On a Scale of One to Ten

My usual Saturday lift to the yard was unavailable last week, so I did the bus-to-the-taxi thing.

Dublin taxi men are never at a loss for conversation, and when I get into the car in all my riding clobber, well, sit back and start talking horses.

I’d never had this dude before — I’m a fixture on the Dundrum taxi rank, and am routinely greeted with familiarity — and he asked me an excellent question, one I’ve recently been mulling over myself.

‘On a scale of one to ten, how good are you?’ he asked. ‘By that I mean,’ he went on, ‘Are you as good as you’re going to be?’

That’s an excellent question. In the beginning, when I knew nothing, I felt I came up pretty quick, and would have given myself full marks after about six months. Then I switched from Argo [bless; he’s retired now and I think of him often, still] to Delilah, and it was back to bottom of the scale.

And then I got good on Delilah, despite a tendency to jump the fences before she did, with varying degrees of hitting the dirt. Still, though, even when it was time to move on from her, I felt I had accomplished a lot. Maybe not up to ten, but a solid eight.

On to Rebel, and the learning curve began to resemble what I imagine to be the ascent to Everest. Every time I mastered one of his tricky little tricks, he pulled another out of the bag, and up and down the scale I went. We had an… interesting night last Tuesday, during which he refused two fences, a new wrinkle. Not abrupt refusal, but a kind of meandering Naaaah, don’t think so, which at least kept me in the saddle and off the ground. We proceeded to argue a bit as we took the fences over and over, a bounce at E and a straight at B, and when it was finally done, I felt unhappy with the work I did with my hands. But Nikki said I’d done good, and that I rode Rebel ‘really, really, really well.’

Three ‘reallys’! Really!

Am I as good as I’m going to get? I hope not [and, hopefully, doubt it.] It’s so exciting to keep improving. I do know when I’m about to make a leap: it’s just when I’ve had weeks of mediocre lessons that seem to be taking me nowhere. I would like to jump in more shows, and to raise the fences. Hunts still intimidate me, and that may be my watershed — or Waterloo. I’ve lost some ease in my jumping, because Reb is forcing me to work to harder and my balance is all over the place. I’ve begun to seriously need to work on staying straight in the saddle. Whilst Rebel has improved my seat, I think my hands have gone bad.

How good am I? Good enough to know I’ve still got loads of work to do.

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