Saddling Up Anyway

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This is me (me!), the other day, out in frigid temperatures, riding Andre.

If you could zoom in on my face, you would see two things: fear and joy.

Well, I just did that. Zoomed in on my face. And I was wrong. What you see is intense fear. Only fear. No joy. My face is very serious and very scared. The joy, I guess, is deep down in my heart, down in my heart, I’ve got the joy, joy, joy joy down in the heart….

Even though I have 4 horses whom I love and care for, I ride none of them.

Why? Three reasons.

1. I don’t know HOW to ride a horse.

2. My instructor moved away before I learned HOW.

3. I live in the middle of nowhere where I have not been able to find another instructor/trainer (or even person who knows how to ride) to help me.

Oh, okay. Four. At least FOUR reasons.

4. I love them, but I have a great fear of horses. Very great.

When I was home for Christmas, my Daddy reminded me of camping trip we went on when I was a young’un. We went on a horseback ride at the campground. My mom and I shared a horse. I was tiny and sat in front of her. Mom was scared to death and clinched onto me with a grip and fierceness that left me complaining. I guess her fear of horses trasnferred into my body that day because I’ve had nothing to do with them most of my life.

Until I moved to this farm. And DISCOVERED them. And got horse fever. My daughter (who is 13) tells me I’m like a 9-year-old when it comes to MY horse Merlin. Yes, well. That may be true. Here’s what I gave him for Christmas. A sparkle-y halter. I want to get him some glittery hoof polish to match.

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Okay, back to why I don’t ride my horses.

Let me add Five. At least FIVE reasons.

5. When I found my soul~horse, Merlin, he came with some “baggage” which, when combined with my lack of skills, means trouble. Yes, I’ve hit the ground. Which is why I don’t ride him….

Yet.

Merlin. My one, my only, my true Soul~Horse. I’ve always thought he had some unicorn qualities, very magical. Don’t you love the way his mouth seems to smile? Hold on, I have to kiss the computer screen. xxxxxxx. (the “x” is the kiss part of OXO, right?)

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Sometimes I call him M & M. Magical Merlin, Magnificent Merlin, Majestic Merlin, Mersical Merlin, but best of all, M & M stands for

MY Merlin.

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See, I always thought I would ride him one day. That was my dream. Saddle him up and ride him through the Christmas trees.

But when my instructor/trainer moved away, I abandoned that dream. Instead, I decided that I would just love him and care for him with my feet safely planted on the ground. No, I wouldn’t dream of riding him any more. Because, you know. The ground is, like, hard. And I’m like, 51.

And then this wonderful thing happened to me. My instructor, who moved 2 hours away, called in late fall and wondered if her horse, Andre the Giant, could winter at our farm. She was moving to an apartment and needed a place for him. Do you know what this meant? She’d be coming to my farm again! YAY! Win. Win. Win. Win for her. Win for me. And win for Andre the Giant (because the animals here get some serious TLC.)

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So. Then this other wonderful thing happened. My instructor asked if I’d like to trailer the horses to a beautiful place and ride on some well groomed trails. Who me? Who are you talking to? Don’t you remember me?! I can’t do that. I can’t catch the horses or load the horses or trailer the horses or saddle up the horses or ride the horses.

Yes, you can, she told me. You CAN do it. Just visualize it and see it and set your mind to it. Besides, she said, she would ride my challenging and moody Soul~Horse Merlin and I’d ride her gentle, sweet, lesson horse Andre. Isn’t my instructor the best? I know, right.

Early one morning we began the process of gathering everything we needed for the 10-mile trail ride. It was sunny, but cold, cold, cold. C~O~L~D! The day before, as I tried to get a “leg up” on the process, I got my truck and trailer stuck in the mud. That the opposite of a “leg up.”

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It looked like I’d not be able to get it out in time to go on the trail ride the next morning. BUT. Then a neighbor came and rescued me. AGAIN. Yes, again. What would I do without my generous and kind neighbors???

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The next morning it took quite some time to load everything up. Whew! Saddles, horse boots (Merlin doesn’t wear shoes), saddle pads, helmets, bridles, halters, hay nets and hay, girth, etc etc etc. Horses need lots of stuff. And same for me. I had layers and layers of clothes. Leggings and long johns and riding pants. Two pairs of socks. Two pairs of gloves. Hand warmers. Foot warmers. A thin toboggan for under the riding helmet. Lots of layers on the top. Underneath my heavy barn coat, I wore a fluffy fleece hoodie, a thick sweater and my riding shirt. And underneath that, I wore a special t-shirt (starring my very own unicorn, horse Merlin). My daughter has a matching one and she wore it to school that day as well, for my good luck:

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And I wore some pretty sassy riding boots that I’ve had for 2 years, but have never worn.

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We finally got all the stuff and the horses loaded and headed down the highway. WooHoo! I stayed in my lane the best I could and tried to miss pot holes and bumps. What an adventure I was having already and wasn’t even to the trail ride yet!

Our destination was Moses Cone Park, located in Blowing Rock, NC.

Oh. Y’all.

Moses Cone Park is a historic site located on the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are over 3600 acres of forests, meadows, wildflowers, orchards, lakes. A very rich and successful man, Moses Cone, purchased this land for his “summer” home. And what a “summer” home it is!
It is a grand house that was completed in 1901. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. (here’s the scoop on who Moses Cone was.)

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Image from wikipedia. When I was there, the grass wasn’t green. haha

The coolest part (to me) was one of Moses Cone’s many hobbies. He enjoyed carriage rides. So he cut over 26 miles of carriage roads throughout his property so he could ride around in his carriage to see the land and beautiful views. Today, those roads are used for horseback riding.

So my instructor gathered a group of her cool, horsey friends and we rode the carriage roads.

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That white horse is my Merlin. And riding him is my instructor, who, did I mention, rocks.

I am bringing up the rear, which is a position I like, with Andre. I took this photo through his ears.

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One thing I really liked about this ride was that I got to admire my honey-bunny Merlin all day.

At this point, all the other riders were well ahead of us. They even galloped across an open field. Not me. I like the Clip, Clop, Clip, Clop. I’m more of a MOZEY-er. “Let’s mozey on down this trail….” I had one goal for the day: STAY IN THE SADDLE. That’s been my mantra since a good friend of my husband’s, Ed, gave us a beautiful saddle. I told him I kept falling off the horse. He said that I need to just STAY IN THE SADDLE. So that was my goal on this day. Stay in the saddle, stay in the saddle, stay in the saddle. Especially since Andre is huge. Looooooooong way to the ground.

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And then my instructor turned around and said, “Are you read to move out?”

I didn’t even know what that meant. Move out? What? Pick up speed, she told me. Yeah, might as well. So we moved out. And I didn’t fall off. And it was like a dream.

I couldn’t believe the way it felt when the horse went into a “canter.” His head comes up so high I thought we were going to fly into the air. I hollered with delight.

I took tons of photos with my phone, but they all pretty much look like the two above.  Andre’s ears and Merlin’s backside. One day, it will be Merlin’s ears and Andre’s backside because I’ll be riding that boy! And together, we are going to fly.

Hold tight to your dream. Don’t let it slip away.

It was one of the most AWE-filled days of my life. I LOVED it. I especially liked riding in the cold. Funny thing is that when we first started, at the bottom of the mountain, I got warm in all my layers. I thought, “I’ll just take this heavy coat off, throw it in the woods, and pick it up on my way back down.” I am SO glad I didn’t do that. Once we climbed the mountain, I was a-FREEZIN’. The wind was blustery and frigid. All our faces were red and wind-chapped. It was a blast!

Here’s the cool group of women at the hitching post where we took a break.

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My instructor and Me. Merlin and Andre the Giant. At the Moses Cone Manor.

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Here we are, just Me and My Soul~Horse.

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That photo series pretty much sums up my relationship with my Merlin. See the way it is? Yep.

Anyway, it was one of the most incredible days of my life. No joke. The beauty of the place was incredible. The other women on the ride were friendly and fantastic and patient with this newbie. At one point as we rode in the forest, the big group had divided up into several groups of women. I had one group ahead of me and one group behind me. I just kinda hung out in the middle ALONE enjoying the ride. I could hear the chatter and laughter of both groups, but I just stayed there and soaked up the moment and movement of the horse. In that place of clip, clop and contemplation and joy, I got tears in my eyes. Check me out. Who would have thunk? Out here riding a horse on a magnificent trail. I am staying in the saddle, Ed! Baby steps, I know, but I even drove the horses here, I mean COME ON. My life has sure changed from a few short years ago. This is spectacular. I admired the tall trees and the wild rhododendrons. I think about nature and God and the gift of this very day. I recall a quote from Emerson that was on a sticker my mom recently sent my daughter. “The wonder is that we can see these trees and not wonder more.” So I wonder and gaze and immerse my thoughts in this moment, every single detail of the moment, yes, this incredible moment.

When another rider caught up to me to chat, I wiped away the tears and blamed them on the cold wind. (“damn wind”)

Life is good, My Friends. Make up your mind to do something and DO IT. You can. And if it brings a tear to your eye? All the better.

ENJOY the ride.

Until next time, Friends, savor the flavor of life!

Lots of love, The City Farmgirl learning to live in the Country, Rebekah

ps One of the good things about having a blog is that I can go back and remember what I did and how I felt THEN. I know I wrote one about a trail ride I went on before we moved to a farm. Let me find that post. Here it is.

Leave a comment 21 Comments

  1. Jackie says:

    My kids, my husband have had horses for 20+ years. I lived the dream through them. Two years ago, at 63 we bought back my daughters old show horse. She’s a mare and 22-and she can be a hand full. I had my doubts it would work at first, but we have bonded and most days its a good ride. My saying is “put on your big girl panties, you can do this.” We are lucky enough to have a place to ride on our property and have been on some trail rides. I know that feeling being out there, beauty, peaceful and everything good all at once. I have a coffee cup with the same John Wayne saying. Enjoy the ride!!

  2. Sandy says:

    Thanks for an enjoyable story. So glad you loved the ride!

  3. susana says:

    I enjoyed the ride with you….thru your wonderful words, it brought back the days of my youth when I rode my own horse….felt the wind, the sun and the clip clop of the horses hoofs flipping on the road….just a wonderful day of riding mes you feel alive! And I love North Carolina…. its my favorite state….that and West Virginia and Pennsylvania…all so lovely country side for riding a horse! Thanks for sharing your event at riding….it brought back wonderful memories of my youth….I miss the ride! Yes, grab it while you still camp it, because once your bones get too old and brittle, you dot dare ride a horse. Boy do I miss it…..sometimes when I drive down this one road, that bumpy road almost feels as if I am on a horse again, going up and down with the wave of the road……makes me feel as if I’m on a horse again….its why I drive/down that road when I can….because it gives me that same country road ride feeling as if I’m on a horse again….its one thing you never forget…thanks fir the ride! Its just as lovely to read about it. Boy do I miss my horse!

  4. Hi Rebekah, thanks for this lovely story. I grew up ranching and riding bareback flying like the wind…. until my horse died and my Dad got us a new one. I never bonded, was always afraid of that horse, and basically never really rode again. Fear is such a debilitating emotion. My Dad said to me with great patience as the tears were running down my face: “You are sending every emotion you feel right through your knees to your horse’s heart”. I’m thankful for a husband that lives to ride so he made sure our kids had an amazing instructor and that riding was just second nature to them. I was a very good “horse mom” in the sense that I loved to groom, saddle, load and trailer…. but I stayed off their horses. To this day, I don’t ride. Sad isn’t it? I wish I lived close to you, maybe we could learn together. Thanks again for sharing. (It was so real to me my heart was just racing.) – Dori, the Ranch Farmgirl – P.S. I missed your posts the last month. :-(

  5. Diane Van Horn says:

    Dearest Rebekah,
    I just knew you would be riding one day! I can’t wait to see the pictures when you are on your soul-horse, Merlin. Thank you for your wonderful posts! I enjoy them so much!
    Your Farmgirl Friend,
    Diane

  6. Jan Sturgill says:

    Great job! You should be so proud of yourself! I love stories of women overcoming fear…
    I purchased a trail ride outing for myself when I turned 40 (Yikes, I am now 60..). I ended up on a 40 year old mule named Geronimo. He and I bonded, since we spent all at the ride at the back of the pack. It seems he had spent the previous day at the front, while being ridden by a young boy. The first time in my life that I actually got ‘saddle sore’, since my stirrups on the rental equipment were too long. Ouch…

  7. You’re more than half way there. Fear, smear. BTW, Merlin is drop-dead gorgeous and he really does smile.

  8. KimberlyD says:

    Bravo you stayed in the saddle! The more you fet a chance to ride the less you will fear them. I am not afraid of horses, just not very experienced in ridding. I have not gotten to many chances to ride.

  9. Tracey H says:

    While I read your blog today, I held onto every word. As a young girl, I went horseback riding with my grandfather as much as I could and enjoyed every moment of it. Now that I’m in my fifties I would be just like you. I would love to have that opportunity to try but it would be scary. Living on a farm has always been a dream of mine.

  10. kim says:

    What an amazing, beautiful story – it brought tears to my eyes. Awesome for you. Motivational for sure. Congrats, look forward to reading the day you and Merlin ride together. Best, Kim

  11. Meredith W. says:

    Ok! Now you know the peace and joy of riding a horse who is well suited to you! This is the way it should ALWAYS feel. Every time. Every ride. Until you are a real bonafide professional trainer. THEN you ride Merlin. You will be happier this way, trust me! I know you love your MM but whoever sold him to you should have known they were doing you a greet disservice. Shame on them. ANDRE is the MAN! (Well, HORSE! ) I am so glad you got to experience horses the way it’s supposed to be!

  12. Cindy says:

    Oh my !you should have been a writer! You missed your calling! That was soooo enjoyable and hilarious to read! Wow! You lucky girl! Oh what joy horses bring! I too am a farm girl at heart! My husband and Zi built a farmhouse in Boise Idaho last year on our 26 acres! We have the dogs! A cay we named Gypsey who came wondering through our hay field in kitten stage! Three darling Nubian goats named Oliver,Popye and Rueben! All that’s missing is my LIFELONG great of owning a horse! I want the wood barn too! Soon I hope! I rode when I was young and now at 57 I have brains and know I can get hurt! Ha! Scared like you and figured the same as you that if I didn’t ride I would just look at this magnificent creature and pet and feed him or her? Not sure yet! I want a paint! Well ! You have really inspired me to face my fears and go for it! God will help us! Right! Ha! Enjoying the beauty of nature! Animals! Friends family and let’s not fogey great farmyard decorating and food! Ha! Every day matters! Oh the blessings we have! Your new friend,Cindy , my email is papjohngram@yahoo .com ! Write to me if you get a chance! Thanks for the terrific heartfelt story! Loved it!

  13. Cindy says:

    Oh my !you should have been a writer! You missed your calling! That was soooo enjoyable and hilarious to read! Wow! You lucky girl! Oh what joy horses bring! I too am a farm girl at heart! My husband and Zi built a farmhouse in Boise Idaho last year on our 26 acres! We have the dogs! A cay we named Gypsey who came wondering through our hay field in kitten stage! Three darling Nubian goats named Oliver,Popye and Rueben! All that’s missing is my LIFELONG great of owning a horse! I want the wood barn too! Soon I hope! I rode when I was young and now at 57 I have brains and know I can get hurt! Ha! Scared like you and figured the same as you that if I didn’t ride I would just look at this magnificent creature and pet and feed him or her? Not sure yet! I want a paint! Well ! You have really inspired me to face my fears and go for it! God will help us! Right! Ha! Enjoying the beauty of nature! Animals! Friends family and let’s not fogey great farmyard decorating and food! Ha! Every day matters! Oh the blessings we have! Your new friend,Cindy , Write to me if you get a chance! Thanks for the terrific heartfelt story! Loved it!

  14. Cindy says:

    Hi again! Guess I should have checked my spelling before I sent this post!

  15. Debbie says:

    My heart was pounding right along with yours Rebekah. I’m proud of you for taking the chance to ride again. I could feel the fresh cold air on my cheeks and hear the clip-clop along the trail. Your words took me through every horse memory I have right up from when I fell passionately in love with them when I was 9 till this very minute! I never had one of my own as a youngster and I was too busy being a career gal in my 20’s and 30’s to make it happen and doing other fun things instead. But when our daughter turned 10 ( I was 47 then, now 52) she and I signed up for riding lessons together. She was so brave and quite a natural little rider. No fear in that girl. I however was terrified and very fearful but I got on each week and did my best. My instructor was very patient and never pushed me beyond my limits or the horses for that matter. Eventually I over came my fear and began to feel more comfy in the saddle but it took me almost a year to get there! I thought I was close to finally being able to get my first horse back then but finances changed and we stopped lessons. Our daughter never really fell as hard for horses the way I had as a girl, but she has some great memories of her riding ( and a couple of shows she did ) and we will always have our memories of learning together. I love your message in this post. We all have things we are afraid of and it’s best we just get over it and get on with it if we are to have any REAL adventure in life! You go City Farmgirl! You got this! With more help and practice you’ll be on your way. BTW… the horse I eventually felt the most comfortable on was a huge 16 1/2 hands part draft horse and part Hanoverian. He was a bit stubborn and could be a bit skiddish too but over all he was a big love. I was crazy about him! Your Andre made me think of my Bandit! Hugs from the Beach, sister! xo Deb

  16. Denise Ross says:

    I loved your story. Wow what an experience, a growing at that. I love the photos. I haven’t been on a horse since I was about 13 or so, but would love to ride again. I’m a suburban girl with a farmgirl heart so a trail ride is something I’m hoping to do within the next year or so. I’m so happy for you that despite your fears you did ride and had a spectacular day out too.
    Learning to savour the days of my life
    Denise
    Australia

  17. Karen(old cowgirl) Montoya says:

    Good for you! Fly, Fly, Fly women. You did it and it was so great. You have half the battle over. Do you know how many people can not trailer their horses? Many I can assure you. Some are problems with the horses, some with the person who is trying to trailer them.
    I do not know if you noticed but your horse Merlin is very attentive of you. See the ear’s , one is toward you and one toward the camera person. All except the last pic and then one is toward the camera and one toward something going on next or behind the car. You really have nothing to fear unless both ears are pointed back and flat then best to get off quickly. I also noticed that your boots have your heal pointing toward the ground that is good. I am not a fan of the split rains and two hands holding the rains. All the horses I rode and trained went for neck raining very quickly and I felt more secure with one hand on the rains and one free to grab the horn should my horse get testy (spooked or just in a bad mood). I am a 72 year old cowgirl who, when young rode her friends horses, then later got her own. I had great friends that taught me to ride both a western saddle and bareback. Believe me when I say that if you get to a point of riding bareback there is nothing greater than feeling the horse in tune with you and you with him/her. Your horse will always be testy when he goes for periods of time not ridden. Then it is best to put a training lead on him and get him to go around and around until he seems to want to go the other direction. This will take the testyness out of him and he will come to you willingly. That is called Joining. It simply means to be one with you and you are the boss. Ask your trainer about it. It will also give you confidence.
    Well, happy trails to you and don’t give up. Remember you are at least half way there and go out with a carrot or apple to Merlin and talk sweetly to him, watch his ears that tells you a lot. Horses just love being talked to that way.
    Always a cowgirl now in my heart,
    Kay

  18. loreta says:

    Oh I so enjoyed your blog. You are a spectacular person I love the things you do.

  19. Carol Cunningham says:

    Yours was the first blog I’ve read and I have to thank you Rebekah. Pure enjoyment!

  20. Teresa Dempsey says:

    Your story brought back memories of when I was a young teenager and I had a girlfriend who lived in the country with 2 horses. Many many weekends we would get up in the early morning and go for a ride through the countryside. Those were the best times of my life…great memories. Thank you for sharing your story.

  21. Kathy Geary says:

    My husband and I trained horses and trail rode for many years. We would go camping with our horses for the most wonderful vacations. The key to enjoying your horse or horses is…..to keep on ridin’. Enjoy.

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