I got back in the saddle after 25 years. It is like a bicycle: you never forget! Muscle memory and instinct lead you on. This is why it is good to try these sports when you are a fearless child: skiing is another example. It is very hard for an adult to get on skis, skates or on a horse if he hasn't tried it as a child.
But riding as an adult is another adventure! I have consciously discovered its benefits, both physical as well as mental. When I rode as a kid, like any other activity, I just took it literally. Get on a horse, follow instructions if you hear and grasp them and pretty much not be very concerned about its secondary effects, its purpose. Just ride!
Now I get on a horse with a purpose. I am here to exercise. I know its an excellent sport that emphasizes the working of your lower body muscles. For all women to know: it really works the inner thighs! As a pilates junkie, I get on the horse with the same determination as I "saddle" my reformer machine, the leather reigns and stir ups adding to their commonality. I also sit with a good posture, I am in control of my muscles, especially my core, and I concentrate. The instructor couldn't help noticing: "any instruction I give you and you are like a machine, you just implement it. That is good, but relax!!!!!!!" In his French it sounds like "detends toi!"
I was surprised that he told me that, that he came up closer and asked me to loosen up my jaw, the way my bikram instructor advises me to. I tried to explain that I loved being on the horse, the proximity to an animal I prefer to others. I wanted to speak of the fear I feel when the horse speeds up but the confidence I have in my ability to hold on, to remain in control. It would have been too long of a paragraph for a class setting so I tried to relax, to no avail.
At my third lesson, I rode the horse with a different mental state. I had come in the early morning, half angry, half determined to change the course of my daily routine, preoccupied with various issues.
I got on the horse and I rode with passion. I spoke to it, pressed my legs with energy, stopped thinking about my posture, and was no longer stiff.
The horse sensed it, his rythme changed. I spoke to it in murmurs of an idiom I cannot recall. The wind was in my face, I held on with strength, the fear was in my heart and the instructor called out: "that's it! You are finally relaxed! You should see your smile!"