It has been nearly three years since I rode. After conquering the worst of my vertigo and panic attacks, I became quite comfortable in the saddle. Chrome and I were doing extremely well together, learning each other’s foibles and idiosyncrasies.
Then life happened, we moved them here to our property a bit too soon, for the stable wanted the stall, knowing we were moving them anyway. That first year it rained as if it were the tropics, during a monsoon. The ground became so muddy that the poor horses could barely move let alone walk. I wasn’t going to put them at risk by saddling them and riding. It was an accident waiting to happen. The next year, the weather was better, and I began again, a bit slower on the uptake for I was still suffering anxiety and panic attacks and it had been a while. But, Chrome and I were getting back in shape. It was glorious, though the time was still much too short for long bouts in the saddle.
Then we adopted Dinky, he was about three months old at the time. He is a nurse mare’s foal and way too young to have been away from his mother and Dinky had been neglected by the rescue shelter. He was impacted with parasites, underfed, and so thin it would have broken your heart. He was lost and confused, he didn’t know how to be a horse, nor how to act around humans either. So lost between worlds and hungry for love and attention.
I could use Dinky as an excuse for not riding at that time and in some ways it would be true, for much time was spent helping the herd adjust to their new dynamics and healing him. My job had also become increasingly demanding of my time, energy, and stamina. Way too much time was spent trying to survive it. I became quite the recluse, not wishing to socialize and not feeling safe going out of the house, when I was not at work.
Now, that I have put all that behind me, though I still have some panics, I am re-entering the world of riding. Chrome is not so sure he is ready to go back to work, after becoming the alpha horse of his own little herd. He is not sure he wants a saddle and a bit again or to have me on his back.
The first time I put him on the cross ties after such a long time and saddled him, he broke loose. Down the field he ran, just as if he was a bucking bronco. I didn’t attempt to ride him that time, just worked him from the ground, saddle and all.
My fear grew again, would he do the same, would I be safe on his back? Could I trust him and because of this fear, he wasn’t sure he could trust me? But, I am determined and finally my days off, and the weather cooperated. It wasn’t so hot it would be torture for the both of us, and it wasn’t raining either. The last week has been remarkably beautiful, even the rain hasn’t lasted so long or been so hard that it left the field muddy for a week.
Yesterday, I put him on the cross ties to saddle him, at first he began to pull back. Determined to break his halter and race down the field again, but I settled him down and finished. I did not ride yesterday, though we worked on the ground for a while and I took him to the step stool, put one foot into the stirrup and let him get used to the idea. After getting down, walking, running with him, we again went to the stool and I put my foot into the stirrup and this time put my weight on it, standing up, ready to climb on. Instead, I got down, and we walked and ran again.
Today was the day, I didn’t use the cross ties today, but saddled him just holding the lead rope, and when he tried to walk off, I gently pulled him back and asked him “where are you going.” Which always makes Chrome stop. We followed everything else just the same as the day before, but today I mounted. He wasn’t sure, he didn’t want to follow directions, but he did and we walked and turned, and then we walked around the step stool. By this time, I knew it was best to leave it on a good note and dismounted. Together we walked and ran again until we reached the cross ties. Which I did use this time, taking the bit off of him. He jerked it out of his mouth and fought me just an itsy bit when I put it back into his mouth and removed it correctly, gently so as not to chip his teeth.
After unsaddling him, I brushed him again all the while telling him what an exceptionally good boy he was and how much I needed his help, for we both needed me to ride him again. You see, Chrome is sixteen now, and because he is a gray he is developing melanoma. Oh our vet has advised me that he has many years left, but that time is precious and I do not want either of us to miss the beautiful trust and friendship of being one together.
We both need it, and I for one do not want to waste a moment of our lives together any longer so I will overcome my panic attacks. We will learn to trust each other again, and when we have perfected that, we will begin the process of teaching Dinky first to pony and then to be happy under saddle.
Until then, Chrome and I will learn to ride beautifully, and I will ride him and Connella and one day Dinky.