Over the past month? Two months? I have been feeling a lot of Crazy. Some of it is situational, some of it is likely biological (don’t worry about this – it’s being looked into and will subsequently taken care of as necessary), but it’s a lot of Crazy. And I’m not the only person who’s had to deal with it, and I fully realize that it sucks for everyone who’s been exposed (don’t worry – Crazy isn’t contagious!). So I’ve been trying to do something about it.
Mostly, I’ve been trying to get out of the house. Sometimes with the kids, but preferably WITHOUT them. Both of them. It’s been fairly easy in the summer – I could run errands or go to Knit Night with very little issue. But it didn’t really seem like enough. Knit Nights seemed to get shorter and shorter, and I started to feel like Rob expected me home ASAP, that I couldn’t take my time (whether it was at the mall or out with girl friends). It’s an awful feeling – wondering if you’re going to get home to a screaming baby and a twitchy husband. And the guilt! There is something soul-crushing about feeling as though you can’t go out to get your hair cut, or if you take an extra 10 minutes at Walmart, someone will be upset about it when you get home. That feeling of having to carry it all is enough to tweak a person out after a while.
So I did something. I did something that I’m not sure I would have done before having Birdie. I signed up for horseback riding lessons. I’m afraid of horses. Well, I like them – I think they’re pretty and amazing and really wonderful. For other people. Where they can’t crush me or throw me clear across the stable, and break every last bone in my body. I really WANT to enjoy riding horses, but if I’m going to be honest… I cry when I sit on a horse. I’m not sure why this happens. I think it’s my control-freak nature. I can’t force a horse to do what I want it to. I can hope that it’s training will bear fruit when I ride it, but honestly – if the thing decides to bolt when I’m on it, or wants to buck me off… there’s not a darn thing I can do about it. They’re big. And strong. And have I mentioned big?
This all came about because Kitten *loves* to ride around on Rob’s back. She also loves My Little Pony, so we decided to sign her up for riding lessons. She was really excited about it, from the first time she heard about it. She would wander around talking about her pony riding lessons, and how she was going to ride a pink one! With sparkly hair! She talked about it ALMOST as much as she talks about Highland Dancing*. So the day of her first lesson came and I pretty much had to drag her to the car kicking and screaming. She was in a foul mood and declared that she didn’t want to go and that she was too scared. She didn’t talk to me the whole way there (half an hour), until we rounded the corner to get to the stable and she says “Do you think they’ll have a unicorn that you can ride, Mommy?” I told her she could ask her teacher. And then silence for the next couple of minutes until she got out and saw all the horses in their pens, and it was game over. She was so happy and completely in love. She enjoyed brushing the pony, petting it and watching it walk to the arena. And wouldn’t you know that she immediately became my child the moment she was up on the pony’s back? Tears. Large ones. Near hysterics. We managed to keep her on the pony (much as my dad was able to do for me when I was younger), and by the end of the lesson, I didn’t have to hold on her any more, she held on to the saddle. And after? You’d think she just did the most amazing thing. She talks about pony riding lessons a lot. Probably more than Highland Dancing, now! This last lesson, I didn’t hold on to her at all. She held on to the saddle the whole time, and eventually, we convinced her to tuck the reigns between her hands and the saddle. I have no idea if she will be able to let go of the saddle any time soon. Frankly, if she will sit up straight and hold the reigns by the end of the 8 weeks, I will be a very proud Mommy.
*We some a Highland Dancing troupe at the Canada Day Parade. Since then, she’s talked non-stop of taking lessons, and having Highland Dancing Friends (seriously, she talks about them like they already exist) and will practice and perform at any chance. The only reason we didn’t enroll her in lessons this fall is that you have to be 4 to participate, and she just doesn’t quite make the cut. But next fall? We’re all over that, as long as she still has the interest. But you never know, she could chose the pony thing again, instead.
During Kitten’s first lesson, my insecurity around horses (even ponies, apparently) really came out. I tried my best to act like they didn’t bug me – that I wasn’t afraid, but I’m not sure that I was fooling anyone. Even more interesting was how much I liked being at the stable. I was surprised at how homey it felt. When I got home that evening, I was talking about our day with Rob and expressed that I wished that I could take lessons, maybe in part to help myself feel more confident during Kitten’s lessons, but also just to get over my own fears. I was pretty shocked when Rob said that I should do it, even after he heard the price. I really expected him to say that it was too expensive and that it was silly. But yeah. So I called the stable and lo, they had one remaining spot open – Monday nights. I was a tiny bit bummed because that’s knitting night, but I was more excited to finally do something really challenging. Something that I knew would stretch me and force me to grow a little. And I knew that even if he was tired of Birdie fussing at him? He couldn’t ask me to come home early. Selfish? Yes. Necessary? Sometimes!
I’ve had two lessons now, and I really enjoyed both of them for different reasons. The first lesson is off-horse. So we got to meet a couple of horses, do some grooming and learn how to put on their tack (saddle, pads, etc.). We even got to pick the rocks out of their hoofs and shovel poop**. The horse I got to work on was a beautiful, huge, fidgity beast of a thing. He belongs to the stable owner and she hadn’t been able to ride him in a while, so he was pretty much ready to run at all times. Even while getting groomed…so there was a lot of weight-shifting and shaking of his head. Almost as though he was saying “Ok, get on with it already! I need to move!” Poor fellow – he went straight back to the pen that night, and he was angry about it. He bolted as soon as his harness came off. I felt as though he didn’t like me, but I think it was more that he could feel my tension. I think I made him nervous, which only made me more nervous… Yeah. For some reason, I just really found being around the horses soothing (when not being nervous, that is). I came home tired (grooming is a workout for the arms, let me tell you!), but happy. I was able to take a crying Birdie and not feel all jagged edges around her. It was nice.
** Truthfully, I’d way rather deal with horse poop than toddler poop. Infant poop (when breastfed) is pretty manageable… but horse poop is so easy. It doesn’t smell too bad, and you use a shovel and scoop it up out of the way. It’s almost impossible to get it on your hands, and the worst thing about it is that it’s kind of heavy. And depending on the horse, there may be a lot of it.
The second lesson was an on-horse lesson. So I got to the stable and checked the board only to read that I had the gigantic beast horse from the lesson before. I quaked a little bit. The Teaching Assistant was just going out to catch some horses, so I asked if could go with her. I watched while she caught Blue, and then she handed her to me to walk in to the stable. I liked Blue from the start. While her blue eyes (!!!) are unnerving, as it looks like she’s rolling her eyes around in her head all the time, she’s a very stable horse, not too tall, but not small for me either. She’s not the dominant horse, by any means, and you can tell that she’s a natural follower. She was very interested in who I was and what I was doing while grooming and tacking her (which was weird for me – I am so afraid that a horse is going to bite me… I don’t know where this fear comes from… but it’s a strong one). She was good to ride, though. When I first got on her, I was very anxious, but she just stood there until I told her to go. And once she was walking, I feel far less nervous.
It was so great to learn all the things that we did. I’m not going to recite them all for you here, as I’m sure that would bore the heck out of you, but a few things really did help me. By the end of the lesson, I felt like I kind of connected with her, like she respected me. It was really nice. I didn’t do everything perfectly, so I have stuff to work on. I’m not very good at turning right (the knees and hands thing kind of confuse me for some unknown reason), and I still need to learn how to get the bridle on, but I feel like not crying was a feat in and of itself. I came home with a sore behind, and a very satisfied self. I got 3 solid hours of time where I didn’t worry about anyone else, didn’t have to check my phone, didn’t have to focus on anything but the moment I was in. I got to spend a good hour telling something to do something and it actually obeyed me. I didn’t have to fight with anyone to get anything done (I’m obviously finding 3 year olds difficult right now). It was just so nice. I can see why some people really fall in love w horses.
There’s been a lot of equine talk around here lately. Rob thinks I’m nuts, but has been really supportive. Kitten and I have been watching horse jumping videos (which usually are followed by her teaching all her ponies and other horse-type toys how to jump), looking up stuff online, and eagerly looking forward to the next lesson (both Kitten and I… and Kitten gets pretty peeved with me when I leave on Monday nights and don’t take her with me, as she knows I’m going to the stable). It’s been a balm to some of the Crazy. It’s no cure, but it smooths out some of the sharp bits from the previous week, and I find myself able to smile a little bit more.