Continuing to repost the entries from my previous monthly blogs Back To Eventing and Back To Riding. This was originally posted on the USEA website Tue, 2011-04-19, archived here. Illustration by Jean Abernethy.
At this point in the column, the rot had started to set in. It’s was becoming more obvious that I would not be writing about competition any time soon. They never said, but I have to assume this contributed to the eventual termination of the column. Therefore, I had cause to blame Rodney for the end of my writing opportunities as well as the end of my riding ones. It was a bleak time.
“Along the way, I also wanted to prove to the world that you don’t have to put an age limit on your dreams, that the real reason most of us fear middle age is that middle age is when we give up on ourselves.”
Age Is Just A Number by Dara Torres (Olympic swimmer) with Elizabeth Weil [Broadway 2009]
Swimming is my new out-of-saddle exercise. Given my knees, running is out. Aerobics is paying for the privilege of hopping up and down. Zumba looks awesome on a 23-year-old professional dancer able to move her body in six directions. Given the lateral flexibility of a school horse, it’s just hopping up and down to funky music. In addition to being low-impact and good exercise, swimming has enough complex skills to occupy the chattering monkeys in my head while the rest of me huffs and puffs.
Two Different Worlds
I must stress that I am the farthest thing from a waterbunny. I was a scrawny kid. I sank – repeatedly. This did not engender a life-long love of swimming. My mother swims as if she’s half seal lion, but it has always been an area on which we agree to disagree. Kinda like horses. Flash forward to the beginning of this year. A friend mentioned she used to lap swim. I was searching for exercise and a new activity. This qualified as both.
I’m not used to confronting large amounts of water. I get seasick on boats and bored at the beach. I prefer showers to baths. For the last few decades, the largest body of water in my life has been the 100-gallon pasture water trough.
An aquatic environment is antithetical to a dusty one. I am far more familiar with the latter. The saying goes that every person will eat a pound of dirt before she dies. Those of us who spend time in barns eat that in a year, along with horsehair, dander, and the occasional dash of Kopertox. I’m used to being dirty and covered with sweat, not clean and covered with chemicals.
Plus I can’t get excited about germs. I’ve seen a woman in the dressing room stand on a towel to avoid contact with the floor. I’ve seen another compulsively wipe down the exercise equipment before using it. Perhaps I should care more. However, cleaning stalls while eating leftover pizza long ago burned away any germ phobia. If I were to consider that the water swishing in and out of my ears may have just swished in and out of my neighbor’s armpit, I’d never swim again.
Not So Far Apart
“Relax your shoulders.”
“Find the rhythm.”
“Don’t overthink it.”
My first swimming lesson sounded like every riding lesson. The computerized weight machines even tell me to slow down. The venue changes; the issues don’t.
I wish I could report that swimming has helped my riding. So far it’s mostly left me cranky and exhausted. There are a few moments just after I push off, when I glide through the water without moving, that are the tiniest bit akin to those miracle moments during a jump-off when the tight turns suddenly become wide and the jumps sprout big Xs on the proper take-off spots.
P.S. Apologies for last month’s countdown. Basic math should have indicated that seven months would be greater than the number posted. It’s right this month. I hope.
P.P.S. To access back columns in the USEA archives, check out Rodney’s Facebook page: Rodney aka Perpetual Motion.
Rodney’s Saga repost locations
BTE 1 of 9: How I Won the Training Level AEC
BTE 2 of 9: The Cast Assembles
BTE 3 of 9: The AEC, a Realization in Five Phases
BTE 4 of 9: New Horse Blues
BTE 5 of 9: Buying the Horse is Only the Beginning
BTE 6 of 9: Back To Square One
BTE 7 of 9: Getting to Know You