I have just spent a wonderful weekend learning the ropes of endurance riding. We were down in Allegany State park, where we usually horse camp. The woman teaching me is 68 years old, she just recently stopped competing, as much because of her horse as anything. For those that don’t know, endurance riding has some similarities to trail riding, much of it in our area uses the same trails for both, but for endurance you ride them as fast as possible, and the distances are from 25-100 miles. The one I am preparing for will be 35 miles, a bit longer than the usual “short ride”.
Did I have a reason for telling you this? Two, actually. First, it is simply more encouragement that staying active is the key to a healthy later life. Ainsly, the woman who was teaching me hauled her own horse down, set up camp, rode the two days and packed up horse and camp to go home. At 68. When most people are saying “I’m too old for that.” I’m not saying she wasn’t sore and stiff at times. But the point is that she could do what she wanted.
The second point is that when you are active, you can do more, with less effort. Ainsly and I did things when we got back to camp, rather than needing a nap. I won’t say who needed the nap, but it was the one who hates exercise. Also, we could see what we were doing as fun, rather than a chore. Let’s face it, everything active requires effort(Thank you Captain Obvious). Unless you want to be a spectator to life, you have to keep yourself in good enough shape to do those things you love. If you want to bicycle in the summer, you have to exercise in the winter. If you want to hike on the weekends, you have to do workouts during the week. You have to set that as a routine when you are young, as it isn’t as necessary then, but you need the habit established for when you get older.
Oh, and I had a third point too. Surprise! Seriously, doing one activity leads to another. I wouldn’t have gotten into weight lifting if it wasn’t for Karate. I wouldn’t have thought about endurance riding if the desire for more challenges wasn’t awakened by karate and weight lifting. My friend Marlene is always talking about instant Karma, that everything you do impacts others. The same is true inside your own life. Positive steps create positive steps. Whatever road you are on is the one you will keep going on. Fitness and exercise leads to more fitness and exercise. Bad choices lead to more bad choices. Just take one baby step at a time in the direction you’d like to go, and see where it gets you.
trading horses is the best thing we could have done.
So we went horse camping for the weekend, with our friend Brenda. Two weeks ago, after a very “exciting” ride, Gary and I agreed to switch horses. As you can see, everyone is much happier. Romeo is as calm as can be under Gary, and Rufus can go from 0-60 in three seconds flat without scaring me. In fact, I am sooooo sore from riding so much, we trotted and cantered quite a bit. The poor horses are sleeping in the barn, their suppers barely touched.
Camping in general, and horse camping in particular teaches you many things.
- It teaches you to be grateful for indoor plumbing.
- To be extremely grateful for modern housing, electricity and hygiene.
- It teaches you proper respect for your ancestors, and what they lived with, and to wonder at their strength, resilience and ingenuity.
- You learn to focus on the immediate. Everything is more difficult, so you have to pay attention to what you are doing if you want to eat.
- You definitely learn to get along with others. You need each other in ways you don’t back home. That also means you learn to tolerate each other. Total strangers who’s dogs ticked you off have now caught your escaped horse. They are your new best friends. Even if you still are wary of their dogs.
You'd better have a sense of humor if you put yourself in this position.
You learn to laugh at yourself. When you are complaining about the dirt, the flies, the rain, the heat and the “neighbors”, that you know you did this for fun, and that you will do it again. The whole concept that something difficult and at times arduous can be fun is weird too. How much fun? Three days living in a space smaller than a prison cell, and like that cell, the bathroom is in the same room with you. Yippee!
- There is such a thing as too much love. Rufus and Spike had a love fest going on to the point we had to separate them. Rufus chewed Spikes halter right off. Luckily it was just unbuckled, but that was the first of three escape attempts this weekend.
What did you do/will you do for fun? Remember the ancient philosophy-“That which doesn’t kill you,…makes for a really funny story later.”
I think this is my first or second horse post. I keep threatening my husband that I will sell my horse if we don’t start riding them more. They are very expensive lawn ornaments. In any case, I am giving it my best shot. I have ridden Romeo every day for the last three days. Considering that I am coming home from work, working out or karate, that is pretty impressive.
What is making riding him much easier is that he is being unnaturally good. I titled this post “Spring Horses” as that is a condition most riders implicitly understand. After a winter of not being ridden, and the excitement of smelling grass growing, horses get “spring fever” worse than we do. The first few rides of the year can be very interesting. I took Romeo out into the pasture last night. Normally, as soon as he is out of the corral, he “puffs up”, his head comes up, his nostrils dilate, his ears are up, and he gets real jerky and nervous. He also gets that way when he doesn’t like the footing, like mud. Last night we were trotting around the pasture, his head was low and even, his gait was too. I nearly fell off him in surprise. (Is there anything more embarrassing than falling off your horse for no good reason?)
I did something else that made me impressed with him. I reached down off him for the cones and picked them up, (one at a time) holding the reins in my teeth. Had he decided to something stupid, the results would have been ugly. He was a perfect gentleman. The funny thing was, later, when we were done, he went over to the cone and attacked it. He doesn’t like being made to go around them.
What are your spring adventures? Are you keeping a new discipline? Learning something new? Just enjoying what God gave us? Isn’t it much easier to enjoy what God gives when it is above 40 degrees?