What’s on Your Bucket List?

Photo: Public domain.

What’s on your bucket list? If you’re like me: So. Many. Things.

Some of them simple, some of them complicated. Or expensive. Or “once in a lifetime.” Or “never in a million years.” But they are still items on the list.

From the practical, like learning to speak Italian.

To the goal driven, like qualifying for the AEC’s.

To the wow, like getting to attend Burghley or Badminton (just to watch, of course. Have you seen those jumps???)

Sometimes a bucket list item is something you haven’t ever done, but should have. And could have. And would have. For whatever reason, you just haven’t accomplished it yet, but it is totally doable. That’s the kind of bucket list item I recently crossed off.

I didn’t wake up thinking, “Today I’m gonna delete bucket list item number 23.” Nope. It was just an average Friday morning that started with dropping my son off at school and then heading to the barn to ride. Except it wasn’t. I got all the way to the barn and realized I had left both my jumping bridle and my dressage bridle at my house in an effort to get them clean. Not only was my road paved with good intentions (the bridles didn’t get cleaned) but I found myself without a bridle, which meant I wasn’t going to get ride (I did NOT have time to go all the way home and come all the way back.) Or did it?

I stood by my truck contemplating my predicament. And a foreign thought began to roll around in my adult amateur, not very fearless brain: “Just ride bareback with a halter.” Yeah. That’s a good idea. Wait. What?! While I tried to over-analyze this very unfamiliar notion to the point of not having the time to even think about actually doing it, a junior high version of myself reminding me of how much fun I used to have doing just that: Riding bareback with nothing but a halter. I reminded half a century old self that I still bounced back then and was not in any shape, form or manner in touch with my own mortality when I was thirteen.

But then … I slowed my roll and thought, “Syd the wonder pony is just that. A wonder pony. We’re not talking about running the three-star cross country. It’s just a walkabout the pasture. You. Will. Be. Fine.” After telling the devil of doubt on my shoulder to “Shut up, and go away.” I got the Syd, groomed him and headed towards the water/bank complex to hop on.

Syd is over 17 hands, and I’m 5’5″ with the world’s shortest legs and longest torso. The phrase “white men can’t jump” has never been truer than when applied to me. So … whenever I ride bareback, I use the highest bank to shimmy onto Syd’s couch of a back. This particular day, he was a bit confused, wondering where his bridle was and why I had looped the lead rope through his halter and over his head. However, in typical Syd fashion, once I rewarded his patience with a spearmint, he simply shrugged and stood still while I got on.  After the initial shock of it all, and after a few yards, we both settled down and began to enjoy the ride.

And you know what? It was actually pretty great! Actually it was really great! I found my seat bones (I was kind of amazed they were still in there somewhere), and I actually remembered how to use them to steer! (What a novel idea!) I relaxed and just let the big man walk. Really walk. Freely. Without interference from me. But most importantly, I felt a connection to my horse that was different from what I normally feel. Syd and I have been partners for a long time, so we are of the same mind a lot, but this was different and very cool. I kinda didn’t want it to end. But … time marches on and other duties beckoned. Like work and husbands and kids ….

It wasn’t until I was back in my truck and headed home that it hit me. I just crossed off a bucket list item. How cool is that?! While I am quite sure I would not have done that on any other horse besides my fabulous Syd, I was super proud of myself just the same. I conquered fears; I accomplished something; I felt closer to my horse; and I even learned a thing or two! It was the best kind of time spent with my horse and the best kind of time spent in the saddle (or out of it, as it were.) I think sometimes we get so locked in to our routines of flat one day, fitness ride the next; jump tomorrow in the field, school cross country the next, that we forget that sometimes we just need to take a deep breath and enjoy our partners. And sometimes when we do, maybe we’ll even get the added bonus of crossing an item off those never-ending bucket lists in the process.

Go ride bareback! I highly recommend it!

And go eventing.