Before last week, it had been more than two years since I’d ridden a horse and almost four years since I’d jumped a fence in a ring. But I’m back now!
After my pinto Teddy died in June of 2012 of Neurologic Lyme disease, I felt like I’d lost my best friend. Although my trainers and friends invited me to ride other horses at their farms and go out on the trails with them, somehow it made me feel worse, and I missed my horse even more. So, I decided I’d take a break from riding, but little did I know it would last this long.
Then, my friend and mentor Julie Winkel invited me to visit her in Reno, Nevada, during her Adult Ride and Whine Camp last week at Maplewood Stables. It was a spur-of-the-moment trip, but one of the best decisions I’ve made in forever!
I spent a week in Reno immersed in the horses again, playing with foals, hanging out with passionate horse people, taking jumping lessons on the coolest horse, and continuing my horsemanship education while also having an incredible amount of fun.
In preparation, I had to dig out all of my riding clothes, dust everything off (literally) and head out to the tack store for some new breeches. But as my suitcase filled with boots and spurs, my excitement also increased and I couldn’t wait to be with horses again.
My first lesson was with Julie, and talk about nervous! Not only was I totally out of shape, but I was also riding with one of the most preeminent horsewomen of our time, a top grand prix rider, trainer and judge. What was I thinking? Thankfully, she was kind and compassionate with me, and we worked on some basics to get everything going again.
She chose a lovely jumper named Missy to be my partner for the week, and what a wonderful mare. Missy put up with my timidness and mistakes and covered for me beautifully when I lost my balance. I felt an immediate connection with her, especially during the second day’s lesson with Julie’s son, Kevin, when the jumps went up higher.
The Adult Ride and Whine Camp is a pretty special experience. The camp drew 15 attendees of various ages and riding abilities from all over the United States and Canada, and we spent three days immersed in riding, training, learning and growing as riders and horsemen. Julie brought in specialists in sport psychology, nutrition and fitness to educate us on total mind and body, and we enjoyed great food, trail riding throughout the incredible scenery and wonderful camaraderie between other passionate horse people. The next camp is scheduled for October 27-30, and it’s already on my calendar!
The week flew by, and I was sad to see it end. The incredible team at Maplewood took me in as one of their own, and I so appreciated their support and being able to spend time with them.
It’s difficult to put into words how much it meant to me to get back in the saddle. I’d been away so long that I’d forgotten that feeling of oneness with the horse, the special communication and connection you create when you and the horse forge a partnership.
While I’m immersed in horses and with horse people through my work and I love what I do as a profession, I’m truly thankful to Julie for bringing me back to the horse, and I look forward to many more future rides.