For now, I am (mostly) content to pursue my wintertime focus on my own fitness and study. I even found time to read a novel, last week. But with the new year comes the urge to plan.
I’ve already spent a daydreamy hour with a calendar and the AERC website, mapping out the upcoming ride season. I glanced back over Aaruba’s and Consolation’s conditioning logs that charted each ride’s length in time and distance. I even pulled up my old spreadsheet — remember? — designed to plan training sessions and equine workouts for the entire year.
I didn’t fill it in, though.
Tell me, have you noticed the change since The Barb Wire began in 2008? Have you seen my inflexible schedule bow under the pressure of competing interests, financial shortfalls, emotional shakeups, human and equine injuries — in short, under real life? Have you observed my growing ability to accept this?
To a personality such as mine, which thrives on ironclad commitment, such flexibility tends to feel like weakness. So what if I had a hard week? I must get through eight training sessions over the weekend because I said I would. Because I’ll never get where I’m going if I don’t take a step today. Because time waits for no man.
There’s truth to that. I took on five, untouched Barbs, which have since foaled out to make eight, plus a troubled Arabian whose mind took a year of groundwork to rebuild. None of these horses are getting younger. Or cheaper. If I want to use them, I must train them, and the clock is ticking.
But do you see the flaw? It’s a common one, so familiar that it virtually disappears inside my argument with myself. Yet, there it is: The same, old failure to distinguish between journey and destination. Worse, the assumption that an ultimate destination even exists.
To be fair, at one time, there really was a destination. I wanted to compete in endurance. But now I have arrived. I do endurance. And I love it more than most things in life. Here’s the part I didn’t expect: For all that I enjoy racing, and all that I learn from it, the thing itself is less illuminating than the road that got me there.
The real heart of horsemanship is not at the crowded start, nor on the trail with twenty miles behind and thirty to go, nor among friends at the award dinner come evening. It is at home, in the round corral, amid the dust and sweat and sun. It is in the glassy eye melted black with trust, the rush of breath and lowered head, the silent conversation that magics us from two to one.
Endurance is a thrill, but icing is nothing without the cake.
And so, 2011. This is a year to enjoy the journey. Acey is ready for miles of discussion to safely direct her exuberance. Ripple has been backed, but only just. Her brother Crackerjack is about ready to get serious. I really want to spend more time with Sandstorm.
And there’s Consolation — finally a partner, for all our trials. I hope the road leads us to some new rides this year. With luck, we’ll explore a bit of Oregon and Utah. Perhaps we’ll try a 75. Perhaps not. We’ll take it as it comes, and remember to enjoy the ride.
Here’s to another round.