When we think about riding, it’s inevitable that we think about time. If my indoor arena was a dressage ring, the clock is at “C”, judging me on how much or how little time I spend on my horse. Even during lessons, there is always time to check to make sure everyone stays on schedule. There’s always somewhere to be next, something to do, something that needs your attention more than you horse. There’s never enough time to do everything. To give everyone what they need or deserve, let alone myself.
But sometimes you have those days where the conditions are right. The sun is streaming in through the open doors of your indoor arena. I can hear the herds of horses out in their pastures. The arena has been freshly dragged and the barn is silent except for the sound of the barn cat making her presence known. My phone, usually always on me, is in my bag instead of my vest pocket. I don’t remember if I sent a text letting my husband know I was at the barn. For once, I’m just going through the motions of grooming, tacking up, and riding without stopping to take pictures to post on social media later.
On those days, I’m calm. Relaxed. I remember to breathe. Instead of worrying about all of the work I still need to get done, and all of the things I need to take care of at home, I’m focused on the present — on the animal that’s under me, on how to communicate with him what I want him to do. These days, the ones where no one is around, are my best riding days. My horse moves forward without needing to be nagged or extra aids. We control our speed to work on the different speeds and types of trots. Lateral work isn’t a challenge.
Around the ring we go. Clockwise, counterclockwise, reversing across the diagonal. Who knows if my posting diagonal is correct (it’s probably not). I should care, but I don’t. I’m too caught up in the fact that I feel like I know what I’m doing. I feel like a real rider and not someone just playing pretend.
It’s only after my ride I realize I’ve been at it over an hour. My phone is full of text messages and work e-mails I’ve missed. But I set my phone back down because my horse still needs to be untacked and groomed. Maybe even bathed and hand walked around a grassy pasture so we both get in those last few minutes of peace and quiet.
I only meant to ride for 20 minutes — a half hour tops. But how can I deny myself that extra time when I can actually feel a connection with my horse? How can I just get off when we’re making progress working together as a team? I can’t. Not because I don’t want to, but because time stops when I’m in the saddle. 5 minutes or 50, it all feels the same.