I Was a Middle Aged Barn Rat, Part 10, “My Goals.” This is a ten part blog series about the year I decided to pursue my lifelong interest in horses, based on an article that appeared in Equus, March 2015.
When I began my adventure as a stable intern, I had no goal other than to be allowed to be around horses. It was a plus that in this situation I wouldn’t have people standing behind me, ready to snatch tack or tools out of my hands lest I be clumsy with them. I had a vague idea that the exercise would be good for me, but at the time I had no idea just how much improvement there would be. Or even how much improvement was needed.
I’ve mentioned before that strength in my legs was an issue. My left leg was weak enough that running wasn’t possible. Sometimes it would just buckle, and though I’d never entirely fallen I’d had to catch myself a few times. Because of this risk, when working with the horses I had to be extremely careful and take things only one step at a time. Always one horse at a time, and I never let any of them crowd me or think she had a shot at getting out the gate.
Three times that did happen. The good news is that nobody ever wanted to run away; they only wished to graze on the sweet, green grass of the lawn surrounding the house on the property. If one got past me, she stopped to graze and only moved far enough and fast enough to evade capture until she was done eating or became tired of dodging me. I knew better than to try to chase. I was too old and slow to run down even the slowest horse, so my focus was only to wave her away from the road and hope she would become bored enough to let me loop a lead rope around her neck and lead her back to the barn. Which was what happened.
The mares were slick, and never tried to force their way out, but only grabbed opportunity when I didn’t get the gate closed quickly enough. Charlie was the only one who seemed risky. One time when I wasn’t wary enough opening the gate and he was particularly eager to have some lawn, he rushed me and gave me a shove. My boots tangled and I fell backward. I figured I would be stepped on, but he just went around me and stopped to munch lawn. I picked myself up, made a check and discovered no damage, then calmly collected the loose horse who made no move whatsoever to get away.
So over the months I took baby steps. The more walking I did, the stronger my leg became. The more I rode, particularly with the bareback pad, the better my balance became. The more time I spent with the horses and was able to make mistakes without alarming anyone but myself, the more confident I became. My success has astonished me.
Since taking this job I’ve lost fifteen pounds, bringing the total loss since beginning riding lessons to nearly sixty pounds. I’m now light enough to no longer require a draft horse to ride. I can walk uphill and climb stairs without becoming winded. With the help of adjusted medications and diet, my blood sugar has plummeted from the mid-400’s to a far more reasonable under-120, and I’ve held these statistics for four months so far. I’m convinced that without my “horse therapy” I would never have even cared about any of these things. Even if I never have a horse of my own, my life has been improved—some might even say saved—by the presence of these horses in it.