Back in the saddle!

Back in the saddle!
Emilie is infinitely more at ease and in control of the situation than I am.


I’m proud of husband and horse this week. The credit for me finally getting on Emilie’s back is theirs, completely and utterly theirs.

I have not been riding regularly since November 2016. My Friesian, Pilar, fell lame, and then she fell sick and eventually, she died. We bought Emilie in February 2017, and a week later, she came down with a volvulus. In July she was finally over her surgery but something had gone wrong in her back: She’d be lame in a completely random leg every other day. After another hospital visit and a move to a farm with far more acreage for her to roam, she was finally declared healthy in late March 2018.

During all that time, I sat on my fat ass. It didn’t get any less fat.

Therein lies the problem. I can barely walk. I do yoga, but after more than a year of not riding, my legs are weak and useless. Last time I tried to get on a horse my knee flat out refused to push off the ground. I fell down, and I hurt my leg enough that I couldn’t walk at all for two weeks.

They make me so proud

I got into water gymnastics to strengthen that weak knee, and the husband built me an 80 cm stepping stair. I can slide from it to Emilie’s back and not have to push off at all. Together, we introduced Emilie to the stepping chair and explained to her that all she needs to do is stand there and open her mouth. Then I’ll fumble around and climb on board while all she needs to worry about is how fast she can eat carrots. Emilie thinks this is a pretty good deal.

My timing is less than ideal, as usual. I can barely cling to her back – forget proper riding! – due to weakened muscles and chronic pain. Emilie is barely saddle broke and has no idea what the signals and cues actually mean. It’s like that old joke – for inexperienced riders we have inexperienced horses.

For now we rely on the things we taught her from the ground while she recovered. Follow the husband. Walk shoulder by shoulder. Listen to verbal cues, they don’t change whether they come from the ground or on your back.

We’ll take the long road together. She’ll help me get my ability to move back, and I’ll teach her what she’s supposed to do. She’s cool with this. She loves solving problems and figuring out cues, and getting rewarded. It doesn’t seem to matter to her whether I’m sitting on her back or on a chair next to her, as long as I keep talking and explaining to her what I want.

The only thing Emilie doesn’t like is the saddle girth. She tenses when the saddle is put on her back and tells us she’s worried about it being tightened. But as long as we just tighten it a few holes at a time and give her time to wait and relax between holes, everything is fine.

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