Sarah has always recommended that I take up running. I hate running! Unless I am being chased by something that is planning to make me its dinner, I have no ambition to run anywhere at anytime! My body issues stem from my left hip. I had a bad fall when I was 11. It never really healed and I reinjured it in a fall when I was 19. Thankfully after that fall I discovered chiropractic. The chiropractor told me that my hip was most likely first put out of place the day I was born. Since I was no longer in pain, I didn’t think my hip could still be an issue. Sarah pointed out that I had been compensating for as long as I had been riding, so I had a twist in my body that my horses had to absorb. Running would help me loosen up the hip and help me get rebalanced. I haven’t taken up running, but what I have done in the last few months is started a step class. I have been working out at a gym on a regular basis for over a year now. I mainly do weight lifting, but have been able to avoid cardio. This step class has changed that!
The class is very fast paced, the steps change so quickly that I don’t have time to whine about being out of breath and sweaty. It’s as much as a mental workout as it is physical. The first time we had to across the step at speed, a very familiar feeling crept over my body. FEAR! It was the exact same fear I have felt in the saddle every day since my first pony bucked me off. My brain knows that I am not going to die in step class; just like in my mind I know that Grace is not going to hurt me. She is nothing like the rank half wild horses I grew up clinging onto. My body is full of fear; I feel it every time I ask my horse to lope. My body stiffens, my left hip locks, my feet jam down in the stirrups, and there is air between my butt and the saddle. And still I ride, I run barrels, I ride on a rodeo flag team, I just accept that I will not be the prettiest rider in the arena. So here it was, that exact same feeling only this time I was only 6 inches off the ground. I took a deep breath and jumped back up on the step, I kept an eye on the instructor’s feet. I mimicked her movements. At the end of the first class my body and brain were pushed to exhaustion, and I couldn’t wait to do it again.
Within a week of starting step class I could feel things changing in the saddle. Something was missing. I was more relaxed and balanced. My reins were longer, I didn’t seem to need to use my hands as much. Grace was responding to my body and I could feel her subtle movements underneath me. Fear is missing, and I have not missed it at all! Just last week I was riding Grace in the arena closest to the house. As we were loping a big circle on a very long rein, my dog took off across the arena when she heard my husband driving up the driveway. Grace decided she wanted in on some of the excitement, so she leapt up in the air and threw in a few crow hops for good measure. I jammed by left leg down into my stirrup and was immediately aware that my girth was loose. Within the next few seconds I became very grateful for two things. First the very good “Whoa” that was put on my mare when she was first broke. I just said the word and Grace stopped, just in time for me to switch my weight to the right and center my saddle. Second, the decision I made in the last year to start wearing a helmet for every ride. I consider Grace to be a very safe, very broke horse. I have only come off her back twice in the 9 ½ years that I have owned her, but at the end of the day she is a horse, and I am rather attached to my brain. I loped a few more strides after righting myself, I knew that jamming my left leg down was a body fear habit. I was worried that it was back and that my new confidence in the saddle was short lived. My hip relaxed as Grace loped on, within 5 strides I knew I hadn’t lost any ground, and it was time to get off and tighten my girth.