still, somehow, eventually, we find a way to have a horse (or 2,3,4…), and still, more “adventures” crop up: accidents, flukes, truck and trailer hiccups, tack problems, I don’t need to tell you. What I would like to encourage you to do is to hang onto that wild haired youngster who dreamed, who knit blankets for the model horses when they were it–and saved odd job money and bought a bridle and a real blanket for the neighbors’ mare as soon as Permission To Touch was established.
“There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.”
If you had asked me about my endurance goals a decade ago I would have said to have one, maybe two horses going and to have miles and miles and years riding just them. I have now had the pleasure of riding 13 horses in AERC events. A dozen times I paired successfully to Completions and the thirteenth, a Rider Option, is a dear memory unto itself: my first 100 miler, attempted on the first stallion that I ever rode, on his first 100 miler. It takes a truly special horse to put your boot in the stirrup for that after being life flighted from a horse related accident previously; I’ll never forget Whitney West’s Aur Aquavit getting stronger and stronger throughout the day and into the inky desert night at 20 Mule Team 100. We were dead last and ran out of glow-sticks which forced us to back track and call it a day after 75 miles but I KNEW we could have finished and that hunger will drive me back to the 100 mile starting line.
Point is, my life in almost all of it’s facets has absolutely not gone to plan. Not my childhood, high school, or college plan–not my horse plan either. The more I live, the more I experience, the more I thrash and struggle and fill my toolbox, the more I see that that’s okay. Few of us live exactly as we expected to and we are none of us alone. What a host of characters, human and horse, I have come to know on my winding path of Not to Plan.
“Little by little, one travels far.”
Yesterday I saw the first glimmers of ride camp with my new mare. I say new, come December she has been here for 2 years. I know, I know, we’re supposed to get a horse out of the field for an LD and do a first 50 in a few months of training. Or, we’re supposed to spend a year+ on Long Slow Distance and then do an Intro. Orrr, however, I think at 32 I am now really embracing that I’m just not very good at doing What I am Supposed To. I am pretty good at enjoying horses though, whatever shape or size, whatever the terrain, however long it takes. The moment when you have been saying NoNoNo while on board, trying various cues, logging the miles–and suddenly it’s there, the give and take, the understanding that The Human is herd mate and her notions actually make Horse life easier sometimes, the other horses may come and go but this Human is yours, you look for her when she gets out of sight, she is a bearer of good news–worth it, so worth it, always worth the days, months, or years.
Whatever your goals, plans, steed, or dreams look like now, however far from where they might once have been–ride on, hike on, keep believing, work hard–ENJOY!
*All quotes including title by J.R.R. Tolkien