I haven’t been writing lately for a number of reasons, but mostly because I just haven’t felt like it. I’ve had a few lessons that were generally positive. I’ve even started volunteering at GallopNYC, a therapeutic riding program for children and adults with disabilities. I go once a week and help out as a side-walker, helping the rider be secure on the horse while they go through the exercises and activities that the instructor has planned. It’s rewarding work, and I get to be outside and around horses another hour a week.
But most of my time lately has been spent trying to figure out what the hell to do with my life. I don’t want to do this anymore, and I need a plan to make a change. My boyfriend and I talk non-stop about what work we could do to fulfill us, where we could live that we’d feel connected and comfortable, and how, at our age, educational level, economic situation, and extent of career experience, we could possibly ever get to a place where we’d be even just not miserable, let alone truly satisfied.
This came up most recently after my lesson yesterday. Our old trainer, Hannah, has moved on since graduating, going back upstate to start her career in a less expensive place, so we now ride with Jess. We rode with her once when Hannah was out and clicked well, and I think it will continue to be a good match. I rode Jasper, whom I was surprised to find out that Jess doesn’t think much of–when I suggested him as someone I could ride, she said she thought he was kind of a dick. Apparently most of the trainers don’t trust him all that much, as he has gotten a little cranky in the indoor of late. I’m not surprised, though. Even though it is finally spring here, we’ve still been stuck in the indoor due to some heavy rains that have soaked the ground on the ring outside. I’m cranky about that, too. Despite a bit of sassiness the last time we rode, where Jasper threw a few bucks as we were cantering toward the jumps, I’ve never had a problem with him. That was true this week too, and Jess chalked it up to Jasper and I just “vibing” well with each other. I think he and I are just awkward in similar ways, and it works.
But despite him going well for me and having a generally good lesson, I was frustrated. I haven’t been as active as I’d like to be, lately falling into the spiral of “I haven’t exercised so I’m too drained to start exercising” that usually isn’t a problem for me this time of year. But softball has been irregular due to scheduling weirdness from the fields being renovated, I haven’t made it to the gym because I’m demolished after work, and I only ride twice a month at best. I’m a bit overweight, my muscles are weak, my stamina is reduced. I’m just not where I want to be, physically or mentally. I want to be an athlete: strong, fit, and pushing myself to do amazing things with my body. And as it stands, I am just a sort of thin person who is rapidly deteriorating at a rate that seems wrong for my age. I feel old. My joints hurt. My muscles are so tight that no amount of daily stretching seems to mitigate it; I fantasize about being put on the rack just to feel some space opened up inside my knotted-up body. This is the worst part for riding. I get on the horse and I know what I am supposed to do. I know to keep my legs back and my heels down, but I can’t physically do it because of how tight my inner thigh muscles are, and no amount of stretching beforehand seems to help. I know I need to keep my upper body still at the canter and between jumps, but my abs are a gelatinous mess. And I know, if I could ride a horse more than twice a month, I would be able to reverse this. I would get fit, my muscles strengthening and becoming flexible again. And because of my circumstances, because of how difficult and expensive it is to ride here, I despair of this ever happening.
I walked around, cooling Jasper down, and I thought about how I would like my life to be. I thought about my dream of becoming a horse trainer. I thought that I’m nearly thirty-three, totally out of shape, and with little to no experience training horses. Sure, I’ve been around them my whole life. Sure, I’ve ridden for nearly fifteen years in total (counting the time before and after my decade-long hiatus). But do I really have anything to show for it? No. I have no accomplishments, no awards, no job experience, no name. I have my abilities, I have my knowledge, but I can’t even show that properly since I’m so damn out of shape. And I think all these things, and I think I’m kidding myself that I could ever make a change, that I could leave this destructive, meaningless office work behind and work with horses.
Chatting at the end of the lesson, Jess mentioned a friend of hers who had just done a month-long internship in New Mexico gentling mustangs. I became excited to find out information about it, since that’s pretty much my dream. I came home and looked it up. For $1,500, which includes room and board for a whole month, I could go out there and learn how to do exactly what I want to do: learn how to train wild horses. They have a certification program that teaches interns how to privatize excess government horses and get them up for adoption (the process that I first learned about and became fascinated with over a year ago when I saw the documentary “Wild Horse, Wild Ride”).
This sounds amazing to me. I get so excited at the thought of going to do this, and I want to fill out the application right away. But then reality must be considered. How can I go to New Mexico for a month? I only have two weeks of vacation. In order to go, I’d have to quit my job. And then what? I go do this for a month, and then after the month is up I have no income, and no place to live. And this drives me wild. I can’t take one month out of my life, away from my job, to explore something that I think could be my life’s work, but which I don’t know until I try whether I have what it takes. The only way to make a change is to entirely give up income, insurance, security, and stability.
It’s depressing. So many things seem impossible right now.