Carolyn White: Living the Good Life 8-1-11
August 1, 2011
I love that commercial where two, burly firefighters play Rock-Paper-Scissors in an attempt to win a bite of a special sandwich. Voice-overs make them sound like little kids, and it’s hilarious. Thanks to a once-weekly riding group that my neighbor, Judy, recently organized, I can totally relate to the scenario right now – with a few major differences, of course. Just like with my original, core group of horse-crazy girlfriends, we’re excited, enthusiastic, and talkative whenever we manage to get together; the problem is that our ages – early 40s to late 50s – and life situations somehow seem to get in the way.
Trying to coordinate everyone by 7:00 a.m., in order to beat the desert heat has been the biggest hurdle, especially when one factors in husbands, kids, grandkids, morning chores and other responsibilities. It’s enough to make us marvel at the changes 30 years can bring, for sure. Back in the 70s, because they pastured their mounts in a different neighborhood than mine, Missy, Leigh and Stacy often rode over to my house completely unannounced, especially on weekend mornings. No matter how early they appeared underneath my second floor bedroom window, however, hollering their arrivals (or in winter, throwing snowballs) I’d be instantly ready to go. It took only moments to toss off the covers; leap into some jeans and a T-shirt; bolt through the kitchen (maybe grabbing a banana along the way); and hop up behind one of them, bareback. An extended foot, my swing set, or daddy’s sturdy rose arbor was all it took for a boost on board, and if I overshot – sliding across a slick hide, falling off the other side, and doing a face plant in the grass – it was never a deterrent. When you’re young, you just dust off your britches and try once again, regardless of the teasing and laughter, and once we got going we’d be gone the entire day.
In contrast, there’s a lot more pre-planning involved before a jaunt out into the Adobes. Just getting dressed can be a major ordeal since I no longer fit into any of my Wranglers (at least I’m not the only one) plus, because I’m more careful at this stage, a properly-adjusted helmet (however aggravating) is a must. It takes time to scrape dried mud off the horses, their saddle pads, and cinches; trudge back and forth from our tack rooms several times (to retrieve whatever initially gets forgotten); apply sun-tan oil (to prevent additional wrinkles); gather up cell phones, water bottles, sunglasses and lip balm; and go over any last-minute, daily instructions with our spousal units before we leave. As for riding without a saddle, that’s a rarity for me since I long ago lost the ability to swing up onto Dixie’s bare back. And with Buddy, the Morgan/Quarter horse gelding that we bought several years ago who is several inches too tall, I must occasionally utilize the drop-down, “sissy” stirrup that loops around the horn.
The first time I used it this summer after nearly a year of non-activity, I ended up having to extend it an extra few notches just to get my foot in. As a result of it being so long, I ended up swinging back and forth like a monkey for several moments while clumsily trying to hook the right leg over the saddle. It didn’t work, and I was forced to dismount in order to make adjustments. “Well, THAT certainly looked graceful,” one of my comrades joked.
Half-falling onto Bud’s back with the second try (bless his heart, he never moved), I rubbed my left knee and grinned, “Hey, as long as I can make it up here, that’s all that’s important, aye?”
“You got that right,” she agreed.
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“Yeah, and we’re all gonna be feeling it later, anyhow,” another pointed out dryly.
She was right. As the miles passed by (mostly at a walk) we began good-naturedly reminiscing and commiserating about how often and how far we used to ride when we were young and how our necks, backs, hips and ankles had already started aching before we’d returned to Judy’s driveway.
But you know what? We still ACT like kids again on those Wednesday rides. We gab, we admire each other’s horses, we share training tips, and most importantly, we tell favorite childhood horse stories. And sometimes, I envision Missy’s little pigtails, and Leigh’s long braids, or Stacy’s wild curls on the heads of my adult friends … and I can once again hear their youthful voices.