Of all the many, many things I’ll miss about the Bay Area, I’m fairly certain that I’ll miss Redwood Ranch the most. Last year, while I was figuring out how to get myself settled in to life out west, I decided I had to get back into my lifelong passion: horseback riding. I’ve been riding and showing horses for most of my life, but it got difficult to support after college (read: it got difficult to support without parents footing the bill). It had been almost three years since I had last ridden, and I was nervous when I showed up for my first lesson at Redwood. But even after that first lesson back, I was reminded why I love riding so much.
1. THE HORSE. I know it might sound cheesy, but there’s nothing like getting a massive animal to trust you as much as you trust him (or her). It’s a true partnership. On my third lesson at Redwood, my trainer put me on a spunky Thoroughbred named Zachary. He and I have come a long way from where we started together. To be honest, I was a little scared of him at first (he ran hotter – that is, gets more excited - than most horses I’ve ridden), but by the end of our time together I’d trust him to jump anything – and I hope the next horse I ride has his moxie!
2. THE WORKOUT. Anyone who says riding isn’t a sport has no idea what they’re talking about. Even though I had been running regularly, getting back on a horse was a rude awakening for my muscles. Muscle memory does not equal muscle tone. I was more sore after lessons during the first month or so back riding than I was after running a half marathon! Since I was only riding once a week at first, I invested in this book, The Rider’s Fitness Program, and centered my strength-training exercises around the program. (I still do, because I’ve found these really help my running, too.) These exercises helped a lot, but the only thing to really get my body back up to speed was riding more, and I started riding three times a week. It’s kind of amazing how much fun I can have while also getting such a great workout – and now I can fully appreciate why my mom said “Owen is your gym!” when I was begging her for a gym membership at age 16 or so.
3. THE PEOPLE. A barn is a community. It goes beyond a typical gym or sport club – everyone supports each other. That’s why I never minded helping to clean a bridle or tack up someone else’s horse – I knew they’d do the same for me if I needed it. I’m fairly certain that my trainer, Julia, would do anything she could to go to bat for someone who needed her help. And one time when I was feeling super dizzy during a ride, one of the mothers at the barn gave me her daughter’s lemonade (and saved the day). And my super awesome lesson-mate-turned-friend, Kim, SO generously drove me out to the barn for our 8am Saturday lessons, and saving me hundreds in ZipCar fees! This sense of community and support is one of the best things about being involved in horses, and this barn had a great one.
4. THE ADRENALINE. Whether the jump is 4′ tall or 2’6, it doesn’t matter – for my money, nothing beats the high I get jumping a horse.
I’m excited to start riding again in the Boston area (I can assure you that it won’t be another three years before I start up again – my muscles can’t handle that!) But I’ll never forget the awesome people and animals I had the good fortune of knowing in Oakland. Thanks for the memories (and take care of Zachary)!
If you’re interested in riding in the Bay Area:
Redwood Ranch Equestrian Center
5745 Redwood Road
Oakland, CA 94619