Sunday, September 29, 2013

Getting Older, and Spiders' Webs - Sort of Off Topic, But Not Really

I've been somewhat down in the dumps lately.  I'm going to be 60 in a few months, and even if I continue to have good health, that gives me at most another 15, or at a stretch 20, good riding years, maybe a few more if I'm very lucky.  I have some physical ailments - nothing serious, just the stuff that most people my age deal with - some arthritis in various joints and a tendency to back pain that is better than it used to be - my weight is better and I'm fitter than I've been - but which still flares up from time to time.  I don't want the good times to end, but watching the decline of my parents and in-laws, and some of the friends I have at church - I have a couple of good friends there in their 80s and 90s - has been both discouraging and instructive.

And then I went for a walk this morning.  I often go for a walk before church on Sundays - I don't ride Dawn on Sunday mornings.  It was a beautiful, cool fall morning.  There was some fog and mist.  My walk takes me along a pond, with tall prairie plants and grasses on both sides of the trail.  And there were many beautiful spiders' webs - most only a few inches across and some a bit bigger.  Some spiders had been so ambitious as to throw strands all the way across the trail to anchor their webs - the trail is a good 8 feet wide - I stepped carefully over those I could see to avoid breaking them.

When I looked closely at the webs, the spiders were tiny, waiting with their legs outstretched for something to hit their webs.

All these spiders had built their webs, not overnight, but early in the morning before I walked by - none of the webs had dew on them.  So the webs they had the night before had been destroyed, perhaps by the wind and rain we had last night.  And they rebuilt them, because that's what spiders are supposed to do, and they did it well and I expect somehow that the building of the webs was satisfactory to them.

That was a deep realization for me.  It's not about permanence, or having it always turn out right - it's about doing it for the sake of the thing done, over and over and over again until the doing is completed and the race is run and the task completed.  So I ride, almost every day, and dealing with whatever physical ailments and fears come up.  I'm a very experienced rider, but am I somewhat worried about riding on the trail - sure, I am - and by the way (contrary to what some might think) this has nothing to do with the training methods I use, it has to do with my age and my own psychology, not the competence or training of the horses I ride.  Pie still has a big spook in there, in very specific circumstances - he's not spooky by disposition - either due to eyesight issues or whatever, and at my age I'm no longer certain that I can ride through everything he can do - although I most likely can.  He's a very good horse and there's no bad in him at all, but any horse can spook or something can go wrong - as my friend had happen to her yesterday.  And I hate trailering - it makes me very nervous - although I've done a lot of it, including 1,000-mile runs to and from Colorado - I find the responsibility of having a live load incredibly nerve-wracking.

My friend's accident yesterday also brought fully to mind what I experienced in 2011 from my own accident, although fortunately she wasn't as seriously injured as I was.

Do my fears that mean that I won't go on the trail, or won't trailer? - no, not at all.  I believe that like the spiders, it's our job to remake each day anew - it doesn't happen on its own.  I have three fine horses, and I expect to keep being with them, and riding them (or horses I may have in the future although these three may turn out to be my last horses) every day as we are able, for as long as I can - I hope into my 80s or even 90s.  But those years are not so far away as they once were.  I hope, as I age and my physical abilities decline - there is no fountain of youth despite what some may think - that I will find a way for horses to always be in my life - I expect I will as they have been an essential part of me since I was a small child.  I lost my way a bit in mid-life, but now that the horses are back in my life I don't want them to ever leave again.


  1. Betty and I can understand your feelings for we share them. We're 68 and the body doesn't bend and bounce the way it used to when we were younger. Yet, as with you, we desire to have horses in our lives as long as possible. It's a fine balance.


  2. Aching myself from a 10+ mile trail ride yesterday, I too feel the effects of age. But I just don't think about it too much and try to keep going as if I were still young enough to do it all.

    I do like the spider analogy. It suits the situation perfectly. We do need to remake each day anew and not let the past tell us we can't.

  3. Boy, do I hear you. This morning Brett was telling me that he misses trail riding and I understand but I'm just not ready. I'm just a couple years younger than you and Winston is insecure on the trail. He's bucked, hard, with me out there three times. Twice I came off. I get injured more easily now and it takes a long time to heal. Safety is much more important to me now than it was when I was yournger.

  4. A beautiful post, Kate, and not off-subject at all. I caught this right before heading to bed, but I think it bears revisiting tomorrow, and perhaps musing on a little tonight. I am younger than you, but I also feel my own fragility much more than I used to -- also like you, it hasn't stopped me from riding, even through my and Panama's green periods together, but I do believe in minimizing risks when possible... Wearing my helmet, of course, and I don't go out on the trail alone.

  5. I really appreciate these "thinking out loud" posts. I'm about 2 years behind you and this post voices a couple of my own thoughts recently. Lots to chew on while I'm going about my barn chores this morning.

  6. Kate,
    Your wisdom with horses is keeping you young and safe even as you age. I honestly believe that in the years that I have read your blog, you have become more horse smart, and we, as your readers, have learned right along with you. The wisdom that you continue to learn daily will help keep you safe through these next years no matter what hidden spooks are waiting. Aging can make us more perceptive if we are open to it. You seem open to information from your horses and that will keep you safe. Maybe you are a smarter horse person than you were in 2011 and you are getting smarter (and safer) everyday. I understand the physical pains and agility loss that comes with aging, but maybe the increase in patience and horse knowledge makes up for it - in a yin and yang kind of way.

    I, too, marvel each autumn at the work ethic of our spider friends. On my ride every day I am not able to avoid destroying their handywork and I worry and say I'm sorry, but their work and my destruction can't be accidental. They must need/want to rebuild and humans, horses, and the deer must be intended to break the webs. It is all a system and we are part of it. I have to try not to feel so guilty for my part, I think, since it is impossible to ride without destroying the web. But, as you say, their daily diligence is to be commended and emulated.

    Each day is new and our "work" (horse joy) is before us. That alone will keep you young and stretch out whatever time you have left into a happy length. Try not to focus on units of time. The idea of Time in conversation and thoughts can make you depressed. Instead just be with your horses today, now. Tomorrow is such rubbish. It is where all the worry and dread can reside. Today with horses is so good! What else is there?!!! I say nothing!

  7. Well, first let me wish you a Happy (upcoming) Birthday! I've just hit 62 in July and I'm still amazed that I'm now that old! I've seen others around me decline with old age so I know what you're talking about. I have seen some embrace old age as early as 50-something and couldn't quite understand backing off and falling into that "I can't do it anymore" mindset. In my honest opinion if you think young and keep doing the things you always did you can accomplish quite a bit and stay young. Sure there are aches and pains and at times you do have to slow it down but if you keep a good mindset, stay fit with lots of exercise I think there are many good years ahead of us all to spend with our horses.

  8. I do believe there's something in our water because this subject seems to be popping up all over lately! :) I think it's perfectly natural to have these thoughts about our own mortality at times. It's probably one of the ways we keep ourselves safe. We do have to be more careful as we age, it's just a fact of life. As your commentor said earlier...we don't bounce quite like we used to! But...we're smarter, have more experience and enjoy many other aspects of life that we didn't have, or appreciate when we were younger. I also agree with Arlene, when she says we need to keep active and keep our "young" perspectives intact. A person's frame of mind, their healthy thoughts and attitude are of huge importance to our overall well-being and I believe, to how we age. It's that circle of life, seasons changing and all that...we're experiencing everything just as it's supposed to be. Savor your fullness of life and all the beautiful aspects of aging Kate. You aren't old, not even close! You're a mature, beautiful, experienced woman of wisdom....a helluva "horseman" too! :) Happy Birthday!

  9. The spider analogy is positively inspiring. Feeling the passage of time leaves me with mixed feelings: excitement for the future and sadness for the the things that must change, like my baby and my horse growing older.

  10. Kate,

    There must be something going on because I had that realization this year too. I am obviously very much younger, but I have had several people close to me die at a young age...and all in very different and unexpected ways.

    I keep putting things off, expecting to do something tomorrow (or as in far off on the horizon "tomorrow". Tomorrow I'll learn to drive the trailer. Tomorrow, I'll get the courage to ride my horse in a show, tomorrow I'll do something.

    But in several cases pointed out to me, tomorrow may not come. So despite the fear and discomfort, I'm slowly working on my tomorrows one at a time. Some are coming with compromises, but still a piece is a piece.

  11. Such a thought provoking post, I loved the spider web analogy. My granddad is 96 this year. Until this year he enjoyed amazing health and agility, but things went south quickly early in the year. It really made me sit back and take notice. He had seemed so young for so long and then everything changed. He has actually bounced back amazingly well but it still made me realize just how fast your health can change. Your post beautifully articulated much of what has been on my mind, sometimes actively, sometimes not, these past few months.

  12. GOOD FOR YOU!!!
    I know the things you are going through, I have been having the very same thing going on with me this past few months, I have begun to think about cutting back on the amount of horses, therefore reducing the amount of work, and will admit to actually working on it!!! LOL
    But again, when working in LTC, a person gets a different way of looking at things, sometimes, we have to be like the spiders, on your trail, NEVER GIVE UP!!
    Keep up the great work!! Always enjoy reading about your adventures!!


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