I’ve put things into motion. I am buying my first horse. I am calling the vet this afternoon to schedule an exam, and if he doesn’t come back with horrible news, I will be moving forward, and Huey The Wonder Horse will become Mine.
Right now, I’m on rapid-cycle between “THIS IS AWESOME! WOOT!” and “HOLY SHIT, WHAT AM I DOING?”
I don’t remember a time when I was not fascinated by horses and ponies, from climbing out of my crib to ride my rocker, to turning all the horses in my coloring book to appaloosas, to spending every Saturday down at the barn with my friends who were lucky enough to get riding lessons, to buying trail rides at charity auctions – to the present, where every time I see the tell-tale board-and-electric fence by the side of the road I want to pull over and stop so that I can look at them. Things in my life didn’t line up neatly enough for me to do anything about this until this year, when it all came together with a nice loud CLUNK and I found myself enrolled, at long last, in regular riding lessons last spring.
When I started taking the lessons, it was with the idea that this would be the best possible way to learn what I need to know in order to <shhh> have my own horse.
It’s been a great summer. I’ve learned how to tack and groom, and walk, and trot, and post. I’ve learned how to catch a horse that doesn’t want to be caught. I’ve learned a little bit about what the farrier does and how he does it. I’ve learned a little bit about parasites and injuries and diseases. I’ve learned about eating and conditioning, and seeing the world through the eyes of a thousand pound creature with hair-trigger reflexes and a small brain. I’ve learned how to handle them, a little about how they are trained, and about how to make sure that I get to and stay at the top of my little Herd of Two. I’ve learned what I like from a horse’s movement (big and floaty) and what I like from a horse’s temperament (smart, but not too smart). I’ve learned a little about bridles, and curb chains, and cavasons, and saddles.
In short, I know a tiny amount about a large number of things. I have scratched the surface on this, and I am betting that what I do know is absolutely miniscule compared to what I don’t know, and still pretty damned small compared to what I need to know. And that knowledge is enough to scare the living daylights out of me.
I bought a pair of breeches from Dover Saddlery this summer, and now I get their catalogs. There are something like seven pages worth of just worming and pesticide treatments, and I have no earthly idea what the difference between these things is, or how to know which one to get. There are ten pages of sheets and blankets and raincoats, and not only do I not know which to get, I don’t even know why they’re used, or when, or how. And the the supplements! Holy cow, it’s worse than the Vitamin Department at the Whole Foods! And he does actually need some of those, because he’s old, and his digestion is getting less efficient and his joints need a little extra lube.
This horse has tricky saddle issues – he’s got a huge warmblood barrel and high narrow I-am-eighteen-years-old withers – I know he’s going to need a special saddle, because there’s only one saddle in the barn he can wear without it hurting him, and that saddle hurts me because it’s too small for my Junoesque figure and the flaps are too short for my Amazon legs. Take that, plus the information that I need to buy a girth, leathers, and stirrups, and that I probably want an all-purpose English saddle, and that is the sum-total of my knowledge about saddle buying. I don’t even know enough to ask sensible questions. Just buying the saddle, alone, strikes me with terror. And that’s before we get into the question of bridles and bits and reins. Fortunately, he has a bit he really likes, so I just go find another one of those (whatever it is), and then I only have to worry about all the leather pieces that hold it all together.
Just the vast quantity of stuff that I know I don’t know is frightening…and I am well aware that for every thing I know I don’t know, there are probably ten things that I don’t even know that I don’t know.
Fortunately, I am a Trained Professional at handling uncertainty like this, in fact, it’s my job to help other people learn how to do exactly that. So the thing that keeps me from stark paralysis at this moment is the knowledge that the best strategy to adopt when you’re up to the eyeballs in uncertainty is to identify someone who knows more than you do, and to ask a zillion questions. This approach has been working well for me so far, and I am crossing my fingers like crazy that it keeps on working well.
All that said, I still feel a little like I’m out on the edge of the high-dive. I came up there to dive, and I’ve now probably spent a little too long inspecting the water, and so it’s time to hold my nose, squidge my feet together, and jump off the sucker.
I keep thinking that this must be what it is like to start a family. A wise woman once observed that people get hung up on that decision, that they want to wait until it is the “right” time, and she also said that if you wait until the time is “right”, you won’t ever get started. Some part of me wants to wait for the Perfect Horse. Yet, at least that much of me is sure that there is no Perfect Horse. They say that “close” only counts in horseshoes and hand-grenades…I am thinking it may also count for horses, themselves.
So, here I go. I’m pinching my nose, and squidging my feet, and I’m calling the vet, and I’m going to, any second now, fling myself off into space, and hope that Huey catches me on my way down.