Twelve Minutes in Heaven with An Ecogold Pad

Some days need to be timed right down to the minute in order to fit everything in. When I slipped into my car to head out to the barn for a lesson, I was crossing my fingers for smooth sailing. I had to be out of there pronto after riding in order to get to a meeting.

And then, in the middle of the freeway… Traffic came to a standstill. I slid down in my seat, sighing. I waited, and waited, and waited. Eventually, I turned my engine off and consulted Google Maps, only to find out that the whole highway was closed due to an accident. As I texted my trainer an FML-toned message, I saw cars pulling into the emergency lane in order to reverse the entire one kilometer to the nearest exit. I rested my head on the steering wheel, thinking about my rapidly diminishing saddle time.

Two hours and fifteen minutes later, I rolled into the barn – hot, mad, and so frazzled that I had to spend ten minutes looking for my keys, which had magically disappeared in the half a second it took to put my boots on. I stalked over to grab a wheelbarrow, muttering obscenities and checking my watch. No time for riding.

I know that bareback riding doesn’t work for everyone (I’m looking at you, high-withered OTTB), but man, does it ever solidify your core and remind you how amazing it feels to sit on a horse.

Not to get all mushy, but I am a firm believer that horses are very empathetic creatures. As I approached this horse’s stall, his nose squished out at me from between the bars. I pulled open the door and he put his head over my shoulder, very “oh sweetie, did you have a bad day?”. Horses are exasperating – but man are they ever a balm for the weary soul.

I looked at my watch again. I’d be damned if I didn’t sit on this horse, even for a few moments.

Stall. Paddock. Waters. Grain. Hay nets. All done at warp speed. Brushes. Boots. Helmet. Bridle. No saddle – no time. As I reached for his (very cushy) Ecogold saddle pad with extra shim inserts, I wondered whether this slightly green horse had ever been ridden bareback. No time to text his owner – only time to send a little prayer to the Gods of Stickability.

I clambered up onto the mounting block. I had 12 minutes, plus cool-out time afterward. Make it the best twelve minutes of your life, I thought, smiling for the first time in what felt like eons.

After a day of everything falling apart, all the pieces pulled themselves back together. The horse seemed amused, not frantic, at the missing piece of tack. The late afternoon sun did that cool and heavenly ray-beam thing through the rafters of the indoor. I relaxed, the horse relaxed, and glory be, the saddle pad did not move an inch.

Walk, trot – wait, did I have time for a little canter? As I gingerly asked, I got a squeal and buck. I laughed. I had spent weeks beating myself up about the return of my stiff left arm – but hey, I could sit a bareback buck! That counts for something, right? Big picture.

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I know that bareback riding doesn’t work for everyone (I’m looking at you, high-withered OTTB), but man, does it ever solidify your core and remind you how amazing it feels to sit on a horse. I once heard the feeling of a well-ridden canter compared to that of a melting candle – and I felt it. I got a huge surge of gratitude – for this gelding who was clearly helping out a stressed-out homie, for this freaking pillow of a saddle pad, for all the years I spent working away at a sport so that I could sit back and enjoy it this much.

Sometimes it takes a jolt out of your regular routine to give you a little perspective – even if it’s only for 12 minutes. I checked my watch: I had just enough time for one more extended canter down the long side…

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