I've been somewhat down in the dumps lately. I'm going to be 60 in a few months, and even if I continue to have good health, that gives me at most another 15, or at a stretch 20, good riding years, maybe a few more if I'm very lucky. I have some physical ailments - nothing serious, just the stuff that most people my age deal with - some arthritis in various joints and a tendency to back pain that is better than it used to be - my weight is better and I'm fitter than I've been - but which still flares up from time to time. I don't want the good times to end, but watching the decline of my parents and in-laws, and some of the friends I have at church - I have a couple of good friends there in their 80s and 90s - has been both discouraging and instructive.
And then I went for a walk this morning. I often go for a walk before church on Sundays - I don't ride Dawn on Sunday mornings. It was a beautiful, cool fall morning. There was some fog and mist. My walk takes me along a pond, with tall prairie plants and grasses on both sides of the trail. And there were many beautiful spiders' webs - most only a few inches across and some a bit bigger. Some spiders had been so ambitious as to throw strands all the way across the trail to anchor their webs - the trail is a good 8 feet wide - I stepped carefully over those I could see to avoid breaking them.
When I looked closely at the webs, the spiders were tiny, waiting with their legs outstretched for something to hit their webs.
All these spiders had built their webs, not overnight, but early in the morning before I walked by - none of the webs had dew on them. So the webs they had the night before had been destroyed, perhaps by the wind and rain we had last night. And they rebuilt them, because that's what spiders are supposed to do, and they did it well and I expect somehow that the building of the webs was satisfactory to them.
That was a deep realization for me. It's not about permanence, or having it always turn out right - it's about doing it for the sake of the thing done, over and over and over again until the doing is completed and the race is run and the task completed. So I ride, almost every day, and dealing with whatever physical ailments and fears come up. I'm a very experienced rider, but am I somewhat worried about riding on the trail - sure, I am - and by the way (contrary to what some might think) this has nothing to do with the training methods I use, it has to do with my age and my own psychology, not the competence or training of the horses I ride. Pie still has a big spook in there, in very specific circumstances - he's not spooky by disposition - either due to eyesight issues or whatever, and at my age I'm no longer certain that I can ride through everything he can do - although I most likely can. He's a very good horse and there's no bad in him at all, but any horse can spook or something can go wrong - as my friend had happen to her yesterday. And I hate trailering - it makes me very nervous - although I've done a lot of it, including 1,000-mile runs to and from Colorado - I find the responsibility of having a live load incredibly nerve-wracking.
My friend's accident yesterday also brought fully to mind what I experienced in 2011 from my own accident, although fortunately she wasn't as seriously injured as I was.
Do my fears that mean that I won't go on the trail, or won't trailer? - no, not at all. I believe that like the spiders, it's our job to remake each day anew - it doesn't happen on its own. I have three fine horses, and I expect to keep being with them, and riding them (or horses I may have in the future although these three may turn out to be my last horses) every day as we are able, for as long as I can - I hope into my 80s or even 90s. But those years are not so far away as they once were. I hope, as I age and my physical abilities decline - there is no fountain of youth despite what some may think - that I will find a way for horses to always be in my life - I expect I will as they have been an essential part of me since I was a small child. I lost my way a bit in mid-life, but now that the horses are back in my life I don't want them to ever leave again.