"There is nothing so good for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse." Ronald Reagan
What a miserable ten days. A popular, outgoing young man became my police department's first duty death, the victim of a mishap at the hands of another officer. I missed the funeral only because I was fourteen hundred miles away beginning the process of finding an assisted living facility for my mother. Watching the service on a laptop, tears in my eyes, texts from my wife filling in some of the details, I felt estranged and terribly alone.
Today's horseback riding lesson could not have come at a worse time. Tired, jet lagged and self-absorbed, I went only because our cruise in fast approaching, the horse-born shore excursion will be more enjoyable with lessons and it seemed like the thing to do.
The trainer began the lesson expressing condolences. I appreciated that greatly - many people don't know what to say, so they say nothing. Then, she said "Let's focus on something else for a while."
I've taken lessons on and off...mostly off. I know how to make the beasts stop, and go. I'm comfortable when the horse is walking slowly, less so at the faster trot, and the canter, also known as a lope but not quite the run-like-hell.... Eject, eject, eject! So when the subject of loping came up I just chuckled. "That Val, helluva sense of humor."
She was serious. It was terrifying. It was ragged, flailing...amateurish. It was awesome. I got so the horse would keep me on his back as we loped along all the way around the arena. Getting settled - sit back, heels down, hands following the rhythm of the long strides - took every bit of concentration I could muster. I felt strong, powerful...free.
Turns out I needed tonight desperately.