They made me do it and I liked it.
There is nothing as supportive as a group of women.
That’s an idea you don’t hear bandied about regularly. Usually the snarking, backstabbing, and mean girl behaviour gets the airtime. Yet women are the best at supporting one another, and the others (who are in the minority) get attention simply because they snarl loudest.
When I began running it was women who were quick with words of advice and pompoms out ready to cheer. Last year I blindly and clumsily launched myself into the online writing world and women I’d never met encouraged and lent support. If we are open to it, a network of like-minded women is one we intuitively seek out.
Two years of watching from the sidelines as PG rode wore me down and early last summer I got back on a horse after an eon away. An hour of bliss and I was ready to make it a regular part of my life again. Then I was hit with the worst ear infection in the history of ear infections that left me with no hearing in my left ear and little balance for over one month. A trip to France followed by the chaos of back-to-school and back-to-hockey and here we are … November … and still no riding.
Until this Sunday.
Backtrack one week. I was at the stable with PG watching a group of 7 or 8 women riding in a lesson together. Laughing, encouraging, poking fun at themselves and one another, and I wanted in. A quick email to the owner of the stable made it official. I was in.
The horse I chose to ride (Peewee) is small and sweet. Small is key. Keeps you closer to the ground in case of a tumble – 44-year-old women don’t bounce as well as kids do. Like a pro, and with only a few creaks and adjustments, I got back in the saddle and joined the ladies in the ring. A big, outdoor ring. With jumps. Many, many jumps.
Here’s where you start questioning your sanity. “How much wine did I drink before sending the email?” and, “I’m sure no one will notice if I tiptoe out of the ring,” crossed my mind. Except everyone would have noticed, including PG watching her maman from the sidelines. Nothing like a kid to keep you on the straight and narrow.
The lesson began with each of us going through the basics of warming up – walk, trot, canter, change direction and repeat. I could have cantered all day. Coach L corrected our positions and made suggestions as we rode past while setting up jumps across the middle of the ring. WHAT?
Once warmups were done the other women began going through the course, while L assured me that these weren’t even jumps because they were so little. Uh huh. I sat on my horse, back from the group, and watched. They went around the course once, then a 2nd and 3rd time and still I watched – paying attention to positioning and pace, and letting my fear build. I hadn’t jumped in 30 years. No joke. All my later riding was of a different sort; dressage and galloping through fields and forests do not prepare you for jumping.
All the while these women were encouraging each other, cheering at a well-jumped course, or clapping when one regained control of her rambunctious mount. And they encouraged me, assuring me that I could do it … words of advice, pompoms out. I looked over my shoulder and there was PG, grinning and proud, leaning over the rail watching me.
What the hell. I’ve got nothing to lose, right?
I couldn’t sit there and not do it when every other sentence out of my mouth to my kids is, “Go for it!” I went for it. Peewee and I jumped the course and as we cantered over the last jump I heard cheers from my lesson-mates. A quick peek at PG to make sure we made eye contact and I was rewarded with the biggest smile. We went through the course a few more times and then headed out for a hack. That sealed it – the day was perfection.
I now have a standing date with a gorgeous blonde on Sundays. Good thing D isn’t a jealous guy.
PS. Underwear that fit like a dream when running bunch up in odd places when horseback riding, and picking at them while in a saddle is obvious to everyone within visual range. I was advised to go commando next time.
PPS. Anyone who says riding a horse is not a real sport because the horse does all the work please come over and help me reach the coffee mugs on the top shelf – every muscle in my body is yelling at me today. Also I’m black and purple in places I have no business being bruised.
Kat @ jackstrawlane