So I’ve been at this obsession of bouncing around on the back of the occasionally pig-headed but ultimately sweet mare, Mabel, recapturing my youth or whatever the hell you want to call it, for the past six months. I’ve dropped over 20 lbs., my mind is clearer, my attitude is actually more pleasant (if you can believe it!) and my incredibly patient instructors finally have me to the point (and very newly so) where I can get Mabel to hold a smooth canter and I do not look like a complete, roach-backed fool jumping crossbars and the lowest of hurdles. Huzzah!
Predictably though, as I am not the brightest bulb in the marquee, I picked a hell of a time to start this whole thing being that it was a deceptively mild October with little hint towards the cold and snowbound hell to come. It’s pathetic how easily we forget what comes each year… Yes, moron; winter follows fall. And while you’re happily chowing down on turkey and envisioning yourself in some Capra-esque/Norman Rockwell tableau, and later after too much egg-nog, drunkenly trying to figure out exactly how to roast chestnuts over an open fire without setting the rug ablaze (only later to discover that roasted chestnuts in fact taste like whatever’s been living under the rug for the past decade… ptooey!), and then finally capping it all off by watching a live-camera feed of Jenny McCarthy’s impression of a helmet-haired drag queen sandbagging some poor sap in his Marine’s dress blues into snogging beneath the ball in Times Square… meanwhile old man winter has a whole sack-full of special lined up for you that will make you wonder why you were ever born. Every year we forget… and then scramble like lemmings for bread, milk and toilet paper when the piper calls his due.
I take my riding very seriously though. So much so that I want to learn about and be involved with every aspect of what it is that I am doing. Grooming, feeding, health and soundness, breeding, tack, barn maintenance (scoop dat poop!)… I want to know and learn about everything and I want to be in the barn every spare moment, soaking all of this up. So do I let a little snow get in the way? Well…. yes, as a matter of fact I do. Particularly when the otherwise lovely and charming road to the barn becomes an Olympic luge run, and the indoor ring becomes entombed in a monstrous peristyle of bitter, wicked white. It slows me down, along with the other hardcores who I’ve had the privilege to hang around with this winter… but one indeed, carries on.
Would that the horses have the same attitude, but alas. Despite being conveniently covered in fur (ok, fine… hair… happy?), horses are not snow bunnies. No, not by a long-shot. Regardless of their being bundled up like the little brother ‘Randy’ in ‘A Christmas Story,’ in sometimes as many as three snow-suit style blankets complete with hoods, it appears to me at least that they would rather be playing canasta than be forced to do anything other than doze, eat, poop, go outside occasionally and basically just wait for the whole thing to be over. And to a horse it seems (horses not really being on average the brightest of critters, but then again humans are just as stupid and forgetful about the whole thing as well) the whole idea of snow, despite their having been through a few of these seasons at least, seems to leave them completely baffled as to “what the hell happened to the earth and what’s with all of this white shit all over the place?” Between the bitter cold (indoor ring or not… it is still freaking cold!) and grey skied miasma of shortened days and long nights which obviously irritate a horse (as humans) to no end, combined with little surprises such as the intermittent, malevolent rumble of the accumulated snow sliding from the roof and crashing down the sides of the barn and where a horse would normally just spook and get over it, these combined conditions produce a reaction of “I”LL CUT-A-MOTHERF**KER!” level of crazy in a horse that anyone who thinks equestrian sport is just “sitting,” I defy to hold their mud while doing.
Good luck… Chuck.
Two sweaters, three sweaters, three sweaters and a windbreaker, thermals under my breeches and chem-pack toe warmers in my boots, running into the tack room and ripping off my gloves to hold them in front of a space heater to get the feeling back, or holding my seat while the lovely Miss Mabel determines that the guy that she spys outside through the window shoveling snow is going to rip her face off and make a sandwich, or sliding down the driveway like some Winter Olympic long jumper trying to get to the barn after having left my car at the top thinking “oh, walking will be so much safer,” or watching the more experienced riders in the barn stoically handle themselves with an inhuman level of calm and consistency while their horse throws the only temper tantrum and puts a hoof through a wall… and thus realizing just how much I don’t know… and the mountain of that which I must… and I cannot imagine myself doing anything else with the slivers of time my goofy life allows.
I am told that I will be competing this coming season. Not asked, mind you… told. I have learned to respect the hierarchy within the barn where I ride… and do what I am told. I will let you know how this all works out.