Slowly, but surely, our Year of Experiences is drawing to a close. It is hard to believe we are a mere month and a half away from a brand new year. It seems like each year flies by more quickly than the last.
Though it has been a year of pain and sad goodbyes, it has also been a year of tremendous personal growth. This time last year, I had experienced little and was full of fear. Now, I am still far from fearless, but I have made considerable experiential strides. Before, my initial reaction to something new, even if it was something fun, was to quickly decline the opportunity. These days, when I am faced with something new, I am more likely than ever to consider it and even look forward to it!
Thus, the Year of Experiences has been a blessing to me and I would recommend anyone who struggles with fear and change to have a year of experiences as well. Whatever you do, do not go it alone. Let someone who will hold you accountable in on your resolve. I would have skipped out on special opportunities if Eric had not been nearby reminding me of this year’s theme. Riding an elephant, holding a snake, tubing down a mountain, indoor skydiving – all of these experiences have come together to create a freer, more easily excitable, and more confident me.
You Have Never Been on a Horse? Really?
When I was a child, my best friend was truly enamored with horses. I can remember her doing chores to earn money for her horseback riding lessons, but I cannot remember thinking, “Wow. I would love to ride a horse with her.” No, I was a boring child. Park me in front of my favorite movie with some candy and I was as happy as a pig in slop.
Somewhere around age thirty, my boring wore off. In fact, I suddenly wanted to jump off buildings, fly, swim with sharks (not really) – all manner of exciting pastimes. Along with the crazy desires, I finally wanted to engage in normal childhood activities such as riding horses.
When this year began, riding a horse was definitely towards the top of my list. Not only did I know my friend would be proud of me for finally taking the reins, but I knew I wanted to check this rite of passage off my list even if I was about twenty years behind schedule. And, I was looking forward to being able to say, “Yes, I have ridden a horse.” A small, but significant, statement – at least for me. ~smile~
Groupon… Making Fun and Gluttony More Affordable Since 2008
Thanks to Groupon and the amazing folks at Spring Valley Farms here in Central VA, Eric found us an hour-long trail ride package for an affordable price. Knowing it was something I wanted to accomplish this year, he bought the Groupon and surprised me with it! After mentioning it to my sister-in-law, she also bought a trail ride package for two and we scheduled a family ride for a beautiful October afternoon.
We arrived at the stable and I was proud of the fact that I did not feel nervous! Typically, I feel butterflies before I try anything new and potentially dangerous, but not this time. There I was, standing just a few yards away from a stable full of horses and I felt excited! Until…
Riding Would be a Lot More Fun if We Left the Stable
“Who has never ridden before?” Not surprisingly, I was the only one in our group. Michelle, our terrific tour guide, led me towards Pixie. “Just put your foot in the saddle and pull yourself on.” That sounds simple enough… but, not for me. “Is there something I can stand on?” She brought a bucket, placed it next to Pixie, and thankfully I was able to step up and over.
There I was, sitting on the back of this magnificent creature. A creature who can run fast. A creature who has a free will. A creature who can technically throw me to the ground and run away. That is when the butterflies came. Professionals make riding horses seem so simple; but, in that moment, I was having some serious doubts.
As Michelle explained how to steer the horse, I asked, “What do you do if you feel like you are going to fall off?” Her response? “Don’t.” (Eric told me later he had the exact same answer mentally moments before she verbalized hers.) Okay, I am officially freaked out now. ~smile~
Eric, Vanessa, and David (the only pro in our group), got on their horses and began meandering out of the stable towards the trail. Where was I? I was steering Pixie to the left. Unfortunately, she took me in a complete circle and stopped just exactly where she wanted to. So, I tried again making the verbal clicking noise I was taught to make. Again, we went in a complete circle. By the end of the third completed circle, I was shamelessly praying, “Help me, Jesus!” out loud.
About that time, one of the workers came, grabbed the reins, and led Pixie out to the trail. Once we started moving forward, the rest of the ride was a breeze. If you have never ridden a horse before, leaving the stable truly is the most difficult part – assuming, of course, you are riding trained horses.
Hi Ho Silver, Away!!!
Off we all went, riding into the sunset (well, midday sun). The landscape was beautiful and the sky was the bluest blue. Sadly, Eric got to enjoy the view from the back of the pack – the extreme back. I do not recall his horse’s name, but Pokey would have been appropriate. His two speeds were trotting (when Eric motioned the horse to go faster) or slowly moseying – and nothing in between!
Pixie was somewhere in between. She pretty much did what she wanted regardless of what I told her to do – occasionally cutting corners. She did not feel like trotting, so she did not trot. ~smile~ Vanessa’s horse kept up nicely with the trail guide and David’s horse, Daisy, did as well. We did not all get to ride together due to our horses’ varying speeds, but the ride was still quite enjoyable – especially in such pleasant weather.
About forty-five minutes into the ride, my knees began burning. So, I removed them gingerly from the stirrups and stretched. What relief! What I did not know was how sore I would be over the next few days. But, it was worth it!
Sad It Was Over and Thankful it Happened.
We returned to the stable and I felt greatly satisfied. I was a horseback rider. Not only that, but I wanted to do it again and again and again. Some of my experiences have left me with a “glad I conquered it, but I will probably never do it again” feeling. This was more of a “once I get over the aching muscles, I want to come back!” feeling.
As I was riding along the trail, I did feel a sense of freedom. It was as if the world and its problems – they were all too far away to notice. My horse-loving friend once said that as a child all she wanted to do was ride horses as if it was a cure for all her woes. Up until my brief encounter, I could only imagine what she meant. But, after seeing the vast countryside and imagining what it would be like to take off like a shot on the back of a magnificent and noble creature, it began making more sense.
Date Day Experience for You and Your Special Someone!
Flowers, fine dinners, and the greatest Broadway shows can be greatly enjoyable, but there is something simple and fulfilling about trotting through the meadow side-by-side with your special someone. If you are looking for something out of the ordinary to try together, this can be a great place to start.
If you live in the Lynchburg/Roanoke, Virginia area, Spring Valley Farms is an excellent value (especially with a Groupon!). They were kind, worked hard to accommodate us and our scheduling needs, and gave us an excellent experience. If not, let the internet and word of mouth be your guide! Experiencing a trail ride with Eric was a blessing, and I think many couples would appreciate unplugging for a while and enjoying nature together in this way.
When is the last time you and your sweetie left the cares of the world behind and enjoyed something as simple as a horseback ride?