I’m a bundle of nervous energy as I make my final preparations for my week at Boot Camp for Exercise Riders this morning. I have a fairly long number of items on my ‘possible liability’ list, but thankfully I have a couple of items on my ‘absolute asset’ list. My number one asset is “the mighty Bender”, and he’s one of my favourite four legged friends. Yep. I'm taking my own horse to camp. Cool Bender is a 16 year old thoroughbred who was born at my parent’s farm, and raced for them from ages 2 to 9. In 58 starts at five race tracks he had 14 wins, and won multiple stakes races. He’s a gem of a horse, and I’ve ridden him in the mountains on trail rides, in horsemanship clinics, a reining clinic and taken jumping lessons on him.
He’s been an equine instructor at Olds College for the Exercise Rider program before, so he knows the ropes. Bender moved from his outdoor paddock of leisure to his stall in the McClellan Arena at Olds College yesterday afternoon, and he’ll be waiting for me this morning. He’s full of oats, and might not take kindly to me getting on when all he’s had to do for two years is look cute for his carrots and apple treats, but I do enjoy his immense personality and love that I will get to embark on my exercise rider journey with him. I always loved watching him gallop in the morning, and his win photos are in places of pride in my home. I might not know how to do this, but he does.
I’ve packed up the small mountain of supplies I've collected to get me through the week (Advil, Epsom Salts, Robaxacet - check), spare socks, spare gloves, water bottles, strong coffee to give me a kickstart for early morning chores, running shoes and gym wear for fitness class, pens and a brand new notebook for classes, external battery to charge my iPhone so I can Tweet, Facebook, Periscope and Instagram between classes.
Yesterday I swept the cobwebs off my paddock boots and dug out my helmet and half chaps from the plastic storage tote where they have languished for the last couple of years. My friend Diana loaned me chaps and flak jackets (in two sizes to accommodate winter riding attire). Last night I tried on the entire ensemble which should have made me at least look the part. I felt like the Pilsbury Dough Boy encased in a suit of armor! Add this to the ‘liability’ list! And then I tried to step up onto a kitchen chair. Epic Fail are the words that come to mind! Suffice to say, ‘legging up’ is going to be challenge! Poor Bender – let’s hope he’s ready for this!
I always tell our jockey to bring my horse and themselves home from the race “safe and sound” and I’m going to give myself the same words of wisdom this morning. Of course, I’ve also heard the words “ride him like you stole him”…