Dressage Under the Lights

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Warm up under the lights

In 2011, I rode six days a week without fail. My rides were carefully planned out and my horse was fit, fit, fit. Then I had a baby, and Doc got hurt…almost simultaneously! We are both back in work now, but I am still reeling from my adjustment to motherhood. I now only ride three days a week, and I have had to accept the fact that my rides will not always be as productive and on point as they once were. Often, I don’t have more than 30 minutes to spare in the saddle, so the time spent there must be maximized. Other times, I just don’t have the energy, or Samuel needs my attention, or I am on a timeline and must be home to relieve my baby sitter. Whatever the reason, the result is less saddle time, and less productive work.

Lately though, I have been going to the barn one night a week after my baby is in bed. Dad stays at home, monitor in hand, and can care for Samuel if he wakes up. This leaves me free to spend unencumbered time at the barn. I can linger. I can dawdle. I can fuss over Doc. And best of all, I can focus and work the way I used to before baby came. Best of all, these late night barn visits are 95 percent distraction free. I love my barn mates, and I love having social time with them, but it does take away from my precious saddle time. Going late at night I might have a few minutes to chat with folks as they pack up to go home, but then the barn is mine. It is quiet, and peaceful. There is no one to distract me. Doc gets my undivided attention.

And then we work. These rides, they are like poetry. They begin small and ordinary, and then they blossom into steady, rhythmic work that is pleasing and neat. The figures are familiar, the balance and cadence are comforting. The steady breathing and quiet padding of Doc’s feet in the sand bring a smile to my face. I love my night rides. I love having that time to focus on my own riding again, without anyone making demands of me. It is a joy, and a treat.

I have to make sacrifices to have this saddle time. It does mean going to the barn late, and it takes away from my time with Jeremy. But it is time I need to myself to relax, and also to continue improving as a horsewoman. Nothing about horses is ever easy or “done”. We are always learning, always working, hopefully always improving. Sometimes that means making sacrifices in other parts of our lives in order to have the saddle time. I give up sleep and adult interaction in order to work my horse. What sacrifices do you make to spend time in the saddle?

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