I’m almost 40 and I’ve been unhealthy for quite awhile. Sluggish, bitter and frustrated, like a cork shoved into a wine bottle. Yes, I’ve probably been drinking too much wine as well. I like it red, white, and dry, and on second thought maybe I’m having just enough.
Everyone has their suggestions about how to get out of a funk. Join a health club, do yoga, learn karate, eat chocolate, call an old friend, go somewhere new, and the list goes on. For myself, I knew exactly how to get out of my funk when I casually found a horse online that I knew about almost twenty years ago. I worked a temp job last winter, 2016, and had lots of time and freedom to browse the internet. Paid time looking at horses! I did a search for Barlink Macho Man, and POP. I could feel the tightness in my life dissipating a bit. With every click, every page and every equine body that came up on my screen I felt a little lighter, a little stronger, and a lot happier. If this wasn’t motivation, then I might go another 20 years before finding something similar. ‘Macho’ is deceased, but as I traced his progeny and my online journeys started branching out to other disciplines and lineages I became obsessed. It had been a long time since I experienced that feeling and it felt damn good.
It wasn’t long before digital images weren’t enough. I needed the smell, the sound, and warm horseflesh on my palm. Something woke up inside me that had been dormant, even buried, for a very long time. It was hidden underneath a growing layer of fat that even my doctor had noticed. You’re not overweight, she said, but close to the borderline for borderline overweight. Good grief. I do not want to be one of those women who can’t touch their toes! Sorry people who can’t! I’m not body shaming, just saying it must be miserable and I don’t want it to be me! Approaching forty it is indeed harder to shed those pounds. My personal belief? I don’t think it’s anything to do with age, I think it’s lessening of the will. I haven’t been going for walks, haven’t been out running around. I take the car rather than a bike, I eat chips on road trips, and I just don’t do as much physically as I used to. And I drink more wine. Same with learning foreign languages. I don’t believe age equals less ability to learn, it has to do with less TRY. Age becomes an excuse. But I digress.
So, just at the point of needing to take the plunge and buy a new set of pants to fit my expanding waistline (it’s a sad, sad day when you realize elastic really IS better), I started calling around and looking for a reining trainer. I didn’t know the first thing about reining except the saddle looked familiar. Twenty years ago when I was living an intense young thing life, the internet was a far less interesting place and reining was not a well known sport in Minnesota, where I’m from. But I saw reining online and it looked electric.
I ended up in Omaha with a fairly new but reputable reining trainer, husband in tow. Early January, warm horse barn, and new boots on my feet. What happened next is kind of a blur. The trainer was affirming. By the third lesson he conceded that I was a good rider, I simply needed to get a horse and ride. I think it’s possible he mostly wanted me to buy a $12,500 plus reining horse for his 10% commission, but I did feel pretty confident by that third ride. My husband and I toured every boarding facility within a twenty mile radius of our home, and I’d blasted through the funnest horse games on my iPhone.
Money was an issue, so I secured a more permanent job and maintained my routine of browsing at least 50 horse related websites every day.
Then, as spring approached and horse season arrived in Iowa, I felt the pangs of responsibility weighing on my recovered ambition. Where did this money belong and who did it belong to, besides me? We had work to accomplish on our house and I had circumstances across the ocean that were demanding resolution. At almost forty, choices become blurred or weighted with time and thoughts. Desire is dulled by consequence, even when it is as intense as how much I wanted a horse.
So I turned away from the desire. I moved towards responsibility and closure with more complex things in my life. At almost forty, is it possible to find closure with anything?
Halfway through the summer I started looking at horses again. My body was aching for the exertion of a day with a horse, and I finally caved. Was I escaping responsibility or responding to a need for health, for change? I think it’s the latter. Our bodies choose health when we listen. The mind burdens the body with potential disaster and we pay for it with precious years of our life. Health is very sensual, specific, and whole. Maybe that’s why horses are so delightful to so many people. They link the mind, eye, and body ways that few other endeavors can.
Intuitive readers will correctly surmise that by summer’s end I had my horse. We’ve been together almost three weeks and it is every bit the joy I had been anticipating. She is a gorgeous mostly white bay roany tobiano. A yearling. Did I mean to end up with a yearling? No, but I wasn’t opposed to it either. I fell in love with her at first sight, and I’m pretty well known as a good “picker” of other things. Her barn name where she was born was ‘Sky’ and we kept it.
She knows my voice now and comes peeking over the fence when I call. She’s become quite popular at the stable for her sweetness and moves. My arms are getting stronger and my days are structured around visits to the barn, making steady progress on her groundwork. I find myself jogging along beside and breaking out into a sweat. It’s a very good thing.
The psychological impact of choosing this horse over other relationships has been at the surface and at times confusing. I feel some guilt and some anger, but not about getting the horse. At almost forty life can be extremely complex; it’s easy to start casting blame and pointing fingers. I know I let some people down, I also know I was stressed and taken advantage of far beyond what I had coming. Daily life is inundated with political choices and some people have indeed passed the breaking point. The availability of information is the culprit, it’s come so fast and so widespread for such a hyper, protective species like the human being. We simply cannot be everywhere at once and all things for all people.
In the meantime I’ll be running around with my horse, headfirst into forty with a little more wisdom and experience than I bargained for. It’s good to see the blue sky again.