Saturday, August 13, 2011

Back in the saddle again

Today I went to the new location of where I used to take horseback riding lessons, in middle school. Mom and I had 50% off coupons for a 2-hour trail ride. I had hoped that my old horse I used to ride in lessons, Impy, was still around. After a 40-minute drive, we arrived. The new stables were twice the size of the old ones, and subsequently they had twice the horses. I didn't recognize any of them, but it had been a long time. Who knows? A woman greeted us who looked familiar. Then I realized - the old owner! She didn't remember me, but like I said, that was 4 or 5 years ago. My old lesson teacher, they said, didn't work here anymore, but she did have 2 kids and still teaches riding elsewhere. Then I asked, "By any chance, is Impy still around?" Impy, the sometimes-reliable chestnut Quarter Horse mare who was just my size, had been a challenge for a brand-new rider back then, but she taught me a lot, and I ended up liking her. Yes, they said, you can ride her! She's probably 20 years old now, not quite an old lady by horse standards, but starting to get up there. She's still in good shape, if not a little bit heavier now.

Then we headed out on the trail. Just like old times, Impy's ears would flick back toward me, letting me know she was listening to me. We went through fields, past other fenced-in parts of the farm where other horses would stare at us as we passed, and over hills. We had views of the Appalachian Mountains when we reached the top. The last trail ride I went on, which was at Shenandoah National Park, was virtually "viewless," taking us through average-looking forests to a barely-visible and small waterfall. So the views here were definitely better. I reminded myself throughout the ride to keep my heels down and toes up. That's what I learned when I took lessons - it's pretty much the first thing I learned. Our guide, Alice, was from Australia and was super-nice. Plus, since she knew that my mom and I both knew how to ride, she let us trot when we went up hills. I figured when we trotted, it would be a good chance to practice my posting. For those of you who don't know English riding, this is where you move your body up and down out of the saddle in rhythm with the horse's trot. You go up out of the saddle when the horse's outside leg goes forward. I think I was on the right beat of the trot about 50-65% of the time, which is respectable considering I'm rusty. But I like to think I had improved in that aspect during my almost 2 years of lessons. We even cantered once or twice. I remember I used to have a hard time getting Impy to canter when my teacher asked me to. She'd go into a canter for a few seconds, then get lazy and fall back into a trot. When following 2 other cantering horses, though, she had no problem.

The ride was, in the end, enjoyable, except from the second I entered the stables, my allergies flared up. All that dust, hay, and pollen. I sneezed nonstop for about 3 hours, which included the car ride home and while I was eating my snack at the family dinner table. If I'm ever going to be on the equestrian team, I'm going to have to get some allergy meds that actually work. My doctor doesn't like to prescribe me new medicine - she just tells me to take a new brand of over-the-counter remedy, which never works. I think I might be looking at an allergy shot, since nothing else does the job yet. But oh well. Can't complain. If I have to be sneezing, I might as well sneeze from the back of a horse. And I was glad I got to see old Impy. And to make it even better, riding for 2 hours burns about 700 calories, and maybe more considering I was attempting to post. Now we're going out to dinner to a local Italian restaurant. I wish we could have gone to a Sonoran Mexican restaurant I haven't been to in a year, but it's my mom's birthday, so she gets to pick. You can get Italian food anywhere, in my opinion...

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