The moment I have been waiting for with bated breath, irritation, frustration, and depression has finally arrived.
Huey The Wonder Horse has been cleared for riding.
It has been seventy-five (75) unbelievably long days since I have had the pleasure of riding The Wonder Horse. Seventy-seven if you disregard the two days where I thought he might be going a bit “off” and curtailed the riding after five minutes swamped in anxiety.
Seventy-five days of cold hosing three times a day, then moving to alternating ice and heat twice a day, and dispensing the hated bute paste twice a day, and three-times-per-week cold laser treatments, and going to the barn every evening to wrap his legs and every morning to take the wraps off and check them. In the Immortal Words of Madeleine Kahn, “I’m so tired!”
Seventy-five days of being greeted more than once per day by The Wonder Horse, who considered it his primary objective to make sure – to make really sure – damned sure – that I knew he was bored. Really bored. Damned bored.
Seventy-five days of watching other people get to ride their horses while I put something cold on him, or something hot on him, or argued with him about standing still for some treatment. I have watched the autumn – the Wonder Season for horseback riding – come and go while I tinkered in his stall with wraps and packs and lasers and hay nets and the cribbing collar.
Seventy-five days of slowly sliding into a head space where I have forgotten what it is like to ride my horse.
I’ve ridden other horses during this time, but not frequently. I have a health problem that means that I have a relatively more…finite…supply of energy for the day than other people do. And, unfortunately, that finite supply hasn’t run to grooming, battling, cajoling, and treating my horse and THEN fetching another horse and grooming, tacking, riding, untacking, and putting away. And, then, of course, there’s the “riding” part of that.
I don’t remember what it’s like to ride my horse. I have this absolutely crystalline, entirely sterile, completely factual recollection that there is something I like about riding my horse. He’s not known as The Wonder Horse because of his manners on the ground, that’s for sure. On the ground, he’s a big, goofy, pushy, kind of obnoxious creature with a very poor sense of boundaries. I know – in the same way I know that New Zealand is an island off the coast of Australia – that he’s The Wonder Horse despite his impetuous, rambunctious, unruliness. I know – in the same way I know that the boiling point of water at sea level is 212F – that he isn’t that way under saddle.
I know – in the same way I know that there are 31 days in January – that there is something special about riding Huey.
I know – in the same way I know that the moon is about 239,000 miles from the earth – that I enjoy riding Huey.
I know these things in the same way that I know I like to ski.
They’re facts. Dry little facts sitting in my head like I read them in a textbook.
They’re not real. They lack depth, and color, and feeling.
I know I like riding Huey, but I can’t remember what that feels like.
The closest I get to touching that realization is when I’m riding another horse, and some niggling voice squeaks away at the very bottom of my brain, and it says “This isn’t as good as it would be to ride your horse.” They’re good horses…and riding them is good for me, because – another fact that I know – my horse teaches me some bad habits. These other horses are almost certainly better horses than mine is, to learn on. But that squeaking voice keeps assuring me that Something Is Missing.
I remember the moment I realized that this had happened. I realized I no longer had any understanding of what it was like to ride my horse. And even when I went rooting around for a memory to connect me to that experience in an immediate sense, I couldn’t find one. It was easily the most depressing moment of my last three months, and I burst into tears right there, over dinner.
How awful is that? Think of what it would be like if your partner died, and all you knew was that you had loved that person, but you couldn’t remember loving that person. I felt like something important had been stolen from me in my sleep.
On the other hand. This is the same thing that happens when ski season is over. I know it the same way. I enjoy skiing. Twelve letters. Five vowels and seven consonants. One capital. Dusty, dusty, dry. There’s no crisp cold air, no exhilaration for me, no sense of the snow under my skis in that. Just twelve letters.
I like riding my horse. Eighteen letters. Four “i”s. Dusty, dusty, dry.
I can’t remember the way the world looks from between his ears. I can’t remember the way he feels moving under my seat. I can’t remember the way it feels to move with him like we’re one unit – a slightly disorganized, not-t0tally-sure-where-we-are-going, mildly clumsy unit…but a single entity nonetheless. I remember that this happens, but I can’t remember it happening.
It’s a sad loss, that.
On the other hand, it’s maybe a mercy.
If I remembered that happening and what it was like, how ghastly would the last seventy-five days have been, when there was no chance of experiencing that sensation any time soon? To have the currency of knowledge constantly standing as a benchmark for every other experience?
To be tormented by dreams of riding him freely over endless terrain, only to wake and have to limit our interactions to cold packs and hot packs and wraps and bute and short walks on the road?
I don’t know if I could have borne it, any more than I could bear dreaming in July of the white, white snow like a blanket on the earth, and myself carving figures on my way down, best friends with gravity.
It’s a devil’s choice: would you have the memory and be scoured by it daily, or not have the memory other than stored in a safe-deposit box in the mind?
I still don’t know which is better…or worse.
What I do know is that the vet came this morning and ultrasounded my horse, while my horse tried repeatedly to steal The Enforcer out of my hand. This is the new dressage whip I bought last week at the Equine Affaire, the better to relay requests to my imperious, pushy, BORED horse.
The verdict came in, the one I’d hardly been willing to whisper aloud.
Time To Ride.
The injury is healing well, and still has a way to go, but we’re out of the Standing Around Waiting phase, and into the Active Working phase. There will still be cold hoses and wraps and lasers. But there will also be remembering things happening. Because they’ll be happening again.
Or I hope they will. It’s been so long, and I’m hoping that I haven’t, somehow, forgotten how to ride my horse.
Tomorrow will tell. Today, of course, has been soaking wet and a day when we couldn’t have gone out anyway. The forecasters are promising me sun for tomorrow’s trip. Let’s hope that…well, maybe, let’s just hope.