Me and Shadow Dancer, together at last.
Those of you who follow my blog may remember a few months ago when I wrote “Unrequited Love”, an entry about my beautiful, black Tennessee Walker named Shadow Dancer. In that entry I wrote about the frustration of not being able to take our relationship to the ultimate level and ride my beauty.
Every day for the past few months Shadow Dancer would spot me as soon as I walked out of the house and she would come trotting eagerly up to the fence, extend that beautiful long neck over the wire and nicker for me. It was if, each day, she was asking me: “Is today the day?” And each day I had to tell her: “No. Not today my girl, maybe tomorrow.” as I stroked her face and scratched her behind her ears.
Horses have a way of choosing people and from the first day she came to Almosta Ranch, Shadow Dancer had picked me. From the first day we had a bond. I remember when she was unloaded from the trailer; she walked directly up to me and lowered her head to be petted.
Her effect upon me was powerful and instantaneous. That first day….standing there so strong, tall, and beautiful with her sleek black body glistening in the afternoon sun and her long flowing mane draped over one side of her long neck. I looked deep into those soft, brown eyes and I saw the challenge there. “I will be your’s if you can handle me.”
And I never wanted anything so much in my life.
Mel has laughed and told me more than once that I definitely have more than one woman in my life. Being the superb horsewoman she is, Mel instantly recognized the bond between Shadow and myself and, all kidding aside, she welcomed it even more than I did at first.
Due to health issues I had all but given up on ever climbing into the saddle again but this new mare reawakened my desire. Suddenly I wanted to be in the saddle again more than almost anything I have ever wanted in my life.
So for the past five months, each day, I would take inventory of my health and each day, I would judge myself not ready to make the try. I’m not sure what made today any different. I know that two days before today, as I sat in front of my computer, I suddenly had a flash of clarity. I realized that what was holding me back even more than my ailments was a deeply seated fear I had of trying to ride and failing.
Fear of failure. I made up my mind right then and there that on Thursday morning I was going to ride. Succeed or fail, I would not let fear decide the issue.
So Yesterday morning I showered and slipped into my jeans and boots, walked into the living room and told Mel: “Today’s the day I’m going to ride Shadow Dancer.”
Mel was out of her chair in a shot and happily lead the way to the barn. I think she had been looking forward to this day even more than I had been. This time, when Shadow Dancer met me at the fence, I petted her gently and whispered in her ear. “Yes. Today’s the day sweetheart.”
Mel slipped the halter on Shadow’s head and we led her into the barn where I spent a good thirty minutes brushing her, petting her, and softly reassuring here that everything was going to be alright.
You see, Shadow Dancer was a rescue horse. She had been a winner on the show circuit but had been abused by a thoughtless owner and she had not been ridden in over a year. It was going to take a huge leap of faith on her part to let me up on her back, or any human for that matter.
Mel and I worked together putting on all the horse’s equipment on her. Mel slipped the bit in her mouth gently and the bridle over her head while I put on her blanket and saddle and cinched up the girth strap. Then Mel led her slowly out into the pasture and lunged her for a few minutes, letting her trot in a circle getting use to the weight of the saddle and the feel of the bit in her mouth and to work off any excess nervous energy she may have.
Finally it was time. I approached her quietly, putting aside the nagging pain in my joints and the slight dizziness that caused my step to falter, and I took a hold of the reins. I put one hand on the saddle horn, took a deep breath, and stepped up into the saddle.
It was then the magic happened. The balance was there as if it had never left and she stepped off into a slow walk as we stopped being man and horse, but melded into one creature. I could feel every muscle in her great body through my legs. She felt my hand holding the reins and commanding her.
Years fell away from me like leaves from a tree on this beautiful Fall morning. As we came to the end of the pasture and entered the forest I felt like I was fifteen again and king of the world, on the back of my beautiful horse.
After a bit I turned her back toward the barn and headed out of the trees. As we reentered the open pasture I gave her slack in the reins and let her pick up her pace. We flew across the pasture and I found myself laughing at the pure joy of the feeling. I have not laughed like that in years.
So now the ride is over and I did not fail but it is not the end. Now Mel and I are going to finally take an active part in our local Trail riding club to which we belong but have never rode with. My dearest hope now is to have many more such days riding my beloved Shadow Dancer along side my beautiful wife Mel.
Side by side….we will ride.