$300 boots in the local saddlery. Gorgeous. And nothing a budget-minded, secret equestrienne would ride in. So the Amazon dot coms that arrived by mail shocked me. At $94+change, they looked way too regal for the price. I was expecting spray-painted cardboard. When I couldn’t shove my foot into the right boot, I was ready to accept defeat, but realized the boots had zippers at the back. Doh. When they were on, zipped up, buckled at the tops (also a surprise), my new jodhpurs tucked inside them (once I realized what the Velcro was for at the hem of each ribbed leg), I donned my polo shirt, helmet and riding gloves and faced the mirror.
It was too early for Halloween, but I felt like I was ready for a Boo Party and wore flip flops instead of boots (helmet, or gloves) when I dropped my son off at Kindergarten.
Yes, I am a pretentions-wary, semi-gawky, dirty-blonde chicken. Who cares if I wear jodhpurs and boots onto an elementary school’s playground where parents gather to deposit their children for the school day? I drive a Kia minivan with a dent in the right front bumper from someone backing into the car in the dead of night the one time I parked it on the street instead of the driveway. Getting the bumper fixed interferes with my writing schedule. My flip flops are from some dead surfer’s grave. Do I care what our car looks like behind the white Range Rover in the school’s lot? Not yet. Do I care about wearing ratty flip flops in front of strangers? Nooooo. Do you? I have less than a minute to don my boots between dropping off my son and zooming to the Farms and the beginning of my riding lesson. It is more practical, time-wise, because it’s ALL about timing, to have my boots already on when I escort my son to the playground.
But I just. Can’t. Wear my boots.
Him: If you need to wear your boots, wear ‘em.
Me (as though arguing): When I’m in the saddle? I sweat like—do sheep sweat? It’s work. Not recreation. Not really. I mean, I don’t ride all la-la-la, go home and eat See’s Candies until it’s time to pick up the boy. I ride, sweat, grip, worry about having the stamina to complete the lesson, worry I’m wrecking the horse with my mistakes, go home all wobbly, could easily collapse before making it to the shower…
Him: PB, wear your damn boots.
Walking down the shady steps leading to the Farms, my boots were very comfortable, though I still stork-walked into the barn, shoulders hunched, nervous about making eye-contact with the gazzilion equines munching in their stalls. Over here! Lori, my teaching pro, shouted from across the ring. She had me sign a release form, then presented me with an interested-in-life horse clearly bred for giants to ride. My neck strained as I gazed up at my warm-blooded host–and I am tall. Lisa, a pixie, stood on tiptoes to rub Horse’s nose, stating, He’s the best. Okay, she said as I ascended from mounting block to saddle, Next time put your foot in the stirrup before getting on so you don’t startle the crap out of Horse. Let him know you’re about to arrive. And I knew Lori was the right instructor for me.
Way up on Horse, thunder clouds bumped my helmet. I was eye to eye with a pair of gliding mourning doves. Summer air churned by muttering traffic copters buffeted my cheeks. The view from Horse’s back was spectacular–the well tended ring and kempt stalls framing it for at least 3000 raked-dirt acres. Hundreds of colored jumps criss-crossed the area per some master professional’s genius design. Tall as Horse and I are, I felt miniscule and a novice as I trotted in a 2-point around the gargantuan ring (I think this simple circuit took days, possibly a year), particularly when Horse shied from a dude passing with a wheelbarrow. Don’t look down, Lori immediately shouted. She was an ant to my Tall Alice when I cantered awkwardly by her. Cut the looking down crap. Know where you are, where you’re going! Aaaaand I liked Lori even more. She didn’t text during my lesson. She had no cell phone on her person, that I could see. She told me things I never knew about myself as a rider, like: Relax your face! She had me guide Horse over the baby crossbars, but despite the kidstuff height of the jump, she wouldn’t let me stop until I executed a jump I could instinctively and physically feel was correct (that amazing connection between self and magnificent animal). I noticed her scrutinizing my dismount, but by then I owned my boots. For a second I was Tatum O’Neal in International Velvet (you know, when she wins Nerve). I was red-faced and gaspy, there was a bite in each of my inner thighs, but my legs did not buckle when my heels touched dirt. Lori didn’t say a word, just nodded. Your posting trot is great, a young miss offered from atop her showhorse. She was heading into the ring. Her riding posture was picture perfect, her long hair braided down her back, her handsome boots tended, gleamy leather. Thank you, I said, thinking, Farms is a far cry from my childhood stables, where kids and adults were catty about everyone else’s tack and the way you led your shaggy pony into the ring. Good boy, I told Horse, patting his neck. And: Thanks.
I asked Lori about my boots. She pinched and pulled and tugged. Except for the stupid elastic laces, she said, these work. When I told her where I got them, she laughed. Amazon? she said, as if now she’d heard everything. Awesome deal.
Zooming to Starbucks, I didn’t change my shoes before going inside (although I did wipe them down). After my first lesson in months, I needed my boots on. I wanted their spell to last until it was time to retrieve my son from Kindergarten—at which point I would switch to flip-flops, maybe not as much of a chicken-secret-equestrienne, but a tad more of a pro (who, you know, just likes horses and doesn’t compete–except for that one time when she was 14 and won First Place in a 4H walk-trot…wearing tennis shoes and a baseball cap).