Sunday, March 17, 2019

Did I Ride In My Last Rodeo?

Spending that many hours in the saddle gave a man plenty of time to think. That's why so many cowboys fancied themselves Philosophers.
Charles M. Russell

I'm no philosopher. Far from it. But I have to say that a week ago while spending a couple hours on a real horse, I did a great deal of thinking. 

As a follower of Next Tribe, an online magazine for bold women 45 to 60+ years of age (and as a member of my local tribe) a friend and I considered one of their retreats. From what I'd read of the destination -- Troncones, Guerrero, Mexico -- it was a sleepy community of small outdoor restaurants and shops. The retreat facilities at Present Moment offered a beautifully tended landscape and Palapa-style bungalows with no windows. Activities available for choice were yoga and meditation, cave hikes, massages, kayaking, writing, photography, and horseback riding on the beach. 

Other than the additional surfing and boogie boarding, the trip sounded like a nightmare to my husband. But to me? I'm 62. The women I'd met in Next Tribe thus far were fascinating, creative, and adventurous. Why the hell not? 

My friend, Beth, and I arrived in Zihuatanejo, Mexico and took a 30-minute taxi ride to Troncones, the small surfer village void of touristo crowds, marinas, and glitzy hotels. 

Upon arrival, we quickly made 20 new friends of smart, accomplished, well-traveled and fit women. We ate fresh fruits and vegetables and fish from the sea. The uncrowded beaches and a sunset to die for greeted us as well. How could this not be perfect?

Perfect it was. Of course, most of the women were younger than me, yet a couple older. All were in much better shape than me. But, hey. I'd had eight months from the time I signed up until the trip to practice my yoga. That I started two weeks before I left didn't seem to matter. Ahem. 

The yoga hut
Next Tribe had a yoga session each morning at 8. Surprisingly, I was up that early. But I walked right past that lovely group of women up there striking poses. I don't exercise first thing in the morning. In fact, I don't talk to people first thing in the morning. I poured myself a coffee from the open air restaurant and found an Adirondack chair on the beach and wrote my morning pages, allowing the rising sun to warm my Tired-of-Winter body. 

My view when I looked back at those who move in the morning.

As class after class took part in all kinds of yoga and practices all day, I waited for Gentle Yoga at 4pm. When I got in there and found out it was an hour and half long class, I winced. My yoga tapes I'd been doing so smuggly at home only lasted 22 to 28 minutes. What had I done? 

But I loved it. The waves crashing in my view, the sea breezes blowing on my face. Comfort. Pleasant moments. The next day's class I was there and ready. When I followed the leader and looped a belt around my bottom and enclosed my feet in the loop in a suspended Indian-style grip where I thought my groin muscles would detach from my torso, the instructor asked if I felt supported. I said I hoped there wasn't a fire. I had no clue how to get myself out of the loop. 

But this immersion into something I didn't know gave me confidence I could still learn something new as well as the old. When it came time to sign up for a sunset horseback ride on the beach, I was in. I'd ridden horses all my life, starting when I was 7. At camp on Lake Okoboji in Iowa every year, I signed up to get the horses brushed and saddled every morning. Often I went with my brother or husband up to Evergreen, Colorado to exercise and ride a friend's horses -- including the day my knee wiped itself off on the fence post netting the meniscus tear I ran on for the next twenty years before getting that baby trimmed up. 

My last ride had been up in the Black Hills while exploring South Dakota with my sons. I had my middle son in the saddle behind me and a car came near us with a yippy little dog. Scared my horse and he freaked and backed down into a deep gully beside the road. I didn't freak. I quickly guided the horse back up the hill and safely onto the trail, my son told to hang tight.

I knew how to ride a horse. 

When it came time for Next Tribe to ride, about 20 horses gathered on the beach. It seemed the ranch hands were assigning horses to my fellow riders. 

All of a sudden, there was only one horse left -- at the end of the pack. An old plug, just like me. When I placed my foot in the stirrup, I discovered I couldn't get my old ass up in the saddle. I couldn't plant that bad knee and use it to thrust myself up there. Nor did my shoulder strength appear to exist.

I'd seen the young caballerros help up one or two others, so I wasn't completely horrified, but I have to say the two young men who arrived to get my errant leg up, over, and across the horse weren't quite certain where to push. I'm not certain exactly where they did. I hope I haven't twisted those boys for life. 

Alas, I was aboard. Mission accomplished as far as I was concerned. I knew what to do next. Only I didn't. I'd worn the wrong shoes. No traction to keep my feet lodged in the stirrups. I also appeared a rookie, free hand clinging to the saddle horn. I attempted a photo of myself. Does it look like I'm having fun?

My bad knee didn't like the position it was in and I recalled that last ride in the Black Hills was in 1998, a mere 21 years before. But, so what? We were only walking down the beach. How hard could this be? My horse's name was Caterina and I patted her neck and said, "Get me through this alive, Caterina."

Off we went.
My traveling partner -- looking like she was born on that horse.

All was well until we took a turn and started climbing up through the rocks. My horse wanted to wipe my knees on them. Well, I let her know that wasn't going to happen to me again and I steered her away from that trick. But then she stumbled on the rocks. And stumbled again. 

Now, I know horses can do this to you on purpose, but as I patted her side and called Caterina by name, I assured her we didn't have to stumble. "Just watch where the f---- you're going."

We got through that and cruised along another beach until the next set of rocks, where my old plug stumbled again, greatly. I found myself perpendicular to a rock and I'm pretty sure I yelled out "Holy Shit" or something like that as my horse finally uprighted and stumbled again before coming out onto the next beach. 

I started to look at the places we passed on the beach. I hoped for a hotel with a bar. Me and Caterina would tie up and wait for them to come back. Have a few shots of tequila. 

No hotels. No bars. Surely we'd turn around soon. 

The sun set and in its magnificence, I tried to get my phone out of my back pocket so I could take a photo. I decided hanging on was a better idea as we came across more rocks to stumble upon. As the sun slipped into the ocean, we arrived at our third long beach and I was certain we'd stop here and some van or bus would take us back to our place. If my horse couldn't find her footing in the light, she sure as hell couldn't find it in the dark. 

But, we turned around. To go back the same way. I was so done. Which is when I started doing that philosophizing/praying the artist Charles Russell refers to in that quote above. 

Please, please, please horsey, whatever your name is again. 
Get me home safely.
Please do better on the rocks.
Get this old broad back alive. Please?

This is also where I began evaluating the choices I make. Even though when I turned 60 I agreed to go after whatever opportunities I'm given, I decided a less challenging approach might be in order. Yes, sitting on that horse, fear entered into my philosophizing.  

While I was doing the Plato thing, that old horse passed over those rocks just fine. When we cleared the last of them and had a free ride the rest of the way back, I again contemplated my future. As much as I took in the beauty of the setting sun, the opportunity to be present in this breathtaking place with incredible women, I wanted off the horse. And it was okay. Just as I'd walked off a ski slope several years before after 40 years of snow skiing, I felt no regret with the decision. There just comes a time when you know some of your riding days are done. 

The next day, I was back in the saddle. 

A saddle that fits me fine. My horseback riding days are done, but to answer the question of this essay? Did I ride in my last rodeo? Yes, but I'll still go to the rodeo.

You bet I will. Because at this one I also had THE BEST BOOGIE BOARD RIDE OF MY LIFE!



Related Posts with Thumbnails