Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Riding to Blur Those Age Markers

Markers of Age | Lisa Stowe – The Story River Blog

I prefer Wise Woman too.  And I like to think I can still Run With the Wolves, if only a bit more slowly.  How many of us are misplaced zygotes, living a life that seems to belong to someone else?  Here's one of my favorite passages from Women Who Run With the Wolves:Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes:

But what if you, being a swan, had to pretend you were a mouse? What if you had to pretend to be gray and furry and tiny? What you had no long snaky tail to carry in the air on tail-carrying day? What if wherever you went you tried to walk like a mouse, but you waddled instead? What if you tried to talk like a mouse, but instead out came a honk every time? Wouldn't you be the most miserable creature in the world?

If there's one thing that impairs our aging process as humans and as riders, it's the false belief that we must live up to someone else's standards in order to gain acceptance.  Sure, if you have no tail on tail-carrying day (or, in rider terms, you look like a muffin in those white dressage pants and man-shaped jacket), it's going to come to the attention of the purveyors of righteous horseman style.  It's very hard to waggle your duck tail and pretend to be a rail-thin, 5'10" swan, and your ego can take quite a hit if you've bought into the package of shoulds that come with horses.
TredStep Symphony
knee patch breeches have
just the right amount of
corset feel.  But when did
crotches develop a "low
rise"?  Hate that!

And how much worse does it get when you begin to notice the signs of aging?  Oh, my!  So much worse!

I'm not sure when my search for breeches fabrics that are at once soft and cushy and girdle-tight to hold my flapping thighs still, but it happened.  And somewhere down the line I bought three-step mounting blocks and gave away the two-step versions.  Forget leaping onto the horse's bare back from the top rail of the fence.  I remember it, vaguely, but would find it less than amusing to give it another try.  

The blog post linked above notes such Passages as finding bedtime coinciding more and more regularly with the setting of the sun.  And the lack of desire to change the world when getting a cup of coffee is much more imperative is certainly an age-related change for me.  

One nice thing about life with horses is that the beasts don't care how old you are, nor do they cut you any slack for your obvious shortfalls in the athleticism arena.  As a result, we who ride tend to ignore, at least to a point, those changes that others find so daunting.  

I noticed this during the winter of awful that we just had, when the cold was so severe that there was no hope of doing anything athletic outdoors beyond crawling over the ice to the barn and back again.  As I sat for hour upon hour in my trusty recliner with my current reading fetish in one hand and my tablet/phone/laptop on the table at my side (why move just to recharge when it's easier to have multiple options within reach, eh?), I slowly crumpled into a mess of wrinkly stuff I wouldn't have recognized just months earlier.  Getting up and about was harder.  I have a small gym in my house, but just walking into that room gave me a twinge of anxiety because I was pretty sure that anything I lifted, pushed, pulled, or threw was going to cause me pain the next day.  And I was right.

But as low as my aging body dragged my spirit this winter, it's equally stunning to me how quickly I recovered once the sun melted the snow and ice so I could walk upright again.  The reason for that is simply that I still have the horses to take care of, and...well...I want to ride.  My mind hasn't been aging at the same rate as the rest of me, fortunately.  In my head, I still howl at the moon and ride bareback races on the railroad bed.  In dreams I'm still sitting tall on my Fancy horse and waiting for someone to put that blue ribbon in my hand.

Okay...I know what you're thinking.  We all know about getting senile, and I'm well on my way, right?  Actually, though I might be, the reality is that visualization is an excellent means of regaining muscle tone.  
What I think about on those cold winter
days...rides to remember.

"What ill magic is this?" you ask.  Seriously.  It's real.  If I recall the history correctly, this technique was uncovered among long-term prisoners of war back in the Viet Nam era.  A tennis player of note, having been captured during his service as cannon fodder, spent his long days in solitary replaying his games in his head.  When he was finally released, he discovered that his ability to play tennis was nearly as good as it had been prior to his exercise-free incarceration.

So think about it:  You dream, you think, you tell stories about the great rides of your past, and your  muscles, having excellent memories of their own, tweak themselves back into some semblance of condition so you can continue on your merry, ageless riding path.  Talk about blurred lines..!  

Do that.  Think about it.  Remember how it felt in detail.  Ride your best rides in your head while you're doing other things.   Allow your inner narrative to change back from "Good grief!" to "I can do this!"  Then go saddle up and forget about your age and your aches and pains (there are pills for that), and don't be surprised when strangers deduct a decade from you age because you're far more limber and relaxed and in-control than you "should" be.  You might not be able to swing that ridiculous riding habit (obviously designed by a sado-masochistic dullard), but you won't care.  That's one thing about aging you don't want to let go of...the ability to not have any f*cks left to give.  You can still wrangle a 1000 lb animal into letting you drive it around at your will.  Woo-HOO for that!

Happy trails!

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