A couple of things have happened lately that have given me pause. Someone I know well, and who knows horses well, commented that my horses - all three of them - were "dangerous". I sort of went "huh??" She explained that what she meant wasn't that they were mean or harmful, just that they might be dangerous to me - Pie because he's young and green and has a big spin when he spooks, Drifter because he's smart and spoiled and therefore sometimes resistant, and Dawn because . . . well, just because she's Dawn . . . because I'm, as she put it, getting older - "you're almost 60" - and probably not in good enough physical shape due to age and inadequate conditioning. After I got over being offended, I understood that she was just worried about me - she said she wasn't questioning my competence, just my age and physical ability, including strength, balance and agility. Well, that certainly was a slap upside the head, so to speak.
And then the last time I was working with Drifter, he was pulling some big stunts on the lunge line until we got things sorted out, and several boarders were watching from outside the arena. Later, someone who overheard them talking told me they said I was crazy to be working with a horse like him and that I was at risk of getting hurt. Well, how about those potatoes . . . I don't know if they thought I was incompetent or just an old lady who couldn't cut it anymore. Now some of his antics were pretty dramatic, but I'd put his rope halter on for extra control and we worked things through - strained my shoulders pretty good, though. When I heard about what they'd been saying, my feelings were a mixture of annoyance and wounded pride and a tinge of shame - I care way too much what other people think and felt they were judging my abilities as lacking. While I was working with Drifter, it took a lot of physical effort and concentration to deal with his shennigans, but I had a clear plan and was working through it with him until we got to where we needed to be, but to an observer - they were all a good bit younger than me - it might have looked like a old woman cluelessly lungeing an out-of-control horse.
Am I too old to be doing what I'm doing and riding and working with the horses I have? I certainly don't have any problem being the age I am now - I don't wear makeup, will never have plastic surgery or other "enhancements", have plenty of sun damage to my skin and lots of wrinkles, and getting and staying in shape are a lot more effort than they used to be. I don't have any problem getting old . . . it's just that I've never felt like it was happening to me (denial or reality, who knows?) - I've never felt old, or even middle-aged, in my own head. I'm in better shape physically than I've been in a while (although I could be in a lot better shape). And, before my fall off Pie, I would have said I was a competent rider and able to work with horses like Dawn, Pie and Drifter. In fact I took pride in my abilities - it was part of my self-image - whether that pride was justified or not is hard to say (and I always think pride is a pretty questionable feeling, but there it is), and I always have a need to prove my competence, and even if truth be told, show off a little. These are not traits I like in myself, but there they are. So, I think that's why the bystanders' comments really hurt - instead of thinking I was doing a good job handling Drifter's difficulties, they just thought I was an idiot, whether rightly (because I am one) or wrongly (because they didn't understand what I was doing) or somewhere in-between (I don't think I'm an idiot but I could have done a better job).
And I don't think my fall off Pie showed my incompetence - anyone, no matter how good a rider, could have fallen off during a spook/spin like that. The severity of the concussion and the broken bones could be due to my age, I guess - the body isn't as resilient as we get older - but I was angry/upset/embarrassed that my previous lifetime record of no hospitalizations or broken bones due to horse-related incidents had been destroyed - for goodness sake, I hadn't fallen off but 3 times previously as an adult and none of those were serious. Nothing like a bad fall to throw a spanner into the works of one's self-image and confidence. I'm clearly getting older - just looking in the mirror tells me that - and certain things, like the heavy labor involved in caring myself for the horses at our self-care barn, are difficult and increasingly annoying. But it had never occurred to me that anyone would think I was over the hill . . .
But then I don't want to be the old lady whose family has to take away the car keys (so to speak) to keep her from injuring herself or others, because she's too proud or lacking in self-awareness to realize that she's not capable of doing what she wants to do and has always done for her whole life. I don't think I'm there yet, but only time will tell, I guess . . .