Notes on Riding Tessie this Summer

Photo by Gayla Creason

Carol said I should ride Tessie as much as possible because she needs to build up her muscles to do what I ask her. And she is fat. As with my writing, I have found a little bit of work, consistently can carry us forward. Carol says we can get a lot done in a half hour.

But I am bone dog tired, with more muscles than just the riding ones aching. My legs ache a dull ache like a nasty headache. They don’t want to walk first thing in the morning. As a young person I was young and foolish and kissed a man under a tree in moonlight in March and ticks crawled over us so badly we took separate showers to wash them off. (I wasn’t ready to shower with a man. He was kind.) A few days later this ache set up in my muscles. And has returned every so often with an exhaustion that feels like grief. I do not have Lyme. But I do grieve. I never would have thought ticks would be as dangerous as they are.

I knew if I didn’t ride despite feeling like crap, I might lose the thread and leave Tessie in the paddock — the fear, inertia setting up and pushing me away like it did last summer. So I loaded her into the trailer, climbed aboard and began walking, then trotting. Carol has suggested I collect her for a few strides and I have felt Tessie’s power and it isn’t so frightening because she is in my hands. And then I let her stretch her head and neck out. I can tighten my calf muscles and she will move away from them. I can exhale and she will drop back a gait, coming down slow. Carol has told me to take up the posture of a trail rider, with one hand on my thigh, one on the reins in order to feel myself settle into the saddle, actively relaxed like I own my place riding her. And for so long I haven’t owned my place because I have been awash in fear.

I’ve felt Mark Russell’s presence as I’ve moved into finding the quiet joy of riding Tessie, something he brought back to us by wiggling our energy field when we took a clinic from him.  He was a grounded man, grounded in spiritual practice, grounded in horses.  When I wrote about being afraid last fall and people got on my case, Hela, his widow, offered to ask Mark to help, but I declined because I figure why ask a  mortal when I can ask Tessie’s creator, my creator, for help. But without asking, I felt like Mark himself had come by as I settled into looking forward to riding Tessie, and afterward feeling like I’d taken a cool swim in a slow moving river.

Only this time it’s Carol walking beside us, teaching us how to connect through hands and seat and leg and voice. I was less tired than when I loaded Tessie to head for home. I felt better, almost as if Tessie had given me her power, a power I was afraid of, her gift to me that I couldn’t accept before this.

When Tessie offers me her forward trot or canter I am not afraid. I look forward to our time together, how light she can be, how she dissolves my exhaustion. Mark Russell said he’d teach me how to dance with her. I remember asking him how he knew that was a dream. Well, he started us down that road and we found our way to Carol who is teaching Tessie and I how to dance, how to be so close she hears my breath and my thought.

Holy writ says we are supposed to bear one another’s burdens and somehow I feel like Tessie is taking mine, replacing the fog with a mind that has finally cleared. I want to sit down and write. Poems are beginning to trickle in.

Photo by Gayla Creason