What the heck do riding and writing have in common? For one thing, a peculiar stab at alliteration. But other than that, how could sitting on a chair at a desk and staring at a blank page be like sitting astride a live horse surrounded by soaring scenery? At first glance, you might answer, nothing. These two activities could not be farther apart. One requires movement and strength, the other stillness and thought. But anyone who has pursued both will understand. There is a secret contained in the essence of these disparate vocations that joins them in my heart.
Nothing has ever drawn and held me like horses. Nothing, that is, except writing. With horses, whether riding or grooming, or even mucking stalls, I am both lost and found, consumed and set free. Their scent and sentiency is so alluring as to be addictive. So it is with writing. The characters begin to live, breathe, think. Their world and stories emerge from my imagination onto the page, and I am one with them, wherever they are.
Not only that, but it is in the rhythm of the horse where I find myself conceivingnew stories and ideas. I am standing on my horse’s left side with my right hand slipped into a curry comb and the other grasping a stiff brush. Curry comb first in circular motions against the lay of the coat to loosen dried mud and sweat. One, two three circles. The brush follows in long strokes down the flat muscles of his neck. One, two, three strokes. Move to his shoulder, repeat. Move down to his side, repeat.
I can do this in my sleep. My horse is leaning into the rhythm now. He knows it well. I have been grooming horses like this for well over thirty years; my body knows it well too. Muscles have memory, my friend the physical therapist says. I do not have to think, I have only to allow and to follow. So I do not think, I simply do, and my mind is free to wander where it will. How will my protagonist get out of her latest scrape? I can see her figuring it out. My mind can follow her and take notes while my body and heart are with my horse.
My family knows better than to speak to me when I am working with a horse or working on writing—which, as you can see, I frequently do simultaneously. I will not hear or answer their call, for I am somewhere else and can remain in that somewhere else a long time.
Yet, occasionally I go to great lengths to put off or avoid both riding and writing. Some days, anything would be better than mucking another stall or starting another chapter.
For to begin—riding or writing—is to keep going, to the profound neglect of everything else. But to submerge myself is bliss. On a good day, my horse glides beneath me as if we were one. My fingers slide across the keyboard as if divinely inspired. On a bad day, I wonder who that was, that woman who was in the flow. So, sometimes, instead of riding, I peruse catalogs of equine equipment until I have no time left to ride, or immerse myself in the minutiae of the writing business until I have no time left to write.
This is the shared secret of my two passions: Both are meditation and movement. Both are time well spent while both take time away from everything else.
Now, I must hurry—because I’ve been writing, and it’s time to go riding.