I remember; I wish; Once; Now

I remember; I wish; Once; Now                 

I remember when the body was not so battered, when it was younger, slimmer, more muscular and more supple. It was toned by bike rides to and from the stables before and after school; it was trimmed by riding horses every single day; it was tempered by vigorous grooming of those same horses and it was strengthened by cleaning stables and tossing straw. The body had equine blood flowing through its genes. Its grandfather was a saddler, his grandfather had been a blacksmith, and there were plenty of farmers in other generations who had all worked their land with the magnificent Shires and Clydesdales. It was a body genetically addicted to Equus caballus.

It used to be very sharp, with lightening fast reactions, it was proactive not reactive. Incidents rarely happened and if gravity was the victor, well the body was more flexible. It would relax into the ground as it landed after a disagreement between horse and rider about velocity, height and direction. It managed to hang onto the reins each time and so avoid the long, ignominious trudge home following the trail of galloping hooves. It returned for repeated doses of training, day after day, week after week, the success of a few steps of “passage” or sailing over the jumps with ease being sufficient opiate to continue the addiction.

I wish the body had been treated with more compassion by time. Now the body creaks as it stiffly eases out of bed; now the arthritic joints are extracting payment for their misspent youth.

 Once the decline started, it happened very quickly. It was retiring from competition that caused it. The body was only riding for pleasure, it slowed down. The mind which worked in tandem with the body was the main let-down, the weakest link. Now the mind was not quite so sharp, the responses dulled. The disagreements with the equine became less anticipated, not expected, the reactions became too slow; the former recoveries turned into ‘prangs’. The falls were still only a few in number but they took a much greater toll, they were no longer ‘bounces’,  they were ‘splats’, the recoveries took longer, days not hours, weeks not days.

The injuries from one fall were so bad that the Medical Fund asked if the body had been in a car accident, the Police asked if the battered face was the result of domestic violence; the children didn’t know how to handle a Mum in hospital looking as if she’d been in a boxing ring. The neck vertebrae had been cracked; the same injury had left Christopher Reeve in a wheel chair. This body had had a extremely lucky escape.

Once horses had been the reason for living, now they’d been the reason for almost dying.

Once the day started and ended with horses being fed and rugged; now it starts and ends with a cuppa and a stretch.

Once the saddles and bridles were soaped and polished every day; now they reside on their racks untouched.

Once the farrier was a regular visitor; now there’s been no visit in years.

Once the weekend competitions were trained for and planned months in advance; now weekends barely register

Once “Hoofs and Horns’ was the magazine seen scattered over the living room; now it’s “Country Patchwork”.

Once the horse float had transported the family equines all over the state; now it transports beds from flat to flat and stores the kid’s excess furniture.

Once I was going to sell all the gear as this battered body no longer needs it; now it has gone to my son and grandsons who have started the cycle again with their younger, fitter, more muscular and more supple bodies. The family addiction to Equus caballus continues.


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