I don’t find that funny and I don’t think your horse does either

I admire the array of humorous equine themed hoodies. Although I try not to ride in anything I can’t take off easily without removing my helmet l have thought it would be nice to have the ”Keep calm and trot on” (or similar variants for other gaits), and as my horse and I are both “Built for comfort not speed” I’d wear that one too (even though he’s bloody fast for a native breed!)

I would never dream of wearing “My horse is ream! Bet you’re well jel.” But I have no issue with you wearing it, if it amuses you. However I’ve seen one lately that I do object to: “Ride it like you stole it.”

At first glance it’s not that offensive, but what does it mean? To my mind it means the wearer thinks it’s funny to ride a horse with no respect for anyone around them and even less for the horse itself. Who cares if someone gets injured because of you? Or if the horse is injured or miserable? Ride it like you stole it.

Perhaps people will think I’ve had a sense of humour bypass and gone off on a rant and maybe there would be some truth un that, but surely there are enough thoughtless riders already without glorifying recklessness.

Please don’t ride it like you stole it. Ride it like you love it. Sometimes it has to be tough love but please, ride it like a friend and not like a criminal.

——

Thought that post wasn’t up to my usual standards? Don’t mind me, I got out of the wrong side of the bed this weekend. It started when I found out that Leonard Nimoy died by seeing a picture of a crocheted Spock with RIP written under it. Crochet blogs are a weird medium to hear news through and I’m not sure what it says about my life. Or is it because there’s a fair bit going on in my head at the moment and I might be overreacting to the little things. Hmm. I’m sure normal service will be resumed at some point.

Yoga. Part 2, The unexpected journey to enlightened(-ish) practice

Part 1 available here.

My yoga journey continued sporadically. If the opportunity arose to attend a free session arose, I went to a class. Other times I tried one of the various televised yoga routines. Long periods would pass between these times and that kept it interesting when I did do some. That continued until this year when my health curtailed all physical activity. As I started back to work I wondered if I should try one of the very gentle short yoga programmes I’d recorded off the television. I’d do one I’d done before that I knew was aimed at beginners and so easy that I’d felt it a waste of my time last time I did it.

I couldn’t do it. It starts with cat pose, which I’d never felt any benefit from before, but this time was challenging and full of interest. Then it goes to downward dog, and I couldn’t stay in the position for more than a second or two without feeling dreadful and stopping. I didn’t just need to stop doing the posture, but had to stop the whole session. A few weeks later I tried again. This time downward dog was possible, although I didn’t hold the position for more than a breath or two but came out of it and rested until the instructor moved onto the next thing. I managed the next few postures fine until the inhale up to warrior 2. I smiled in anticipation of my old favourite but my face fell when I realised I couldn’t do it. Damn it!

After each session, even those that I had to quit on, my muscles felt awakened, and I think yoga is going to be a wonderful tool to use on my journey back to health. But like everything it’s very hard for me not to do too much because there’s one massive discrepancy between what I think I can do and what I can actually do, and another between what I can actually do and what I can actually do and still be fairly functional the next day.

To feel well tomorrow I need to do almost nothing today. But to feel well next week and next month surely I need to get my body doing things again. While I was at home I sat and lay and barely used my arms. On my first weeks back at work in the library handling books, even singly, was challenging. I had no grip strength. Circling one wrist with the other hand I can feel the change of shape where the muscles atrophied. With the return to commuting I thought the clutch in my car might be faulty because it was so heavy, likewise the power steering, but I came to realise I just don’t have the muscle strength I never even realised I was using when I drove my car.

It’s true that getting back to the daily grind will rebuild the muscle I need to get through the day, but I feel like I have a blank, if feeble, slate to rebuild my muscles evenly and in balance with yoga. But I think it will be a very slow process.

I have been surprised to find how riding is easier for me than handling books or beginner level yoga. The only things I can think to make this make sense are as follows:

  • I have an obliging and forward going horse. That takes a world of effort off the rider
  • I’m using very light aids which don’t take strength I don’t have and because they’re consistently light he’s got nothing to lean on or fight against
  • I’ve not been taking him into challenging situations on purpose. I know I can’t win a fight so I’ve avoided situations that might cause one.
  • We’re not trying to do anything he can’t do, or to do anything for long enough that he gets properly tired, so he’s very willing
  • Because my ability waxes and wanes from one ride to the next we don’t have much routine in our rides. This keeps things interesting for him, which again helps with the willingness. Also it stops him anticipating what’s coming next and so keeps him tuned in to listening to my light aids.
  • Gravity helps a rider. With a good position a rider fights gravity less than a pedestrian. The only exception is in the arms and I’m cheating there by using a much lower hand position than I think is ideal because it’s much easier for me at the moment.
  • The world thinks riders just sit there while the horse does all the work. Maybe in this case they’re right :P

Getting back to my yoga theme: coming from this position of humble feebleness, for the first time I have finally understood the importance of correct form and the unimportance of range. I am more in tune with my body, having been forced to learn to listen to it. Because everything is weak, I don’t find strong muscles trying to cover up for weaker ones, and I feel that what is working or stretching matches what the instructor says I should feel.

I have to say this is aided by good instructors. I accept that I was not the most receptive student in those early classes at the gym, but I’m astounded at how good a televised instructor is at preventing errors of form compared to one who could see me, and let me believe I was doing postures correctly when I now see I was often letting limbs or joints point in incorrect positions which diluted the benefits of the positions. I would have thought a television or DVD instructor could never compare to having an instructor who could see you, but I was so wrong, as I was about so many things about yoga.

Now for the first time I come to my yoga practice with respect for yoga and for my body. Now I struggle with the easiest postures but I am more of a yogi than I ever was when it seemed easier.

Namaste.

 

031

Yoga. Part 1, The sceptical participant

When I was younger I could never see the point of yoga. In my teens and early twenties my childhood gymnastics were still close enough that flexibility came without a thought. Also yoga looked dull and slow. It lacked any appeal.

During my late twenties I was the avid holder of a gym-embership. (That was a typo. It was a membership, but I burned for it and carried my gym fitness smouldering within me, so let the typo stand.) l rowed ferociously, pedaled unstoppably and lifted weights in serious quantities. I was aware I could go to the classes that were held there for no extra cost,  but why would I do that? Stand in a sweaty herd and do a rank and file workout? Surely that was for the weak-willed and weak bodied?

A day came when I was lying on the gym mats, feeling uncharacteristically under motivated and chatting with any other regulars who were available. A girl I vaguely knew got talking to me for a bit and convinced me to go with her to the yoga class about to start. I don’t remember exactly but I think my attending meant there were enough people that the class would run, so I was doing everyone a favour by being the fourth person. Also the minute size of the class made it more welcoming to me, so why not?

Aside from my inability to stand on one leg, the session presented little in the way of physical challenges for me. I was aware of parts of my brain frantically wishing that we’d do something … something … more. I was mentally uncomfortable with the softness of it. I missed the reassuring heft of my free weights and the struggle and triumph of competitive cardio. I secretly despised the instructor, with her … was it her artificially gentle voice? Her insistence that everything was lovely? Her … her … her everything. Why wasn’t it over yet?

She had us lie on our backs and we did a guided relaxation. Which I fought with every fibre of my being. And at some point around when I refused to relax my jaw I realised I was crying and had been for some time. The session finished and I was still crying. I walked home and arrived still crying. Mr S, not yet my husband, was astonished. “What happened?” he cried. The only teary explanation I could come up with was, “l did yoga and then I was sad! Sob sob, sob!”

Eventually I must have stopped crying. In the days following that various people told me this is not that unusual a reaction to yoga. I gained a wary respect for its unexpected power over me. I also decided I needed to practice relaxation at home before trying it public again. After taking advice from friends I acquired some relaxation CDs and embarked upon them regularly.

From time to time I went back to the class. I still despised the instructor but yoga now interested me because it clearly had strange powers that I didn’t understand. I still rebelled in relaxation sessions, but differently than before. Now I tried to relax and only refused when doing the sessions where you have to clench each muscle before you relax it. Those I still refuse to do because I have a massive ability to instantly tense any muscle group to its limit but no corresponding ability to relax it again afterwards. If I try one of those “relaxations” I end up painfully tense in every muscle I own.

As the postures became familiar I found favourites among them. I loved the warrior poses in particular. Other ones, like cat pose, still seemed completely pointless.

I learned during this time that there is a difference between relaxation and exhaustion. Until then I’d only relaxed mentally when I was exhausted and thought the physical feeling after working out to exhaustion meant I was physically relaxed. I didn’t actually learn how to relax with another human being present until I started riding lessons at the age of 29, but that’s another story. And I was taking steps in the right direction.

In time I came to the point where the gym wasn’t as important to me as it had been. In the run up to my wedding I was keen not to change shape. This was in part because my ex-display last-one-of-that-design wedding dress was a few sizes too big and I didn’t want to lose any more weight on the waist and make it impossible for the alterations seamstress to do her work and also because of the cut of the straps which wouldn’t accommodate that much extra muscle around the chest/shoulder area. This took the fun out of gym time and eventually I cancelled the membership. It would be a shame to end my intermittent attendance at yoga classes but I could get a DVD to do at home or something.

Continued in Part 2, The unexpected journey to enlightened(ish) practice

 

Not depressed

I’m pretty sure I’m not depressed.

But…

The fatigue, which comes and goes, at times inexplicably, is confusing me.

In the past, through depression I have experienced fatigue so great I could not speak. This fatigue does not do that. But it is fickle. What I did happily one week is unthinkable the next. I have no idea what the day will bring until I’m a few hours into it. Recently for the first time I was so fatigued that I caught myself thinking how nice it would be if all my blood ran out of me and I died and I wouldn’t have to bother to breathe any more. But it wasn’t a suicide daydream,  just a mental plea to be allowed to lie down and stop doing anything tiring like breathing. I might mention that I was stuck in a traffic jam on the motorway on the way home after a long day at work the time and being dead is the only socially acceptable excuse for just ceasing to continue creeping forwards in that context.

It was so strange to have that thought, that used to be an old companion, but from an entirely different angle. I know the fatigue that comes from depression. I know it intimately and familiarly and I have some coping skills. I don’t know mood-depressed-by-physical-fatigue. But it’s moved in and I’m having to get to know it and it’s weird. I don’t have the relevant coping skills. Yet.

It’s really strange to me that the moment my mood is best first thing in the morning. That’s never happened to me before! I wake up like a smart-phone with a freshly charged battery, bright and shiny and ready for anything … but overuse me and I’m worthless by lunchtime; dim, lacklustre, expending the final dregs of the battery just trying to stay awake. In the evening after a day when I had a meeting, or an unavoidable social event, I am so low in mood and all I want to do is sleep. Yet when I awaken the next day I am inexplicably happy. Unless I have a few “busy” days in a row. After 3 weeks back full-time at work the morning magic stopped working. At work I was getting confused and struggling to balance priorities and clashing with colleges. Outside of work I wasn’t able to ride at all. While riding had been very tiring on the days when I managed it, I felt more energised on the days following a ride. I felt like riding was the one step I could actively take towards getting better and I’d lost that again.

I was owed some hours, which I built up back in the early summer, so I spent my hoarded hours to take a day off and filled it with self-care; meditation and aromatherapy; gentle yoga and relaxation. I even banned myself from crochet for the day to avoid anything goal-oriented. But it still didn’t fix me. So when l saw the nurse at occupational health later that week we agreed I should return to slightly reduced hours again for a few weeks.

It was a weight off my shoulders and the right decision. I’m grateful for the supportive workplace that can accommodate it, but I’m disappointed that once again getting back to normal is further away than I thought. Part of me thinks I could have pushed on with it, kept going, one day at a time, but it’s not a sensible part of me. lt tells me I’m weak-willed, that anyone can handle a measly 36 hr contract, that I need to suck it up and buckle down. The rest of me knows that listening to that voice is a good way to ensure a public meltdown, a return to being too ill to work at all and general misery until I reach that stage.

Hopefully the reduced hours will be what I need to get my sleep-magic working again. Hopefully I’ll be able to start exercising again. Hopefully, once these few weeks of reduced hours are over, I should be able to try full-time work again and this time, hopefully, I’ll be able to make it stick.

Geek crochet

Apparently there is a substantial overlap between yarn-o-philes and geekery. Arrayed on the internet you will find crochet Deathstars, knitted scarfs intricately patterned with the script from the LOTR one ring, and a multitude of baby Groots, pokemon and Tardises. (Oh how I wish the plural were Tardi.) I could only resist this phenomenon for so long, and actually paid real money for two crochet patterns. The first of the two was my totally inauthentic Viking helm.

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And then I had to make another for a friend… and yet another friend has also requested one!

Apparently real Vikings did not have horns on their hats. But guess what? Real Vikings did not ever wear helmets made of soft acrylic. Like ever. So that does not worry me. Most days.

Pattern: Lael Viking hat by Mamachee available for purchase from Etsy or Ravelry (and probably some other places too). The copyright on the pattern does allow you to make them for sale, if credit is given to the designer, so before you wear yours out of the house decide whether you’re going to charge anyone who asks for one!

The second (oh obscure treasure of niche interest geekery!) is a Tonberry.wpid-20150207_164158.jpg

A Tonberry is a creature found in the Final Fantasy video game series*. Looks small, cute and innocuous, huh? Oh look, you underestimated it. GAME OVER. Would you like to reload? Apart from its cute looks and unexpected fighting prowess the Tonberry epitomises cool for the following reasons:
  • It’s rare and usually solitary
  • It’s in no hurry to attack you, starting a distance away and taking a turn to move each step. You have plenty of time to flee and it’s your own fault if you don’t
  • It breaks the in-game damage limit of 999, doing 9999 damage with its little knife
  • Karma. The Tonberry’s karma attack will deal back to your player all the damage you have done in the whole game. But if Karma is cast on a healer character they will get healed because they’ll have done more healing than damaging in the game. Seriously, Karma! In a video game!

I have to say this crochet version is yet another Tonberry that I underestimated. He took much more work to do than I expected, but he is also by far the largest and most accessorised amigurumi I’ve attempted so far. Also the only one I’ve done while working full-time, which makes everything take longer!

Tonberry pattern by Natalie Bates, available to buy on Ravelry.

After my two these-patterns-cost-money projects I had a need to make a free pattern, which also has a strong geek connection. wpid-20150209_134530.jpgThis iPod nano cover appears to the uninitiated to be simply a (wrapped around) green tree on a pale green background. But to those who have played Magic: The Gathering, this is a forest, which will produce green mana so you can play your green monster cards. The pattern is just for a flat square – I worked it in the round and then crocheted across the bottom. This was my first attempt at colour-work and I’m rather pleased with it. This isn’t a great picture of it – it looks neater than that in person. Also it didn’t take long at all to make, which was a bonus.I have to say I’m now fascinated by the possibilities of colour-work and need to take care to avoid rushing into a big new project I’ll never finish.

Pattern (chart) found here: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/magic-the-gathering-green-mana-forest-potholder

Which finished item is my favourite? The Tonberry. He’s the only one without a practical use and he cost me most in time but I love him the most.

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*Although I mostly know it from Final Fantasy X (10) so this description is biased to how it appears in that game. In other games in the series it behaves slightly differently and Karma is called Grudge.

In the saddle

I have been back in the saddle on a regular-ish basis over the last 10 days and hope to see that continue. It’s weird how it’s so much easier and less tiring to sit in the saddle (at halt or walk!), with no back support, than on an ergonomic-ish office chair. I suppose it’s a sign that my weight and balance are holding me up more in the saddle than on the office chair – that I am truly sat on my seat bones with everything above them pushing down like a plumb-line.

Trotting is hard. Rising to the trot is hard. Lacking cardio fitness and core muscle tone that I used to take for granted, the theory of the energy of the horse creating the rise is all well and good, but it’s being proved to me that the rider has to do some work too – work I never noticed I was doing before! So I can rise, but badly. I’m forever getting left behind his rhythm or bumping him – not surprisingly his trot work is not what it used to be, because I’m hindering not helping. So what about sitting trot? There’s always sitting trot… except that I never really got the hang of that, which is a bit of a pain right now. I mentioned in a recent post that I’ve had minor breakthroughs on that of late, but they are pretty minor still. I can’t maintain a good sit for any decent distance at a time so it’s not that useful, although it does give me a break from rising. Also, because the sitting muscles were never worked like this before they get tired even quicker than the rising muscles! So we’re trotting less than I would like. I’ve tried introducing interval training (trot for 2 min, walk for 2 min, repeat 3 times) but it hampers the quality of the trot. I’m more focused on the clock than on getting a good trot out of him and for most of the trot time I’m too busy looking after myself to correct his bend or get him rounder. I’m not sure whether I’m going to continue with it or not. It might be better just to instigate the rule “when you feel like stopping trotting carry on for at least 30 seconds longer” or something. While it’s great that riding is exercise, a horse is not a gym machine.

The canter is of course exhausting too, but we’ve never been ones spend massive amounts of time in canter and we never found it that easy so I don’t feel the difference there so much. Also, I think we are actually making some progress with the quality of the canter, but he’s not used to working properly in canter so I’m trying to ask for very short high quality canters rather than asking for longer and losing the quality. So we have little canters usually followed by a walk-on-a-long-rein rest which we both appreciate. I’m aware I need to start increasing the duration at some point for both our sakes, but I feel like I’d rather put my effort towards trotting until my stamina increases. Some of the improvement in the canter is definitely down to me. Hurray! I’m making so many more constant little adjustments: inside leg for bend, outside hand to stop him falling flatter, outside leg to stop a drift, massaging the reins to remind him not to lean, core to stop him rushing… all of these are coming in time to do their job now. I am busy busy busy in the canter! But that’s what he needs. Naturally, left to his own devices, I don’t think he’d canter much*, so to improve that canter he needs constant reminding and supporting.

Another factor that I hadn’t considered is because I’ve been ill since the summer, now that I’m back at work full time it’s the first time I’ve had to ride in the dark. All of our schools are lit for night riding, but what a human considers suitable and what a horse who hasn’t been ridden outside in the dark for almost 12 months considers suitable may be different! He’s fine about the indoor school in the dark, and we have been in there without any huffing and puffing, but when I ride after work it’s peak time, so I might not always get in the indoor school. The first time we went out in the dark I didn’t think anything of it. It took me a little while to wonder why he was so twitchy while I took my stirrups down, etc. Then I worked it out. I managed the warm-up to avoid pushing him instantly into the spooky corners furthest from the gate – in walk we did a 30 m circle by the gate, then one in the middle and then went large before circling at the spooky end. We did hear a creature rustling in the bushes but it was obviously a small creature and D handled it well. We repeated on the other rein and he settled down nicely. At the end of the ride I usually give him the buckle**. Considering his nerves, the breeze and the darkness I thought about skipping this and cooling down on a long-ish rein, but he tugged at the reins to ask for more (I know, it’s rude, but I gave in … after making him wait a little). I gave him the buckle, but kept both hands through the reins and through the balance strap attached to the front of my saddle. If anything was going to happen I was going to be prepared! The thing that happened was almost certainly a bird, because nothing else makes a flapping sound like that. Quite what a sizable bird was doing flying out of the bushes after dark  I don’t know, but we were off! Feeling pretty smug about the two hands on the balance strap I just pulled myself deep into the saddle and waited for him to slow down, which he did quite quickly. As we bowled along away from the monster I realised we were travelling in a ridiculously fast trot – part of my reason for thinking that D doesn’t canter if he can avoid it! I took my reins back short and we went to investigate, proving that there were no monsters in the corner any more and that he is quite brave really.

The next time we rode we were again stuck outside, this time in the smaller outdoor school which is darker and spookier and boggier. Drifter was in a foul mood about being ridden at food-time and it was windy as well and the footing was pretty unappealing. Oh great. I got on and we started to warm up. He was not happy about going to the spooky end; not happy about one corner in particular. That corner is universally agreed to be the spookiest corner of the spookiest end of the spookiest school so I wasn’t that surprised, or that understanding to be honest. We survived 3 or 4 passes round that corner on each rein before an unexpected thing happened. The first my sluggish human reactions knew was that I was standing in the left stirrup with my left foot, with my right foot stepping down to the ground. Then I stood by his shoulder in perfect balance on the ground, facing his shoulder with my reins still in my hand as we stared at each other in utter incomprehension.

The only explanation I can imagine is as follows.

There was a monster. It attacked. In response D drew on hitherto unknown magical skills in order to teleport about 50 cm. to the right. Consequentially all of me was now to the left of the horse and gravity encouraged me downwards. So astonished was the horse by the unexpected behaviour of the rider that he stood stock still also.

Onlookers had no better explanation. One second I was riding a horse and we were both in motion. The next we were standing next to each other, perfectly still but totally confused. My first instinct, trained into me, was that I must instantly remount. I overruled it and took him back to investigate the spooky corner in-hand. After initial concerns he passed it again a few times on each side in-hand and I got on again. He did not at any point settle and after a very short ride I decided to call it quits because I felt that at any time I might part company with the horse again, but it was unlikely to be such a balanced dismount. Also, if he wasn’t going to work properly there wasn’t any point trying to achieve anything beyond staying on, so why bother?

Over the course of the second part of the ride I felt sure there was some problem in that corner. When I got off we went back to investigate again. This time my goal was not to march him back and forth and show him nothing would eat him, but to get him to show me what was the problem. Also to get him to be brave and, at his own speed, face his fear. The culprit turned out to be a substantial bit of polythene which had blown up against the fencing of the school. In itself it was almost invisible in the darkness but when the wind, which was gusty and frequent, moved the polythene the reflected flood-lights of the school ran back and forth across its surface, as if running at him out of the darkness. I gave him time to look at it and he eventually approached and sniffed it. Carefully I pulled it out. He was not sure about this, as I was moving it (!) but once I held it he gave it sniffs again and was calmer. Continuing to be careful and very much aware that I had a horse in one hand and a horse-eating monster in the other hand, I took both out of the school and got someone to dispose of the monster. It’s a shame that I didn’t manage to identify the monster the first time I had him in-hand, after the unexpected dismount, but I’d kind of assumed there had been some fleeing creature that triggered the reaction, so I wasn’t really expecting there to be anything to see at that point.

I have to say that this has left me somewhat nervous about riding outside in the evenings. This was the first time I have been detached from the horse (I can’t call that a fall!) outside of a lesson, which is also a confidence knock to my solo rides. It’s rather bad luck that these two sessions which D needed to be uneventful to build his confidence about the dark have both involved monster attacks.

Few of my posts are written in one go these days and this is no exception. Since writing the above we’ve had another little ride…

We had time for a quick ride before he saw the equine physio (she had 10 horses on our yard to do this time!) but only if I got on immediately. I wouldn’t be able to ride after he was treated so I needed to get on now or not at all.

I did a quick survey of the schools and found only the spookiest darkest outdoor was free. :( Do not want. :( But then someone pointed out that the lesson inside was about to finish and then that would be free :) While I was tempted by the golden light of inside, I thought, no, we will go out in the dark and be brave for a few minutes knowing I can come in at any point. As we walked round to the school, me somewhat apprehensive, a wheelbarrow attempted to independently descend the muck-heap ramp at us as we walked past. This did not do good things of either of our nerves although Drifter was very brave considering. Other horses on the yard would have gone bonkers – he just bounced slightly and goggled at it.

So we continued round and I got on. I was really grateful that we could go indoors soon – we’d had snow (since melted), copious hail (ditto) and some rain since our previous ride out there and the surface was drowned. If I hadn’t been determined to walk around in the dark I’d have given up then, but knowing that we could do walking outside and then go in for other gaits helped. There was no way I would have wanted to trot him in that footing. Ironically the best drained corner was the spooky corner. We were absolutely fine. He was pretty calm about everything. Considering he hates standing water, he tolerated the water in and on the surface very well and he didn’t bother about what was in the bushes / outside the school at all. We squished around for a bit and I took him in. We did a very short ride inside and went back out to wait for the physio. It was just the confidence builder I’d been hoping for.

As for the physio, she was very pleased with him. We saw her a fortnight ago when he trotted up slightly high in the right hind-quarter and had stiffness in the right lower spine as well as the quarter itself. This time he trotted up beautifully and during treatment she found only a little stiffness near the spine. She declared that she doesn’t need to see him again for at least a few months – when/if I feel anything odd. Excellent. Previous times when he’s needed treatment it’s been regular sessions for months. These days I can spot things much quicker and get it nipped in the bud. If I’d been able to ride more over the last months maybe we’d have been able to avoid this, but who knows? Maybe it would have happened anyway.

It’s so nice to have the clean bill of health on his movement – now when we ride I won’t worry that any resistance in him comes from soreness and I can focus on getting us back to regular work as best I can.

Foolish it might be, but I’ve booked a lesson with Lee Pearson for a few weeks time. Am I in any shape for the lesson? Nope. But last time I saw him he said we could look at walk-only work if that’s what I needed. While I know he might push me and I need to be ready to say no to things if it’s too much I really wanted a lesson with him. If I can’t last the time in the saddle I’ll have to cut the lesson short. I’ve made sure to book the day after it off work to recover as well. I did think maybe I could ask if he’ll do me a shorter lesson than his standard 45 min., but somehow it felt disrespectful. He’s given me loads of free and valuable advice while I’ve been watching other people’s lessons when I was too ill to ride. If I pay for some lesson time I can’t use that’s all part of the cosmic balance.

 

—–

*I suspect a wild or feral D would consider that most objectives can be covered by either trotting really fast or breaking out the gallop, so why bother with that wonky three-legged weirdy gait?

**I.e. ride him so that he has the full length of the reins and no contact on them. Sometimes I keep a hand through the reins, often I just let them lie on his neck.

 

Differently abled

When I last saw Lee Pearson he told me this:

A disabled person looks at the world differently; sees different ways of doing things. If I want the tin of beans off a high shelf l put a cushion on the floor and knock it off the shelf with my crutch so it lands on the cushion; I have to work out ways of getting the result. I take that way of looking at things to horse riding. With each particular horse I look for how I can get the results I want quickly.

It is this skill that makes his clinics so valuable – he will look at your horse with its unique strengths and weaknesses and see a way to make it go better. He is a better teacher because he has a disability.

This got me thinking about the term “differently abled.” It might be a mealy-mouthed PC-ism but it holds a truth that the average person who got lucky in the body lottery might miss. When you’re a part of the herd there’s no reason to learn to think differently. When the world makes things easy for you, what incentive is there to look for new ways of doing things?

So I had all this floating around in my brain for a while. And then I went back to work.

It seems like I’ve changed. While I was at home l didn’t see it; only when I tried to fit back into the slot l left behind and it seemed subtly different from the way l remembered it.

The most tangible changes can be summed up in two contradictory statements: l care more. I care less.

l care more about the people. I was so glad to see everyone, even the ones who used to drive me up the wall and the ones who I’ve never had a conversation with, who I just know by sight when we pass in the corridor. For the first time ever in my working life I’m having to make an effort to stop talking and work – l used to find even an interesting conversation felt like time was being stolen from my productive time but now work robs my time from socialising with colleagues.

l care less about impressing. So I’m not volunteering for that extra responsibility? Who cares if that’s a missed opportunity to shine. So I’m not leaping to my feet to unjam the photocopier? You managed without me doing it for months – you’ll probably work it out. So I’m not as productive as I’ve been in the past? I’m still settling back in and trying not to overdo it.

Those are the changes anyone could spot. What they can’t see is the change in my thinking. Firstly l assess more before l act. This is often in terms of guaging effort versus reward and looking for lower energy ways of doing things. I am a lover of routine, but parts of my day that felt like sacred cows before are not as essential as I thought. I’m better at saying ‘no.’ I’m better at spotting the little things that drain energy needlessly and correcting them or avoiding them, better at paring things down to the essentials.

But the biggest change, the one I most hope is a permanent change, seems to be a newfound ability to take each day as it comes; to take each hour of the day as it comes. To know that tomorrow looks challenging but not let that drag me down today. That is massive. In the past if I knew Friday would be challenging I’d already be cowering away from it from Monday morning, if not on Sunday night, afraid to do anything all week for fear that it would drain me so I couldn’t manage Friday. That fear itself was draining me massively without me realising it. In a month with a few extra commitments l’d dread the whole month. But now I don’t think ahead like that. I think about what I’m doing, not about how much is left to do or how far I want to get. I used to say, “l can only do what I can do,” as an admission of failure to do everything. Now I see the wisdom and satisfaction of the phrase and the completeness of doing what I can do. I feel the simple beauty of knowing I can’t do all the things.

I have been through illness, through another section of my life that I wasn’t expecting and I truly feel that I have come out the other side differently abled. l am not as fit, as fast or as strong, but I have new strengths that I wouldn’t have if I’d stayed healthy.

I’m grateful to Lee Pearson that I already had the thoughts about him floating around in my head which helped me recognise how my own thought patterns have been changed for the better as a result of physical challenges.