Friday, April 27, 2012

Horseback Riding With Myself

I would love to say that my story with horses has come to a wonderful conclusion.  I dearly love them as I love all animals, but I haven't been able to reconcile my past experiences as well as my new found ones.  I still feel at times ignorant and undeserving of the knowledge and still a bit frustrated that I'm not as good of a horsemen that my fellow riders are.  I'm also insanely jealous of them as well.  Most of them are teenagers or younger and have the most uncanny, if I could say, natural ability to communicate with their equine companions that seem so unreal to me.  And the worst thing about all of this, is how out of place I feel as a 40+ salt and pepper hair, gay man, in a class of female teeny boppers, who can ride circles around me and jump fences, all the while I'm just trying to keep my horse from cutting the corners around the arena.

I'm currently not riding right now; I've had to stop in late 2010 because of health problems that have made it unsafe.   Problems with an untreatable, proximal positional vertigo being the main one as well as excessive weight gain, unpredictable heart fibrillations that cause dangerous lightheadedness, and a still as yet undiagnosed muscle atrophy, weakness, and neuropathy,  have made it difficult to make any progress on anything let alone dressage.  I don't really know if my riding days are over or not.  I hope that I can return to normal health.  But I just can't feel confidence in that happening as things seem to continue to slowly decline.  And to make it worse, other than the vertigo and heart issues, the doctors can't seem to find anything medically wrong with me. 

I've really been missing my time just being around those great creatures.  Grooming, hugging, leaning on, sitting on, smelling their sweat, picking their hooves, pulling their tails, giving them treats, whistling little songs to them while they crowd around me out in the paddock,  rubbing them on the brow and behind the ears until they practically fall asleep while their snotty snout is pressed into my stomach.  I've gotten so close to them now that I have gotten the point where I wish I could be one.  It's that way with all the animals I've ever made a connection to.   I see them as innocent, free spirits, always in the moment, with wonderful beauty and pure unconditional love.  Who wouldn't want to be them? 

Not to get too far off subject, as if there ever is a subject on a free-write post, but ever since I was 5 years old, I've spent much of my waking imagination in silent contemplation wondering what it would feel like to actually be one of the many animals that have occupied my waking sub-conscious.  I say 5 years old because that was how old I was when I had my first lucid dream that involved an animal.  It was a tiger. In that dream I also became a tiger and experienced an intimate and spiritually deep connection to the tiger that appeared to me.  I also felt a strong desire to never want to leave that dream and have pondered the experience off and on for decades since.  I don't know why I still remember that dream so vividly 35+ years later, but it was a life changing experience. One in which I don't really know how to explain, and it continues to be meaningful to me now, as well as many other similar experiences that I've had since, both in waking and non-waking dreams and meditations.  And aside from the apparent, if not superficial, similarity to the comic strip Calvin & Hobbes, it was nothing like Calvin & Hobbes, although I really do love that comic.

Only in recent years have I bothered to seriously look into these dreams to find out more about their possible significance and meaning.  And quite surprisingly, I've found many communities for that aspect of my life spanning from Therianopthy, to Native American spiritual traditions to the Furry Fandom.  So at this point, I can honestly claim I'm a furry and oddly enough, I actually couldn't care less about all the stigma and stereotypes associated with furries. They are my people, drama and all.

So what is the point of me saying all of this?  I don't know,
just to get it off my chest I suppose.  I haven't had a pet in my life for over 10 years.  That last one was a female tuxedo cat, who I still really miss.  We had a very special bond, as I've had with all the cats I've ever had.  She was always begging me to hold her up to the lights so that she could get at the moths.   I don't think I've ever gotten over her death.  She was suffering from an Alzheimer's like disease and it totally fucking sucked to see her go through the states of confusion she often went through.  She was only 12.
(1989-2001) picture taken circa 1994

Anyway, I wish I had the strength to just go down to the riding school again, but I also can't shake the feeling of being out of place there as if I don't belong.  It was easy for the most part to forget about that feeling when I could just jump on my horse and trot around the arena as it was just me, the instructor, and the horse.   But when I'm not riding, I become acutely aware of the dozen people there, and I am the only male.  And of course, the troublesome pink elephant in the arena that I wish wasn't there despite the common stereotype that all male dressage riders are gay.  I don't live in a gay friendly part of the country and there is always someone reminding me of that fact.

Some days I really hate my circumstances.  I really resent the shit my life has now.  And quite often I forget that in many other ways I have it really damn good!   It's as if one aspect of my life got amazingly better while others have reached their shelf life and are about to expire.  And it's those expiring parts that I never had the chance to make something of them.  For each day that passes, I find something new to regret.  

But, to avoid making this post a complete downer, I will include this cropped picture of me wearing my riding boots.  I'm on a horse.

Yeah, yeah, I know, toes forward! 


  1. I found this post very moving: it chimes with much of my own experience with dressage, and I’d be interested to chat with you about this. Like you, I took up riding as an adult. I have also felt very self-conscious as a somewhat overweight middle-aged male in breeches, trying to ride the best I can. Dressage is so hard. You have to be very focused, relaxed and attentive. If you are worrying about how you look, you may not ride well – but paradoxically dressage, certainly at the high end, is very concerned with appearances. It’s like ballet: certain body-types seem to be more highly regarded. Good riders are so beautiful to watch: they and their horse’s bodies seem to move as one. As a novice, you don’t feel like that at all. On the positive side, what you say about not worrying about your appearance when actually riding is so true, and that’s the joy for me: in a good lesson, you are completely absorbed in your riding, in what your horse is doing and what your trainer is telling you to do. It’s the best feeling in the world. Like you, I’m not riding regularly at the moment, not so much for health reasons (but I could stand to lose 20-30 pounds, and lack time and other resources). I miss it so much: even when not riding, being ‘horsey’ is a fundamental part of who I am. ‘Equestrian’ is an orientation, almost like being gay or straight. Thanks for posting the picture of you mounted. What I see is a rider: breeches, boots, schooling whip, gloves and all. You can truly say (as you do) ‘I’m on a horse’, and that’s amazing.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts! I haven't been back on for several years. My health just dived. I'm starting to feel better but it's going to take starting all over again. But I really miss it a lot! Got to do a tiny bit of riding last December and it was invigorating! I really hope to be back on soon!

  2. Sorry to hear about your health - I hope it improves and that you get back on soon. I also did a small amount of riding this year, after three years off. I do think you are still a rider even when you aren't able to ride: it becomes such a big part of you. The problem is that you want to ride the whole time, and unless you are wealthy or a professional that's hard to manage alongside whatever else is going on in your life – I've observed this psychology even among very experienced and committed equestrians. Happy to chat with you offline if you wish: I was hoping my credentials would show up here, but evidently not: you can email me at deepseat2000 at that domain if you'd like to pursue this conversation (I would).


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