Long-Distance Riding

hilary tandy, black mountain ranch blogger

Hey readers,

Happy early Thanksgiving to everyone, horseback riders and lovers alike! I know horses can be some incredibly dangerous, frustrating creatures sometimes, but I hope all of you spend a little time this week reflecting on the moments that made all of that hard work and tiresome effort worthwhile. I’d like to share a small anecdote with you guys and gals, essentially a quick look into my life, and how it is enhanced immensely by equine influences.

Monday: Wake up early, fall out of bed, get ready and leave for class. Down a coffee to keep my eyes open. Begin studying before class, catching up on all the homework I fell behind on over the weekend. Grumble about Past Hilary’s lack of motivation. Class, class, class, ending with a lab. Monday night meeting for my sorority, fall into bed late after more studying and contemplating whether the medicine track is worth it.

Tuesday: Same as Monday. Class, class, class, lab, studying, meeting, studying, sleep. Coffee is my best friend by Tuesday morning, to the point of near idolization. Brain is a computer, calculating time for studying between minute breaks.

Wednesday: A bit easier, no labs. Still need coffee to finish assignments due later in the week that I put off because of absolutely no time on Monday and Tuesday. Ends with meetings for pre-med organizations, etc. etc. The march goes on.

Thursday: The horizon is  finally visible! Need coffee to crawl towards it. Try to get ahead on homework only to go out to dinner with friends after three days of constant work. More sorority meetings to follow, in bed at a decent hour (usually) in preparation for the weekend.

Friday: It is here. Rush through class, rush home, pack, jump in car and head back 2 1/2 hours to the farm. Planned to do all the homework I brought with me, but once I’m home home, I have just enough time to eat a delicious home-cooked meal (the taste of heaven after pre-made salads and frozen meals all week) before catching up with parents and going to bed. Big show tomorrow!

Saturday and Sunday: Wake up earlier than I have all week, spring out of bed and shimmy into breeches. Hop in the car anticipating the day’s events. Will Dante be good in the High Adult jumpers? I sure hope Rolex won’t be difficult about his left to right lead change, the judge will drop us to last again if he pulls that trick. Lord, please let Sparks be good for my mom, she deserves a great ride!

The show begins. We wait and wait and wait, only to hear that we’re actually behind and need to be on NOW. Frantically get ready, shine boots, stuff hair in helmets, and leap on only to find out the ring is waiting on another trainer. Play the waiting game again. Try to plan the warm-up so your horse is perfectly ready when you’re up. Almost collide with another rider who seems to have left her brain at home. Try to shake it off or else it will affect your performance. Over-analyze everything about the horse. He feels… different. Is he lame?? Why is he twitching his ear like that, maybe he won’t pay attention? Oh dear God I hope that child does not run in here and spook my horse. Where’s her mother?!?

Ride to the ring, learn the course (hunters) or review the walk (jumpers). Trainer provides a constant flow of information, simply throwing last minute advice and tips at you, hoping something will stick. “It’s your turn, go!”

Time stops. It is only me and the horse and the challenge set before us. When the buzzer goes off or when you begin your courtesy circle, nothing else is on your mind. You feel the horse underneath you, match its movement, point it to the first jump. You are simply the driver, the horse cannot be controlled. You only steer and guide and pray that this strong animal will obey. The course becomes a journey, your brain is working incredibly fast, keeping track of your pace, your direction, your horse’s movement, the placement of the jump, and a million other factors. You don’t notice the faces of those watching. You don’t remember how much homework is due, you don’t think about anything but you and the horse and the task at hand. For now, you are one. You have wings.

All too soon it ends, hopefully to claps and cheers and whistles, but sometimes to a face full of dirt. Even on the bad days you learn something, and you have the chance to improve. On the good days.. well words don’t even come close to describing that feeling of euphoria.

Sunday night: Happy, tired, and content, I drive back to school, feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and reborn. My time with my horses allowed me to remember why I want to work so hard, and why it is worth the effort. Not too long ago those powerful talented animals were goofy, untrained babies. Knowing how far they have come gives me hope for how far I can go. And for that I am thankful. Thankful for my supportive parents, thankful for the opportunity to go to a wonderful college, and thankful for my friends who help me through the week. But most of all I am thankful for Rolex, and Dante, and Sparks, and all the other horses out there who lift our spirits and heal our souls. Excuse me, please, I need to go hug my ponies and give them a much deserved cookie.

Happy riding,

Hilary Tandy