Things that embarrass me:
It’s been over two days since I took a 15 minute horseback riding lesson, and I still can’t walk right.
Ow. My thighs.
Ever since I moved up here to the Pacific Northwest I’ve been wanting to take a lesson with Dory, the trainer over at Fish Creek Farm up in Washington. My desire to take a lesson was due to a variety of reasons….. most of which boiled down to:
- Dude. She’s totally affordable.
- Everyone who trains with Dory speaks of her lessons and riding ability in hushed, reverent tones. I find it intriguing, because the people who are so in awe of her are serious horsewomen themselves.
- No, seriously. She’s affordable.
Friday morning I dropped the boys off at a friend’s house and made the drive up past Seattle to Fish Creek Farm.
Yes, that’s right. For Mother’s Day I ran away from my kids.
Come on. You can admit it. Isn’t that what every mom really want for Mother’s Day?
Who doesn’t daydream of a little quiet time to herself and a full night’s sleep with no responsibilities?
Yeah. Me too.
The drive was uneventful (AND QUIET!), but since I got a late start I arrived a little later than I had originally planned. As I was running behind schedule, I had thrown on some half chaps and was up on a horse almost before the dust from my tires had even settled.
For the record, that is the way that all road trips should end.
Also for the record: I may or may not have put my half chaps on the wrong way and walked around with them facing completely backwards until someone let me know.
Don’t worry – one day, with a lot of practice, you can be just as good at horse stuff as I am.
Once I got straightened out Dory threw me up on Gangster – a sweet faced paint with a nice, solid build.
In the picture above this I look like I’m just kind hanging out in the saddle, leaning too far forward.
The reality is that I am deep in conversation with my legs, begging them to ignore the build up of lactic acid and do what Dory was asking.
I know, I know. All of you English riders are snickering under your breath. You guys have probably been holding two point and stuff like that since you were six years old. You’ve got thighs of steel and can crush beer cans with only a slight twist of your knees.
I don’t. Apparently, I have flabby, useless thighs. All of this “hold two point with no stirrups for two laps around the arena” stuff was really new to me, and my legs let me know that they did NOT approve.
I wasn’t even aware that it was possible to drip sweat and gasp for breath just riding a horse at a walk.
I was wrong.
Fifteen minutes later, legs visibly trembling from the “warm up exercises, I had to crawl off the horse and hand him back because I had broken him.
I never actually got the official word on what was wrong with Gangster – it might have been tying up from “the heat” (a whopping 75 degrees – all you desert people can engage in a deep belly laugh right about now) or the beginnings of founder, or…?
All we knew is that a normally good-natured horse was sulky and refusing to trot, sweating way too much for the amount of work he was being asked to do, and the muscles along his flanks were quivering in a steady tremor.
I gotta tell you, I hate breaking other people’s toys. Even if it wasn’t really my fault, I still felt a little guilty.
Since the lesson was cut short we headed back to Aarene’s place, who had graciously offered to let me crash in her spare bedroom.
Lounging in the grass, drinking good root beer and watching chickens and a horse graze simultaneously is the way all Friday evenings should be spent.
We spent the evening roasting hot dogs and visiting with a couple of of her friends who dropped by. I’d like to say that I was fascinating company, but the truth was I spent 90% of the night poking a stick into the fire and trying to remember how to interact with other adults.
It turned out that I didn’t need to worry about being interesting – Aarene’s friend kept us in stitches with stories about her father-in-law “The Hammer”. No, that’s not me coming up with a code name. She really does have a father-in-law that everyone calls “The Hammer” – an 80 year old manly man who was recently thrown out of his local YMCA for brawling. The stories just got better from there.
Some people’s families are just cooler than mine.
The next morning we got up and headed north to drive to Greener Pastures. Duana was originally slated to drive – a roadtrip of four horse women all crammed into an adorable Mini. Unfortunately, she had forgotten her passport at home so the three of us (Aarene, Siri, and I) piled into my Scion and headed north.
That far north the view on the 5 freeway is both beautiful and monotonous.
If you look to the left, you see green trees.
If you look to the right, you see green trees.
If you look in your rearview mirror you will see some green trees you’ve just driven past.
Up ahead, if you squint reeeaaaaally hard, you can make out– you guessed it: Green trees.
I spy with my little eye… something green.
Aarene, who is honestly one of the coolest people in the entire world to go on a roadtrip with, was regaling us with stories about the places we past, complete with local history and interesting side notes.
Seriously, if you ever get a chance, roadtrip with a gregarious librarian. It’s informative AND fun.
About halfway to the Canadian border, as she was speaking, I noticed that I began to get a little lightheaded. I’m not prone to carsickness unless pregnant, and I knew that wasn’t the case, so maybe it was just too stuffy in the car?
I cracked the window, tilting my face into the breeze, but the feeling didn’t go away.
Maybe I was nauseous, and my body was interpreting it strangely? I was already chewing a piece of gum, but it wouldn’t hurt to get a new piece.
Nope. That didn’t help either.
In fact, it was getting worse. Not only was I edging from lightheaded to just plain dizzy, my heart had begun to race violently. I reached my fingers up to the side of my neck and discreetly tested my pulse – not only was faster than normal, but it felt like each heartbeat was two to three times harder than it should have been.
Now, I don’t know about the rest of you guys, but I really don’t like getting sick in front of people. Call it pride, or fear of showing weakness, or whatever, but if I’m going to get sick I like to do it in the privacy of my own home, without anyone watching. It’s one thing for me to tell this story in retrospect on the internet – it was another thing to go through it in front of witnesses. I was feeling really, really weird, but I didn’t want to say anything about it.
I shifted in my seat, uncomfortably, and tried to slow my racing heart by taking deep, even breaths through my mouth. The air felt stale, almost too thick. I lowered my window even further, hoping to clear my head with the fresh air. What the heck was going on with me? Was I having some kind of weird caffeine reaction to the cup of coffee I had earlier?
“You know,” Aarene said. “They’ve tried to develop this land around us quite a few times, but it’s never worked out. Strange things happen in these mountains.”
I glanced at the mountains rising up around me – at the towering, thick layer evergreens all around me….. shadowed, impenetrable. Foreboding.
I took a few more deep breaths, but they didn’t help. My heart was absolutely racing, I was downright dizzy and for some inexplicable reason my hands were beginning to shake. I gripped the steering wheel tightly, trying to clamp down on it and get control of myself, but it didn’t help.
What the hell was going on with me?
“The locals weren’t surprised when nobody can make anything work out in these mountains – if you talk to the local tribes, they all stay away from this mountain.”
I blinked hard, and shook my head to try to clear it, but whatever was wrong wasn’t going away – it was just getting worse.
There are many places where it’s inconvenient to either pass out or have a total nervous breakdown. Driving 70 mph down a busy freeway with two passengers in your car kind of tops the list.
“Hey, uh, Aarene?”
“Do you drive stick?”
“Yeah, I do. You getting carsick? You need to pull over and puke?”
“… I’m not nauseous. I just… I just don’t feel right.”
“Well, I really don’t think you should pull off in this area. It’s just…” She shook her head. “It’s just not a good area. There’s a rest stop just up ahead, but I just really don’t recommend it.”
I squeezed the steering wheel tighter, trying to control the shaking, and debated whether or not I could make it to the rest stop, much less anything further.
Nope. It wasn’t gonna happen.
Whatever was wrong with me, I needed to get out from behind the wheel of this car, immediately. I felt like my heart was going to rip out of my chest from the force of its beats – what if I passed out and killed us all in a car crash? I was keeping it together, but just barely.
I turned on my blinker, crossed four lanes of traffic in about ten seconds, and pulled the Scion to a stop on the side of the road.
Aarene exited out her door and around the back of the car and I crawled over the center divider into the passenger seat. I put on my seatbelt and leaned forward, burying my face in my hands as the tears began to flow, trying to get control of heart, my breathing, the shaking in my hands that had now traveled all the way from my hands to my arms… and most importantly I tried to dampen down the overwhelming sense of dread and fear that felt like it was gripping my chest in an icy band.
I began praying, but I’m ashamed to say that I couldn’t really think of the right words.
Five minutes later we were approaching the outskirts of Bellingham, and I was 100% recovered, except for a lingering sensation of acute embarrassment.
I decided to try to put whatever had happened behind me. Was it some kind of spiritual attack? Was it some kind of panic attack? Maybe I had some kind of an ear infection brought on some kind of allergy?
The day was young, I was on my way to Canada, and I was about to visit the Greener Pastures horses. I could think about what happened later on.
We crossed the border and finally arrived at the barn. It felt almost surreal to actually see the horses in person – for those of you who aren’t friends with me on Facebook, I’ve been actively stalking Greener Pastures for two years. Not only do I fully support what they’re doing (rehoming retired Standardbred racehorses), but I love the work they do with each horse. All their horses are fat, shiny, and healthy – the ones who underweight or who have dull coats join the ranks of fat and shiny within a few weeks and/or months.
I support any rescue who can show improvements like that in such a short time.
Anyways, onto the horses.
They had about 10 horses on the property, but only a couple really fit what I was looking for.
Although I knew we weren’t really going to be buying a horse until later in the summer, I was really excited about seeing Chester in real life.
I’d had a big crush on him when he went through the program last year, so when he was returned due to financial hardship, I couldn’t help but get a little excited.
He was just as cute in real life, and MUCH larger than he appeared in his photo album. The lady on his back, Alina, is about 5’11 in real life – and about 90% of that is in her legs. She makes him seem like a nice, boring size. In real life he was tall enough I had trouble trying to imagine how the heck I would get in the saddle without a mounting block.
Despite his beautiful movement, there just wasn’t any click, so I didn’t spend much time with him.
Horse number two was called Heart to Beat: She’s an older mare, early teens, and built like the side of a barn.
She also had the world’s most ridiculous “scratchy face”. This picture just doesn’t quite encapsulate how stupid of an expression she was making.
I liked how solid she seemed, but despite her friendliness she was a little bit mareish – nothing bad, but she would need a few lessons to remind her where she needs to be in the pecking order. If she’s available in August, when I’m hoping to get a horse (DUDE. I’M IN THE MARKET FOR A HORSE. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!) I will definitely check her out.
The third horse, Red Star Vamp, is the one who really stole my heart.
I’d say something about the slightly stoned expression on my face, something like, “What the heck is going on with my face?”… but, yeah. That’s kind of how I look like every time I get a hug from a horse. Did you really expect anything different?
I gotta be honest – Vamp is much, MUCH younger than I would really be looking for.
She’s only three.
Or rather, her third birthday is in a couple of days.
Her personality oozed out of her— and I’m talking “whipped cream oozing out of the world’s most delicious cream puff” typing of oozing, not “puss from a rotten wound” type of oozing. The filly just radiated an aura of friendly happiness. When you combine that with her nice conformation and her overall mental maturity, well…
It was a pretty intoxicating combination for someone as horse-starved as I was.
She was a pretty decent mover, too, for as young as she was.
With horse buying not occurring until closer to the end of summer, there’s a decent chance somebody else will snap her up before I am ready.
I really hope that she’s still around, though. I mean, look at her. She’s adorable.
Anyways, that’s what I did for my Mother’s Day Weekend. What did all of you guys do?