I’ve been tracking this theme for several years now, wondering what it is about grown-up life that loses spontaneity?
I want to get out and ride my horse, but something seems to get in my way . . .
So I hopped on tonight for an impromptu Ride for Little Dawn – and it was fabulous! Here’s the concept, written a few years back, in August, during the peak of summer riding season.
Changing seasons bring changing moods. Riding is different for me now.
Years ago, I lived to ride. I fantasized myself forever riding my childhood horse, Rebel, especially while stuck sitting alone during lunchtime at Emerson Junior High.
Little Dawn loved horses more than life itself.
But Mid-life Dawn, during precious time off from work, gets tired, wants to hang out at home. And there are so many errands and things to do . . .
I’ve always been a trail rider, an endurance rider. And these kinds of rides take energy – especially now that the kids have moved out and I’m riding alone again.
But I promised Little Dawn that she would ride later . . .
After the children were grown.
After the bills were paid.
After the horses were raised and trained.
I gave her many excuses.
And now I find myself with internal battle.
I put off riding on Saturday because I was just too pooped. Now it’s Sunday.
Do I honor Little Dawn and take her riding, even if I’d rather be doing something else? What resistance stops me from getting out and enjoying the horses I’ve worked so hard for?
After writing this journal entry and defining my quandary, I made my move.
The last two nights I got off my butt and rode. For her . . .
Sunday I saddled Starboy and ponied Mentor, leaving late, at 6:30 p.m. We pulled the grade to McGill trail, climbing the switchbacks into the wilderness up the side of grand Mt. Pinos, our mountain neighbor and protector, standing 8,800’ above sea level.
Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it?
I made my sad self rally.
I got out, I rode . . .
Then why was I still so tired?
Why did riding feel like drudgery and work? Commitment, not exuberance? Prodding Starboy to keep a steady trot up the trail.
Then, somewhere up the switchback section, Little Dawn showed up — and the work gave way to adventure!
There on the hillside next to me, The Shadow appeared. The same Shadow of old. The one Little Dawn loved to watch. The only witness to her childhood rides.
And there was Little Dawn in The Shadow, bathed in milky late-day light.
Riding her beautiful horse again.
She looked young, athletic, fit.
Her arms were muscled and strong.
She even wore her hat, like days of old.
She got very excited at seeing her image again, and I, too, got inspired to be up on Mt. Pinos, riding my wonderful horses, in the finale of a perfect summer day.
Little Dawn thanked me for honoring her, for taking her riding even when I didn’t feel like it.
And I stopped and wrote a poem about her, and The Shadow, and the horses. (I had paper and pen in my saddlebag, a first!)
And then we talked, sitting on the horse, right up there on the side of the mountain.
She spilled out her heart — how she’s waited and been patient and grown-up as possible . . . but really, she never got her turn. And she’s been waiting for me to SLOW DOWN and to listen to her!
To honor her — and not just my day-to-day concerns.
And I agreed. And we discovered a new commonality, based around the horses, and Nature, and spontaneity — and we made a new commitment to one another, right then and there . . .
Little Dawn loved the ride so much, and was so enthused, she talked me out of turning around when the sun’s light set, and we persevered on, into the now deepening twilight — two more miles to the lookout above the meadow.
As per our custom, we dismounted at the lookout and a ‘bar tender’ (that would be me) thoughtfully served up carrots (from our saddle bag) for the patrons (Starboy and Mentor), who showed greedy appreciation with soft busy noses . . .
Now, with the horses rested and happy, we turned to ride back down the single-track, side-of-the-mountain trail, engulfed in complete pitch-black-under-the-trees-darkness — no moon tonight.
(We didn’t get back to the ranch until 10:30.)
But even though it was dark, and at times a bit unnerving, Little Dawn didn’t fret. Even when Starboy went off-trail in the blackness!
She just corrected his path and began singing camp songs, and Beatles songs, and nursery songs, and gospel songs, and Big Band songs . . . until we were out of the four-miles of tree-shrouded darkness and back in the open valley again, under the bright canopy of stars.
The ride was so exhilarating, I couldn’t wait to go again! My body didn’t even hurt the next day.
So last night Little Dawn and I rode Angel and ponied Sage. We started out at our favorite end-of-day time. I wanted to go back up McGill, but kept seeing a mental picture of riding South toward Plunderosa, so that was where we went.
We zipped through the forest, flew through the wash — Angel moving out happily, steadily, in a big-strided ground-covering trot — Sage following along perfectly, like a choreographed dance partner, not at all pulling on my arm.
Two hours of mounted bliss.
Little Dawn loved it, and so did I.
She’s still talking about it today — and planning another ride for later.
It sure is great to have her back in my life!
(We ended up hauling to Malibu and riding two more days — making four back-to-back rides in a row! How’s that for transformation?)
So whenever I haven’t ridden enough, whenever the cares of life seem to get in the way, I think of Little Dawn, find the time to saddle up my horse, take off into the woods — and ride!
Copyright 2006, 2014