Horseback Riding

My pre-retirement life was very busy: teaching, family, involvement in church activities where Hubby pastored, and meeting my own demands on my time. Who said dinner had to be cooked from scratch every evening? That would be me!

As a result of my busyness, self-imposed or otherwise, over the years I accumulated a long list of things to do once I retired.

The first thing on my TTD list was to learn to ride a horse. Even though one of my university students had often begged me to let her teach me to ride, I never got around to doing that. I think maybe I was afraid she would assess me using a rubric I had taught her to design. Being assessed by one of my students was just too threatening for me, and I could clearly picture her ratings in my mind:

o All tack checked prior to the mount
o Failure to perform complete tack check
Responded, “What’s tack?” when asked to perform the check
o Smooth easy mount performed proficiently
o Inappropriate mounting order
o Incorrect or unsafe mounting technique
Fell on backside and required first aid

Once I had retired and was settled in Colorado, I decided to go for the horseback riding lessons. Subsequently, I found a stable and enrolled in an open-ended class. It was not until later that I learned mastering horseback riding is an ongoing process, and that becoming a proficient rider means spending hundreds of bowlegged hours in a saddle.

I was assigned a beautiful, fifteen-year-old Palomino, and my first lessons were in grooming and saddling. Actually, I hadn’t counted on that. I assumed someone would walk up to me with my horse ready to go and teach me how to get in the saddle. But mounting did not happen until lesson three, and then only after repeating the whole grooming and saddling thing again. I had not expected this fun activity to be such hard work.

In case some may doubt that horses are particular beasts, let me clear that up now. My much too tall horse apparently cared a lot about which side I mounted from and where I stood in relationship to the saddle. After much lecturing and demonstrating to our little class of four, our barely five foot tall instructor finally allowed us to watch and mimic.

Amazingly, I made it appropriately to the saddle and managed to head the horse in the direction of the corral. During the short ride down the hill, the instructor rode alongside our group of newbies insisting we hold the reins only in one hand and interjecting a special criticism just for me concerning the expensive boots the western wear store assured me would be perfect for horseback riding. At least, though not in control, I was finally on top of the horse and sitting tall in the saddle.

I continued lessons until cold weather arrived. I’m a pansy and never punish myself by being out in the cold any more than absolutely necessary. Over time, I learned that with very little effort on my part Pal would head in the direction I requested; that he would go in reverse when given the correct signal; that trotting causes soreness (for me, not Pal); that on a trail ride a horse will jump down from the top of a very large rock when all-knowing instructor accidentally leads the group off-trail, and that after each session the knees scream, “No, no, please don’t do that again!”

If this were a parable, the lesson might be interpreted by the more discerning readers as follows: “Embarking on new extreme physical activities might be more enjoyable when one is young and fit.”

Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” Thomas Jefferson


  1. I believe that it is more important to follow a dream than to not have pain! I for one, am very proud of you!!!

  2. Captain Nancy, thanks! At this stage in my life I wish I had followed a lot more dreams instead of being so busy. Can't change anything, though.