The other day, as I tore into a new package of whiteout at my office, I caught myself. I had made the order for the corrective tape myself after several coworkers had passed by my desk in a vain hunt for it, yet once it arrived it just sat ineffectually by the printer. Finally, I found a use for it. “Awwwww yeeeeah,” I thought, giddy with anticipation.

Then I thought, “Wait. What the hell is wrong with me?”

I slipped quietly out of my office at 5:00 sharp and into the bathroom to change into thermal breeches. I layered two pairs of socks, a thermal shirt, polo shirt, hoodie, and windbreaker until I resembled Ralphie’s younger brother, Randy, from A Christmas Story.

Randy from a Christmas Story

Later that night, I cursed the weather under my breath while I ran after a check written out to my trainer as it cruelly danced just out of reach down the gravel driveway, egged on by a conspiratorial frigid breeze. Finally, check secured, I went out to catch my horse for the evening (an adventure by itself: the season’s first cold snap has lit the proverbial fire under most equine tails) and whispered inappropriate, but hilarious, anecdotes with barn buddies in the comparatively toasty stable as students groomed, tacked up, and adjusted warming pads on their horses’ backs. We were all consumed with equal parts dread and eagerness to meet the cold wind head on in the arena.

It was too cold to keep our horses standing in place as we watched each other jump our simple courses. We circled around as we waited, craning our necks at times to observe our peers’ techniques, and silently thanking our mounts for saving us when it came our turn and we misjudged a distance, or worse, got in the way. At one point, I rode too conservatively to a bounce and ended up catching myself from falling off completely by instead landing on his neck – with my nose.

Did that hurt? I can’t feel anything.

Is that blood?

No…wait…Good lord, how long has my nose been running?!

Finally, once the ride is over and we’ve cooled down our horses, we gingerly dismount and head back into the barn.

Later on, after the other riders have gone, horses are blanketed, and feeding time is well underway, my trainer thanks me for staying so late to help. She must not know that it’s not whiteout, but nights like these, where the challenge of riding and being around horses slams up against the steely resolution to do so, that make me feel truly alive.


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