Friday, October 19, 2012
I am an athlete, although not in the typical sense and I currently do not have an "athletes" body. I have been riding horses since I was 5 years old- I am coming up on 25 years of horses in my life. I do not remember my first ride but I do remember the opportunity. I was asked if I wanted to ride, I remember the barn smell, the dust everywhere and I remember jumping up and down say "yes, yes, yes". I remember my mom telling me I would have to give up ballet-I had no qualms about that. I remember my first fall off a horse-ouch it hurt! I remember the "get back on conversation" getting on and quickly getting off-I had a minor concussion.
When I was in elementary school my mom signed me up for soccer with my friends. I played, I did not love it, but I played for 2 or 3 years. Soon after I started swimming lessons-I loved them. I swam 3 days a week and several hours each time. When I was 10 I hit puberty and it was not kind to my weight, I continued to swim and to ride. My mom instituted a "one snack (junk food) a week policy" but only for me. This was the beginning of my struggle. I remember this. All my friends were "athletes" they played soccer and basketball.
When I hit middle school I tried jogging with a friend. I remember the feeling of accomplishment getting from her house to the beach without stopping-it was 7/8ths of a mile, but I hated running. I continued to ride and swim. I did not feel athletic.
We moved to a new state before high school. I was still overweight, I was still riding, but I did not swim. The priority was finding me a stable to ride in. I rode weekly and got involved in high school theater and a community orchestra. The arts were important those first two years, I still had horses, but friends were made in the arts. My junior year I needed a break from theater, I burnt out and did too much. I spent everyday at the barn as much time as possible. I became proficient at feeding 40 horses on 30 acres then riding 2-3 horses feeding again and helping with lessons. I worked for lessons. I loved every minute, stacking hay, sweating in the summer and freezing in the winter, but I was not an athlete.
I went to college and majored in horses. I spent all my time at the barn. I soaked up the atmosphere, rode whenever they would let me, observed, made friends and hung out. I still did not feel like an athlete, I felt like a horse person. I felt like a college student. I got a horse my junior year of college. I loved riding her and "playing" with her. I started teaching others to ride, I began to feel like an athlete because I was telling others that they were being athletic.
I moved to graduate school in the middle of the country. I studied college students and how to help them. I was surrounded by grad students who played broomball, basketball and flag football on inter mural teams. I still had my horse. She was my solace when I missed family and friends who were 1500 miles away, riding her reminded me that I too was athletic and none of my friends here knew what I knew. They did not understand the draw of the barn or the comforting smells of...manure and horses.
I started to bike ride. My jeans, a size 16 were feeling tight. I did not want to buy new jeans. Instead of a "new year's resolution" I made a birthday promise to ride in a century ride. I worked with Team In Training, through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I was motivated and inspired by the individuals I rode with, who were affected with cancer, I figured if they could go through everything they were going through I could bike ride. I would bike to my horse, ride her, bike to the next town, come back to my horse say good bye and bike home. This was slow, but I was regularly biking 20-30 miles a day and riding Bella for at least an hour-now I felt like an athlete. 6 months later I rode my century ride and volunteered in post-Katrina Mississippi.
I soon found a riding instructor who helped me improve my skills, then I met my now husband. I stopped biking, I had to write a thesis and pass master's comps. I no longer felt like an athlete, but I knew only 1 month, 2 months, 6 months before I had been one.
I moved and got a real job; I stopped riding so much, but I spent time with my horse. I moved again, I got married, I still had my mare, I talked about biking. I got pregnant, I did not ride, but spent time with my mare. I had T, started jogging, working out, riding, began to feel like an athletic person again. Found out I was pregnant with number 2 and the same day put down my mare. I felt adrift, I felt no longer like an athlete. I posted just a few days ago about my return to horses. I have been "sparking" and lifting weights and jogging. I have been doing zumba, I am beginning to feel like an athlete...