Happy Derby Day, my friends! I have decided that, though my life is conspicuously empty of my four legged equine friends and southern charm, I am going to wear a giant hat all day to celebrate. To the gym, to dinner, to yoga, #giantvisorneverwiser #bighatdontgiveashat
Welcome to The Long Run, my weekly chat of things more specifically fitness-related. I would say running-related, but we all know what is again NOT happening at the moment ::cough:: running ::cough:: Since my Saturday crowd tends to be a composed of those
that I have bribed who are here for the pure unadulterated joy of it, I have a little treat for you today. And, being Derby Day, I thought the subject matter appropriate.
For the past 2 years, I have come to identify myself as a runner, a label that you all are likely beginning to question, as for the majority of the time that you have known me I have done very little to accrue any mileage. But a “runner” I was not always. So what the heck did I do with all of this awesome and intensity prior to 2 years ago? If I really wanted to boggle your minds, I could detail all of the activities and fitness pursuits that I did and didn’t engage in, but here is the short, succinct, and all-encompassing answer: I was a rider.
A quick digression (You knew that I would make one): I am sad to say that, at the moment, the majority of the pictures of me and my horses are currently encrypted in my external harddrive, unreachable until I have someone set them free. But luckily, I have a few saved to this computer, and that lovely contraption called Facebook. Reason Numero Uno that is pays to be member #272,877 on FB? PHOTO ALBUM RECORDS.
Horses. Just about every girl dreams of one. Not many girls decide this by the age of 3. Horses are in my blood (sorry, men of the family. Sorry, parents’ bank account)–the women of my mother’s family rode, my mom rode until she met my dad, and my father’s family bred, raised, trained, and race Thoroughbreds in the Finger Lakes area of NY. Kinda like with my Crohn’s, hormonal issues, depression, and, apparently, my Plantar Fasciitis, my love for horses was inevitable; the question was when and to what extent. Um, the womb and fervently.
I was finally accepted as a student at the age of 5, as I could tell my rights and lefts, and because I think my mom basically manhandled them into letting it happen. Many of you have remarked about the relationship I have with my mom, and how close and supportive we are of each other. Well, horses had a huge role in that: not only are we mom/daughter, we spent the next 11 years together in the car, at the farm, at shows, at home preparing for shows… She didn’t get a break from me until I got my driver’s license. Oh, and another thing? My starting equestrian activities gave her the chance to get back to it as well. She even still had her old tall boots! She wore them for a little bit, but the leather just gave out. We both regret the fact that she didn’t keep them after the fact–what a cool decor piece that would have been!
I could likely write an entire book on my experience in and around the saddle, but I am going to keep it on the shorter side, at least for now, and give you all the nutshell overview with some highlights:
- The horses that I have owned: (show names in parentheses)
- Jerry (Special Effect)
My first (and only) pony. Freaking gorgeous, the most amazing mover and jumper, but didn’t do his lead changes (long story) so we never were able to take him to the big time. We got him when he was 5 and I was 8, and he and I taught each other. I will get mom to send me a copy of the picture from the day that they gave him to me–it is awesome and adorable. I was FLOORED. I got my first year end award with him, and I rode him into his late years. In the purest and most basic sense, Jerry taught me responsibility for another life, how to read the minutest of gestures, and a respect for the soul of an animal. In short, he taught me to love. In so many ways, I owe who I am today to this crazy little pony. Till his dying day, I could go to the top of the hill (where you entered the farm) and trill (it really is the only way to describe the call I had for him) his name, and within 30 seconds, I would hear him nickering and see his dirty self heading over to find me. The day that I knew something was very, very wrong was the day I called him and he couldn’t physically get himself to come to see me. That was the last time I ever saw him. I’m actually almost in tears right now. Ok, I have to move on.
- Penny (Moneypenny)
**I am trying to find a digital picture of Penny at the moment**
We also had another horse, Allie, in between Jerry and Pen, but I’m not counting her. She was never my horse, and neither Mom nor I truly connected with her. OOOOhhhhh Winners (one of my names for her) Pen taught me how to ride a horse rather than a pony. She was, and is, perfectly summed up as a librarian: smart as anything, not the most elegantly formed being and built for work, but elegant in her self comportment, and steadfast in her loyalty. Penny, like me, has just about all of the conformational defaults to keep her from doing something, but she does it anyway. Penny now enjoys her COMPLETE (RIGHT MOM?) retirement, where she gets her treats, eats her grass, lets herself be cleaned up and feet taken care of, and then happily ignores the world. Where Jerry was spritely, gorgeous, and a twit, Penny was solid, a bit frumpy, and all business and attitude. But she knew her job was to take care of me and to teach me (and then to take care of my mom). But she HATED plastic bags. That was her kryptonite. I won my first big equitation awards on Penny (basically, in hunter-jumpers, there are different types of classes. Equitation tests the rider’s form, poise, and skill in making, communicating, and executing difficult maneuvers and decisions–thus why Penny’s beauty didn’t really matter.
- Brian (Avalanche)
If Jerry was my first love, Brian was and is my child. Penny spoke to my businessy personality, Brian speaks to my ridiculousity. He is half pony, half-horse (by breeding) and truly believes that he is about 500 lbs less that what he his and far shorter. He is a “boob basher”–he gives you a playful nudge, which happens to be at chest height, and again, he is far larger than he believes, and it HURTS. Brian is like a Lab/Golden, all happiness and wagging tail. Also, he inherited his Welsh Pony father’s tail, and good lord that thing would take forever to clean and detangle. Brian also loooooved his morning naps, and we learned quickly at horse shows to clean out his stall first thing, then to clean him, then to put a light sheet on him. We also pioneered the use of Oxiclean amongst the barns in our show circuit in our efforts to get him clean. Brian, for all of his nuttiness, is also a smart cookie–if you’ve seen the live action Black Beauty–he is Merrylegs and can get himself out of just about any enclosure. He also has the best canter ever.
- Regal (First Knight)
Regal is, in a word, the perfect horse. Dashingly handsome, the perfect gentleman, just funny enough, just serious enough, just smart enough, and unflaggable. He was to be my big show horse, and he finally was able to get me there, or at least to the level that I then worked out of, but injury and a few other things prevented him and I from really hitting the big time. I took him with me to UVA, and there we blossomed, but he soon fell apart. I sent him home during March of my first year of undergrad because his neck kept locking up and it was too much. He was older, and an off-the-track Thoroughbred, and then it turned out that he had a heart condition, which we only discovered about a few days before we had to put him down. When mom called me to tell me about the vet visit, I booked a flight home to say good bye to my precious boy. We went straight to the farm, and I took him out and walked him around and just talked to him. Telling him goodbye, and going to see him, is something I will never forget or regret. It taught me the value of closure, of seeing someone for the last time, telling them one last time how much they mean to you. The day it comes time for Brian to go, I will do the same for him.
- Lad (Justa Lad)
Lad, or the Goobs, as I called him, was a spunky young gun that I trained and turned into something amazing. We got him when Regal got hurt (when I was in high school) and he became the horse that I was known for. We were year end champions, and I adored his goofy nature. Unfortunately, he is also the horse that was involved in my mom’s riding accident, but to no fault of his own. There is a bit more to the story of Lad, but I will save that for another day.
We also had a few other horses, but these are the ones that were truly mine, rather than Mom’s, or ones that we owned but I never really attached to.
There are also a few that we didn’t own, but that I will always keep with me.
- Tide (Springtide)
Tide belonged to The Barracks, the stable that I rode with/at/for at UVA (both on the team and showing with the stable). I actually didn’t like Tide at first–I didn’t see what the attraction was, and he could be super crochety and rude. But this horse, Oh, Tideytoe. He took me places. Around the east coast, to big time finals, qualified me for Washington. And he, like Regal, basically killed himself for me. At equitation finals in Virginia, Tide tore his meniscus, and though this is an injury that humans can come back from, it is not so easy for horses–three weeks later he was gone. I have so much gratitude for Tide, and I will always consider him to be one of mine–I think he did, too. He was very picky about his people, but he claimed me. The owners of the Barracks will tell you differently, of course, and I absolutely respect that. But for just a little while (about 1.5 years), he was mine.
- Luna (Victoria’s Secret)
**I am trying to find a Digital Pic of Luna at the moment**
OH, Tunes, Tuna, the Heffalump-Manatee. She was a BIG GIRL, and one of the best movers ever. What. a. diva. I showed her for about 6 months, perhaps a bit longer, but she decided that I was hers. Even after I stopped showing her, she would still crap her pants when she heard me and carry on until I gave her a rub and a treat. When I say she was giant, I’m not kidding. I’m 5’4″-5″, and her other big time riders were all around 6 foot. But when we were good, we were perfect. And then she would have a moment and carry on and I would hang on for dear life. What a ninny.
Well, that got way more involved than I thought it would. And I started to cry at a few points. But I’m glad you all now know about my secret past. I haven’t ridden, now, in about a year and a half, and I am ok with that. I got to the point that I was riding because I felt like I should, rather because I couldn’t think of life without doing so. Right now, I don’t need the horses. But, I’ve no doubt, there will come a day where something shifts within me and I have to go now. But it isn’t worth it to me to compromise what was so precious to me for so long by forcing it. So I, and our budget, are taking a break.
And you wonder why I never used to have issues with my legs and running? Well, now you know.
What is your past life? What did you do before you became a runner/yogi/crossfitter? Why did you stop?