Monday, August 26, 2013

an ode to code in august

After I finished a night run two weeks ago I got back to my car and clicked my phone on and had a message from my dear friend Lauren Rothwell. Lauren remains one of my best friends and, undoubtedly one of the most important people I have ever met in my life for various reasons, and we met because we rode together (competitively against) each other for years. She sent me a picture of Code, with the caption "Look who I found!"

A lot of people that know me today have no idea that I rode horses for upwards of 15 years. I started because I wanted to be like my older sister, and to this day she is still an equestrian. When I got Code I was 15 years old and about to go through the normal teenage angst stage, and he did everything a horse at that age is supposed to do. He gave me confidence, he made me proud, he challenged me, he let me vent to him as I picked out his hooves, he let me cry into his mane, and he gave me an excuse to buy an abundance of white Lifesaver mints. He also did one more thing: He was a complete asshole.

We spent the first two years trying to not bomb through hunter lines, trying to perfect lead changes, trying to get him to go around in something close to a frame, trying to figure out why he thought it was acceptable to take off bucking during what was supposed to be a beautiful equitation rollback. I learned how to fight back when he cornered me in his stall and to instinctually stick my left elbow out while tightening the girth, because he was bound to reach around and try to bite me. At our wits' ends, we decided to try our hand at the 'Jumpers', and this was where we both thrived. Lead changes started to come without asking for them and soon we were floating over 4' courses instead of worrying about fitting in the appropriate amount of strides on a diagonal line. We took championships in the jumper divisions left and right, and often he would reach his head out of his stall and lap up the rest of my granola and yogurt mixture. His show name ('Remedy') was no longer an ironic laugh, but  soulful understanding. I gave up on trying to convince him that clippers weren't terrifying, and took scissors to his mane and muzzle instead. I no longer had to beg him to stand while I was braiding his mane, and he rocked something close to a mohawk when we entered the ring.  

I stopped riding when I was 21 and Code has been out to pasture ever since. Recently a family who we know through the horse world asked to use him for their foreign exchange student to ride on the high school equestrian team. When my mom first pitched this idea to me I felt very weird. A part of me wanted to say "no, he's still mine." but I'm more realistic than that. Another part of me was happy that he would be doing something, and another part of me was slightly worried because I know how he can be. He can be an asshole. He can be scary. He can be terrifying. But he can also be rewarding.  And a teacher. And a forgiver. And a learner. And, I still believe (deep down) that Code has a good heart.  

Lauren spotted him at a high school equestrian meet (what was she doing there? I have no idea, it's a bit out of her element). I sat in my car at the trailhead and asked her for more details. She said he was being really good and taking care of the Spanish boy that was atop him. She said he was being docile and doing everything that he was asked to do. She said he looked good, and that made me happy. I was glad and surprised that he seemed to be mellowing with age. However, on my way home, on the corner of Oakland and Milham, I kind of lost it. I cried a lot, and I wasn't sure why. I was struggling to let go of the fact that someone else was enjoying my horse. The horse that I had worked on for so long, the horse that I had had to figure out and bring to the level that he was once at. And I was thinking, by the time I got home, isn't this what annoys me about people? The inability to let go easily, to walk away and accept what once was, to move on and not let it be a big deal. Don't I lecture people about this when they cry about breakups? Or when they get back together with a shitty boyfriend? Isn't this my lecture? "Get over it, move on, it's not the end of the world, you're wasting your time being sad about something when there's the rest of your life to live." Pot/kettle/black.

It reminds me of my favorite quote of all time, which comes from Chuck Klosterman.  If you haven't read his book Killing Yourself To Live, you need to.  

"When you start thinking about what your life was like years ago - and not in general terms, but in highly specific detail - it's disturbing to realize how certain elements of your being are completely dead.  They die long before you do.  It's astonishing to consider all the things from your past that used to happen all of the time but (a) never happen anymore and (b) never even cross your mind.  It's almost like those things didn't happen.  Or maybe it seems like they just happened to someone else." 

There are certain times when I'm reminded of the equestrian life that I (we) so fully lived. Race mornings feel like horse show mornings. The other day when Cheryl was putting on my swim cap it felt like my mother was helping me get all of my hair under my helmet. It hurts, but it's necessary. I look at my shoes that are caked in mud and blood and think of how we used to have to diligently clean and polish our boots, not to mention the tack. Packing a drop bag reminds me of packing a tack trunk for a show.  

One year, at an awards banquet for our overall champion, I received a brown leather bracelet with a beautiful buckle and the small nameplate "Remedy" on it.  I wore it when we showed and after I stopped riding I put it on my keys. It's still there, and sometimes I wonder how long it will be.

I wouldn't change the equestrian chunk of my life for anything. It taught me a lot about myself, who I was, who I wanted to be and who I didn't want to be, and most of that was due to Code. I raced a 10k this weekend and afterwards went to the equestrian meet (it was in the same town) and saw him. I stood in my sandals and running clothes and I thought how funny it was that in that moment my present life and past life were meeting. I scratched under his mane (which is hilariously long) and he stretched his neck out in gratitude. He then pinned his ears and barred his teeth and I instinctually slapped his neck and forcefully muttered through clenched teeth "Don't you fucking bite me." Some things never will change.

So this is my ode to Code. I feel as though I can never express enough on this subject and what he has meant to me and still means to me. I can only hope that he does a fraction of what he has done for me for someone else. I think that people who have had a horse for a best friend share a certain kind of connection. Horses are of the most therapeutic animals - mentally, physically, and most of all, emotionally.

Tuesday: 20 with Lauren
Wednesday:10 at Custer, 3 with Cohen, 6 at urban herd. 19  on the day
Thursday: swam at the aqua herd!  swimming is hard, swim caps hurt, and Cheryl Pickett is the sweetest person ever.
Friday: 8 with Joe at Custer
Saturday: 6.2 I raced a 10k for the first time this weekend and finished in 46 minutes. It was faster than I was expecting, and I actually kind of enjoyed it! Kim Barnes (a friend from the horse world, how fitting that this made it into this post) was in 3rd and we ran it in together. I don't have the heart to outkick people, I suppose that's the trail runner in me. We both finished hard and strong, and I fought nausea as soon as we stopped. I was delighted with how it went, considering I already had almost 50 on the week and the legs were tired from the bigger back-to-backs early in the week. I was surprisingly sore from this on Sunday, and it amazes me how the roads can really beat you up. I'd still rather run an ultra. But I managed to take 2nd in my AG and 4th OA. Not bad.
Sunday:  nothing. This is mostly because I am lazy and I just didn't feel like running. I also got down on some Two Hearted on Saturday, so I was feeling a bit.. under the weather.
total: 53. For some reason I was thinking I had more than this on this week.  Hopefully I forgot to log a run, but realistically I just found a reason to slack.


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