My sister Lexie is horse-mad. In my youth, all she wanted to do was become an outstanding dressage rider. All summer long, she spent her days in the sweaty Virginia sun atop a very large beast, riding “on point” and swallowing dust so thick that the ice cold Dr. Pepper at lunchtime would make you wince with both pain and joy.
I know this because my mother, no fool, figured that if she was hauling one kid out to the boonies for horseback riding lessons, she might as well haul two – so I was generally in the next ring over, swallowing dust and marveling when the Concorde would fly overhead (we were very near Dulles Airport).
I didn’t mind; unlike my sister, I see horses as really big dogs you can ride on, and I was just as happy to commune with a horse as almost anything else. (Exception: I would have rather been in an air-conditioned room nose-deep in a novel, but riding had the advantages of seeming moderately romantic – plus it smells of warm leather, which is a glorious perfume.)
Sometimes the instructors would get antsy and lead us out of the ring and onto a trail ride. Occasionally we’d ride bareback, which was terribly brave of us.
The good students (tiny little Lexie at the front of the pack) would be in the front, and the slackers who thought of horses as dogs followed along. Sometimes we would trot.
That is to say, the dog (I mean horse) would trot, and I would attempt to stay on board.
Trotting is bouncy and uncomfortable; if you have stirrups, you can kind of crouch over the horse and absorb the bounce in your knees. If you’re bareback – ah, that’s when thinking a horse is a big dog really breaks down.
From the very first jolt, I’d get thrown slightly off center.
Every succeeding bounce would send me farther and farther to one side, until my knee was where my butt should have been and my boot was brushing the Queen Anne’s lace – all the while rendered helpless by laughter, because a slow-motion involuntary descent from a really, really big dog is riotous.
Eventually I’d give up trying to haul it back on board and I’d just slide off. If there wasn’t a nearby log or rock, I’d walk back to the barn, my big dog’s nose occasionally urging me on with a bump to the shoulder – because there was no way in hell I was going to manage to clamber back up without a stirrup.
I remember that sensation today – a very slow, very undeniable descent – because I seem to be attempting to achieve fitness bareback, and my horse has begun to trot.
I missed the chance to go to Artie’s for an ice cream sundae on Tuesday, so I had a far-inferior sundae at Spartans. And then I got to go to Artie’s on Wednesday after all, and I was still jonesing for the real thing, so I had dessert for the second day in a row. (Ew – the coffee ice cream was laced with espresso beans – crunchy and bitter where everything should be smooth and sweet. Fail.) (I ate it, of course.)
On Thursday, my mother and I went to lunch, and she wanted dessert – so she looked at me. She likes it when I order something sweet to eat, so she can pretend she doesn’t eat desserts. And I weakly fell back into old habits and ordered the chocolate cheesecake. Then I tried my best to resist it – but I’d gotten off center on Tuesday evening and was sliding inexorably towards an ignominious dismount.
All day today, I’ve been craving something doughy. I wanted all those bad carbs I’ve been successfully avoiding. I had a big omelet for lunch in the hopes that this would satisfy my craving, but no dice. Just didn’t taste very good… so tonight I had pizza. A lot of pizza. Five-eighths of a pizza.
I’m about at the point where my knee is where my butt should be. I’m not laughing this time, but the crash is coming. Thank God I’ve got Barbara and Gwynn and Grace and Chad and Chip at Body Dynamics to get me back on the horse once I come off, because I’m not sure I could do it alone.
(Worst truth? That pizza tasted SO DAMNED GOOD!)
Lexie and Spirit of Flame in the Long Long Ago. Neither of them ever had the slightest problem with bareback riding; the kid is doing so in this photo. How annoying of her!