Tuesday, May 31, 2011

getting back on the horse.

I got to use this phrase literally today as Jeremy and I were able to go horseback riding south of Edinburgh at Lasswade Stables. I found an amazing deal on Groupon and bought a two hour hack for the both of us for Jeremy's birthday. It's been more than ten years since I've been on the back of one of those beasts, and even after all this time it was difficult for me to keep my cool as I stuck my boot in the stirrup and swung my leg over the grey muscled back. As the stablehand adjusted the length of my stirrups and told me how to hold the reins English-style even he could tell how nervous I was--which, admittedly, made me even more nervous, can't horses sense that kind of stuff? The horses Jeremy and I were on were called Starsky and Hutch, respectively, and I was assured that I had no need to worry about being thrown off and kicked by these horses--I laughed nervously and told them that that's what I was told about the horse I had been on ten years previously before it tried to throw me off and took off at full gallop with me hanging off the side of the saddle. So yes, I was nervous, and no, I wasn't thrown off this time thankfully, though I was worried a number of times about falling off. After today I think that the pommel was a great addition in Western-style riding, giving you one more thing to hang on to as your horse goes down steep rocky hills, through rivers, or trips unexpectedly--all of which happened on our hack today. I have to admit that if I had somehow seen a video or known in any way all of the things I'd do on the horse or the trails I'd traverse, I probably would never have gotten back on. But I suppose not knowing was exactly what I needed, and I'm alive and in one piece right now and just that little bit more comfortable again with horses which is what I wanted. Though, I must say, I was worried at first about my ring fingers falling off, they were turning blue as I was gripping the reins so firmly and didn't loosen my grip for at least forty-five minutes, I eventually and gradually began trusting my horse and calmed down enough to know that I didn't need to hold them like a vise the whole time. I still have all my fingers.
The two hour ride itself was pretty calm for the most part, and unlike driving, the horse knows where it's going and you can look around at the scenery for the majority of the ride--though I had to pay attention to low-hanging branches and leaves most of the time too--that an apparently the swallows aim for you, I got pooped on going through the trees beneath a few swallows high up in the branches. But the land out there is gorgeous. Rolling green hills and countryside, towering green old-growth trees with gnarly moss-covered roots, spring flowers of yellow, white, and brilliant purples. We crossed a bridge on the way out and back, and that view of Midlothian was breathtaking, and it reminded me of home, of Western North Carolina. It was so nice to be out of the city for a while, not hearing traffic and sirens, but birds and bugs in the trees and nothing really at all. The silence of the countryside is rejuvenating. I think the best part of the ride though was when our guide lead us through an Aspen tree grove. I haven't seen Aspens since living in Montana, and when the breeze felt its way through those trees, the leaves quivered and shook just like I remembered and it made me glad. Most of the trees were younger, but there were some older ones as well, with their white bark and tall bodies swaying and quaking in the wind. Jeremy reached out at one point and grabbed a leaf; he gave it to me on our way back to the bus stop. How well he knows me.
It was a great day out with Jeremy doing something that we'd never done together before. He frequently turned around in his saddle to check on me and ask if I was okay, especially after we tried trotting a few times--I began to get the rhythm of it again, but man is it jarring! It'll be a memory we keep from our time in Scotland forever, and I'm glad that I mustered up the courage to do it, and I'm glad that nothing insane happened too. All in all, a good day, a good experience, and a great way to celebrate (a little late) Jeremy's thirtieth birthday. I apologize for not getting photos, but I probably would have fallen off had I tried to bring and use my camera on this trip, but hopefully I've given you enough detail to use your imaginations. :)

A little sore now in the rump region but quite happy,


Caitlin

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