Cold Ride

On Tuesday morning it was -26°C with the wind chill, and I was in Freetown on horseback.

This was not what I imagined when I tentatively sent an email in June of last year:

I’m a 55 year old widower who’s never ever been on a horse. If not now, when!?

My friend Josh says “Venture Stables is the place for you!”

I thought I might dip my toe in the water with one of your one hour trail rides, but, what being a widower and all, don’t meet your two person threshold.

Any other way I could get on a horse?

The reply from Jasmine came quickly:

It is never too late to try something new and getting out of your comfort zone gives us the ability to grow :)

Would you like to join us on our next trail ride that we have going out?

We can also schedule a 1 hour riding lesson.

I opted for the lesson. And thought that would be it: I’d walk out of my comfort zone for an afternoon, call it a win, and move on.

But at the end of the first lesson Jasmine asked when I wanted to schedule my second lesson. And so I did.

And I’ve been at it ever since. At first it was every two weeks, then every week. I believe I’m hooked.

Riding is nothing at all like I thought it would be: I imagined it would be a mostly technical exercise, like learning to rock climb, or weld.

And there certainly is a technical component to it: I am only now just getting comfortable with the straps and hooks and loops, the “7-4-1” of the belt that tightens the girth, which part of the halter the cross-ties clip to, how to comfortably hold the reins.

It’s in the emotional realm that the surprises come: there is no room for thinking about anything else when on the back of a horse. It demands a mixture of intense concentration and intense relaxation; an openness to communicating, to feeling how the horse is moving underneath, using subtle movements of legs and reins to communicate back. The effects can be profound, and, more often than not, I leave the stable with a clearer head than any other time during the week.

There is simply nothing else like it.

And it is not at all an exaggeration to say that the degree to which riding has opened me up contributed significantly to being able to open my heart up to another.

And so I return, every week. In the rain, in the snow, and when it’s -26° with the wind chill.