I am a creature of habit and I am in my comfort zone when my habits are allowed to exist. I’m also extremely fond of being in control of all things, especially my things. I like my things to be in a very particular way all the time. I have to have a specific outfit for riding. I have to have a particular pair of gloves. I have to have my riding boots. I am the only one who can pack my tack trunk, actually the only one who can pack anything for a show, otherwise the world is not right and I won’t be able to find anything.
I know, OCD much.
Equines being the lovely, unpredictable, prey animals that they are, don’t really support these personality quirks. My escape artist eldest, overly friendly middle child, and excessively curious youngest are excellent therapists and have been challenging these ingrained traits from day one.
Any how, I used to ride in square toed western boots and blue jeans, until I fell off for the first time. Three months in, cantering for the second time, I popped myself off because my balance was nonexistent and Bubba was fond of running off. The left half of my beautiful pair of burgundy and black Lucchese boots got twisted in the stirrups and I could feel the shaft start to tighten around my ankle. Instinctively, I pointed my toes and prayed that it would get yanked off as Bubs sped off across the arena.
I landed on my behind, somewhat stunned at this turn of events, and tried to figure out what exactly had just happened. As I was trying to reason things out I watched as Bubba suddenly realized that he was 200 pounds lighter. Looking mildly horrified that he had dumped his rider, he parked himself in the corner and watched as I dusted the dirt off my butt and approached him, hoping to retrieve my boot that was still firmly wedged in the left stirrup.
As I got closer I could tell that the whole episode had scared him just as much as it scared me. After all, I’m his primary source of apples.
Settling on the disturbing fact that I had come entirely too close to getting dragged across the arena, I decided that I needed real riding boots and full seat breeches as soon as humanely possible.
This is the origin of the ‘particular outfit’ habit.
The next day my dutiful dad drove me an hour in a half through a blizzard to the nearest tack store. The normally hour and a half trip took almost three but I came home with a pair of black full seat Irideon tights, black Ovation half chaps, and a beautiful new pair of Ariat lace up paddock boots, also black.
I wore that combo for my weekly riding lessons for the next six months, then for the biweekly lessons for the next year, then for the tri weekly lessons the year after that, and most recently for my 5-6 lessons a week with Bubba and Deemer or whoever else at the barn needed exercise that day.
When I started doing video and photography at horse shows and clinics, the boots also came with. These poor boots were never cleaned, worn in all weather conditions, and were regularly subjected to tromps
through snow drifts in the winter, dunkings in slurries of spilled poo and runoff in the spring, and the dusty summer and fall. If I had to guess I’ve worn these boots for an average of forty five hours a week for the last four years. These boots were my safety net, my talisman against getting dragged across the arena. Plus they were my very first pair of riding boots.
As I sunk into the quicksand of a pile of wet shavings and manure that had collected to the side of our manure pile and felt that disturbingly cold yet viscous mix seeping through one of the many holes that had grown along their soles, I decided that it might actually be time to retire them. It’s not like I haven’t had a perfectly usable, in fact brand new, pair of exactly the same boots sitting in my closet for the last six months. But these were THE boots. They supported my eccentricities and made me feel safe (aka in control). They made me ride better, they helped me keep better contact, and they were broken in. I did not want to break in a new pair of boots.
Side note, breaking in new boots is one of my least favorite activities ever. I get horrible blisters that stretch from my heal to an inch above my ankle bone.
Dedicated to my plan of action, when I got home from the barn tonight I pulled the florescent green shoes strings out and put the boots on the rack in the hall where I usually stash them until they’d dried.
Yet, I still find myself reluctant to pull the new pair from the closet and fix the laces up the way I like them. (Yes, even the way my boots are laced has to be a particular way.)
I suspect that as I leave for work tomorrow I’ll probably grab for my favorites again before realizing that, now lace-less, they’re useless to me.
Perhaps though, this shinning new pair of paddock boots can lead me into a fresh chapter of my riding, one where I actually take some care of my tack so that three years from now I won’t have to go through this whole process again and my OCD can happily bubble away down it’s favorite paths in my semi neurotic mind.