We’re all starting to wonder when the winds are going to die down. I woke to rain and gales— and living as I do on the coast of Dublin Bay, the elements are that much closer for inspection— and for the first time in sixteen months I wondered, Will I give it a miss?
A thought horrific enough to get me up out of that bed. How bad could it be?
For once, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. We were all lashed into the indoor, what with the rain and the tornado, but even though there were eleven of us, adults and children, the ride mostly managed to keep up with itself. Rebel and I were second behind a new gray, Bounty, who was showing her youth and, er, freshness, by skitting about the place. Her rider, a new woman, could obviously ride, yet I kept a prudent distance— Rebel generally likes to get up close and personal with the lead horse.
Whilst not as blowsome as last Saturday, there were still a fair few fearsome rattles to the roof as we went round and round. As Bounty continued to demonstrate her nerves, Rebel began to react to her jumpiness, and again, the fight for the bit continued. I swear, my hands are getting worse…
He also chose to act out in a new way, trying to drop his head aaaallllll the way down in the trot, and it became something of a pas de deux of cause and effect. He’d yank his head down, I’d give a slap on the shoulder and apply leg, he’d go forward for several paces, yank, slap, leg, yank, slap, leg… it became rather hypnotic…
We were going well, though, even in the canter, even in a twenty meter circle in canter. Additionally, Emma had us doing something cool: We’d take, in trot, a twenty metre circle in which lay two sets of trotting poles, one on the track side of the circle, one more towards the top, an added negotiation in the curve. Without too much thought, as we came over one set to get to the next on a tight turn, I found myself instinctively putting on the inside leg.
As I had my focus on the next set of poles, I was once again in that place in which I am not minding Rebel so much, and communicating via the leg as opposed to the reins, and it felt fantastic, the connection loud and clear, the feel of him bending without any stress or fuss whatsoever.
Bounty didn’t like the poles so much, however. On another approach, one in which, in fairness, we were that bit too close to her, she spooked, and Rebel spooked and jittered and bucked and I— I sat back.
No one yelled at me to sit back. I felt my pelvis rock back— surely I caused it to do so—and. Ah. And I sat back, and he stopped bucking, and I walked him in a circle, and rejoined the ride.
In that moment, there was awareness, an awareness in my muscles with some input from my mind, I suppose, but not much, not much. I did not think, ‘Sit back!’, I just… sat back. My legs were strong and on, I sat back, I even gave him a kick to keep him forward, and as quickly, quietly and simply as that, I had a major breakthrough.
Indeed, such was the breakthrough that later, when Rebel hesitated to rejoin the ride at the front to take a fence, I sat back, gave him some determined encouragement from my lower limbs, got him forward going, all the while shortening my reins and turning almost backwards to get my eye on the jump, a jump we took with energy and aplomb.
I am full of amazement and exhiliration. I can see myself, see Bounty spooking, feel Rebel jigging, bucking, and I can still feel that moment, that moment of sitting back, how it felt, how my seat went right down, and how he responded, and how I was doing all this and looking around to make sure I wasn’t going to plow into anybody else.
This feeling of everything happening at once is a kind of quiet euphoria. I felt it all as I did it, legs here, arse there, eyes looking elsewhere. I have gained as much confidence from that handful of seconds as I have from the accumulation of achievement over the last sixteen months. I didn’t give up, I didn’t whine when given Rebel again, and soon— soon, I can feel it, he and I are going to move up another notch, together.
As I led him out of the indoor, one of the teenagers, the ones who are good, who have been riding forever, called to me, her mouth agape. “You rode him really well!” she said, eyes wide.
I used to think I’d like to win an Oscar or some such high-profile award— right now, I don’t think it could feel remotely as good as that did.