Good Choice

Gale force winds greeted us, our first Saturday back. I don’t exaggerate: Things get pretty blowy round here, and speeds of up to 100km/hour are a feature of January.

These weren’t quite that strong but still; the elements are always an element when you’ve got a lesson outside.

There are two lessons every hour of a Saturday, and as much as it would help build their little characters, the children always get to be inside in inclement weather.

I’d had Cathal for my first Wednesday lesson back and I thought maybe I’d take Liam. I didn’t want to fall back into the habit of having Cath all the time, because it was so easy to do. At the end of last year, I’d finally gotten accustomed to Liam’s stride and I didn’t want to lose the muscle memory.

Liam, just standing around, looking spooked
“I think I’ll take Liam today,” I said in passing to my instructor Bairbre as I made my way through the barn.

A pause. “Okay,” she replied.

I had time to consider that pause as I changed into my boots, put on my back protector, my gloves, my hat. The wind tore around the corrugated steel roof, moaning like Halloween. As I zipped up my fleece and another gust rattled the roof, I changed my mind and went and got Connell.

‘Good choice,’ Bairbre said as she shut the gate behind the group and checked Cath’s girth.

It was. The ride was bedlam, with half the horses spooking in the beginning and the other half spooking at the end (except for Cath, unflappable as ever). We could barely hear the shouts from the ground and Cathal and I served as the brakes for a particularly fractious pony who kept charging ahead at the slightest fright. Liam, who is spooky AF, would have made a meal of all of it.

Would I have learned something if I’d taken Liam? Undoubtedly. But there was no reason not to be smart, to take it easy on the first Saturday back, and to feel safe.

Best thing of all about that choice? I made it myself. Even after feeling like I’ve been riding independently for… six years now, it’s still a thrill to decide something for myself, and in this case, to make a decision that foregrounds my wellbeing. That never gets old.

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