Thursday, January 01, 1998

Why Do I Ride? - Nick Warhol

Because of yesterday. I spent 30 minutes in my own personal version of heaven. I was riding my young Arabian gelding with one of my best riding buddies in a beautiful, cool, shaded redwood forest on some perfectly manicured single track trails. My horse can still get a little nervous when he is out front, but he is getting more and more bold with each ride. We walked ahead of our friend and her horse along the perfect wooded trail. We made it down to the river in 60 minutes: he was being a brave horse. He looked at all those Arabian-horse trail goblins, but he held his confidence and did not spook. He got nervous a few times, but I calmly asked him to proceed. Each time he survives a goblin, he drops his head and licks his lips. He is getting there, I keep telling him as I pat his neck.

He is beautiful, this horse. A big, strong, flashy chestnut with four white stockings, a big white blaze, and lots of energy. I hope he will be a great endurance horse someday, but for now we are doing conditioning, and together we are strengthening our relationship. Although he is spectacular to look at, it`s what inside that makes him special. He and I are becoming a team.

We arrived at the river- both horses drink nicely. We splashed around in the creek, with the cool water coming up to our stirrups. We headed back up the trail, and I suggested we do some aerobic conditioning. My friend Jean said: "YES!" My horse and I are leading, so I ask him for a nice, easy trot. Here is where it all began. He moves out up the climb, threading his way up the mountain side, staying right on the sculptured single track trail. He is trotting up and up, I am balanced on his back, posting easily with each of his huge, smooth strides. We are flying up the trail, yet we are in total control. No pulling on his mouth: my subtle weight shifts in the saddle bring the desired speed. I glance over as we bend around the switchbacks on the trail: there is Jean and her wonderful horse giving chase. He wants to stay with my horse: we let them go together.

Up, up the trail we go. The climb is not steep, but consistent. We weave between trees, rocks, and into the dense forest. My horse is looking at things, but is in some kind of relaxed state he has not been in before. We are moving up the beautiful mountain side with the grace of a gazelle, and he is confident! He takes me around turns, up and down slight rises, all the time moving in an effortless motion. He is so strong, he is barely breathing hard. I smile as we swoop around some of the switchbacks, when he glances back for his buddy. Orion is always there, following us. We stretch out into a big trot, where he effortlessly gobbles up huge tracts of trail. Slowly now, we are threading through trees. We dive between the trees, moving with the grace of a giant-slalom skier. It is silent, except for the sounds of his hoofs on the soft trail, and some soft branches that glance off my helmet.

We come to a tight turn- I ask him to walk, which he does instantly. Three steps, bend around a fence, he checks for his buddy, then it`s that powerful trot again. We breeze along a tight trail with a long drop off to one side. Neither of us are concerned- we are one, and we are confident. The trail finally reaches the summit, and we burst out of the shadows into the bright sunlight. He does not want to stop, but the trail is over! He comes to a nice walk, waits for Jean and Orion, then turns his head to look at me. Yes, my friend, that was fun.

That`s why I ride. Sometimes it can be a challenge, but for that brief three miles and 30 minutes, the world was mine. I was lucky enough to share it with Shatta.

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