My Rebound Boyfriend

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No, I haven’t left my husband for the pool boy, I don’t even have a pool. This is another kind of boyfriend.

 

Jimmy Wofford, the famous coach and Olympic and World Champion eventing competitor wrote about a special horse in his book Take a Good Look Around: “The moment I slid onto his back it felt as though I were putting on a glove. That horse was Carawich. I rode him for four years and there was never a time when I did not feel that he could read my mind.” 

In August of 2015, I thought I’d found my special horse. Maybe not as talented as Carawich, but one that was close enough for me. I was convinced, not immediately when I climbed aboard, but when I hopped him over a jump. It brought tears of joy to my eyes.

Imagine my disappointment when I got that same horse home and things began to go south. No matter how much I tried to reassure him or how I rode him, things deteriorated to a point where I felt like the poor horse was convinced that the sky was going to fall any minute, and he used every opportunity to try to convince me that disaster was imminent. That kind of ‘conversation’ with my horse at every ride chipped away at my own self confidence. It reminded me of other difficult times in my life — and worse, they started to catch up with me. Usually, it was around 3 a.m. when all the dark, negative thoughts and memories came back to life, circling my bed as I tried to sleep. 

We’ve all had tough times. They make us stronger and teach us many things. But I’d become so vulnerable that I couldn’t get it all into perspective. One low point was when I turned into a quivering mess who couldn’t even persuade my horse to canter during a riding lesson. It was only the fear of what everyone would think that kept me from climbing off the horse and falling into a sobbing heap in the arena dirt. So I sucked it up and cantered the horse, then made the decision to sell him. To my great relief, a friend bought him and they are doing just fine together. 

But I remained a nervous wreck and I wondered how just riding a horse had pushed me to that point. After all, I’d been a successful fox hunter for years, and before that had won at Training Level Eventing — jumping 3’3″ jumps across country at speed. What exactly had changed me into the mess I’d become? My trainer summed it up best when she said that a bad match with a horse can take away so much.

I told myself that it was like a bad relationship with a boyfriend, so I found another one. 

My Rebound Boyfriend is Dancer, a fifteen-year-old palomino with a broad background that may include western, dressage and who knows what else. He quietly came into my life in the form of a lease, and he has taken on the job of teaching me that he can do calm transitions in gait when I need him to. The ‘conversation’ with him does not have anything to do with expecting imminent disaster, it is more along the lines of, “I’ve got this, just please lighten your pull on the reins to stay off my mouth.”

Because it is so much more relaxing to ride a horse with balanced transitions who doesn’t have to run like a freight train to go into a canter, I am getting back some of what had slipped away when riding my last horse, during those ‘conversations’ where he tried to convince me that the sky was falling and a disaster was waiting around the next corner. 

Riding Dancer, my “Rebound Boyfriend,” the sky is a little brighter these days and it is staying up where it should be. 

Horse Show Mom

We know each other, even if not by name, we’re in the same club.

We’re the ones in the stands who are taking photos or videotaping a horse and rider while they are jumping a course. To others we are just in their way when we stand up suddenly with that camera when our child and their horse enter the ring. Not everyone knows that we have to view the ride through our camera or ipad because we need it to filter what we see.

It has gotten a little easier for me to handle over the years, but the truth is that videotaping helps us parents to keep our blood pressure from rising twenty degrees and our nerves from slowly shredding. It’s just too hard to continually watch our child on a horse out there in the area, jumping that high and trying so hard to clear all the jumps while going faster than anyone else! But of course, we say things like: ‘I need to record this for him/her to watch it later for training purposes, etc., etc.’ And that’s partly true, but the camera also works as a filter to make it easier on the heart.

I wasn’t prepared for this. I came into this parenthood thing relatively late. I reasoned that I was a capable individual. After all, my full time job was assisting a medical doctor with writing his research findings. I competed in at least two horse trials and I wrote a few articles from interviews each year. So I could handle having a baby, couldn’t I? It was a few years past my thirtieth birthday and in a fit of optimism, we decided to go for it. But I wasn’t prepared for being totally bowled over with how much I could love this little person. Then, when I knew I would mentally fold up like a cheap lawn chair if anything ever happened to her, I (again in a fit of optimism!) had another child. But being a parent never got any easier, and being the parent of teenagers has its own challenges. I have to keep quiet instead of saying something that I think will be helpful lest I get the eye roll from the kid, and I know she has to do things herself for various reasons. After all, a parent’s job is to put ourselves out of a job, isn’t it? So try to understand as we block your view when we stand up in front of you to video our child the second they ride into the ring.

We parents often sit together in the stands, nodding in agreement that it’s important to have those videos for our kids to look at later for training purposes. But we know we’re just trying to take the strain off our hearts. Whether we admit it or not, we’re all members of that club.