Since Gailey’s been off work, I’ve been riding other horses around the barn in my lessons, both my trainer’s and boarders’ horses.
At first, I was really nervous riding horses I didn’t know. I’d ridden the same mare for the past 13 years. During all those years, I considered myself the luckiest person in the barn. Gailey was an exceptionally smooth horse to ride and sit. In fact, I’d go as far to say she was incomparable to anything I’d ever ridden. Yet, while her gaits made her extremely easy to sit, her other faults didn’t make her easy to ride.
Up until recently, I honestly didn’t have a clue how difficult she actually was. I assumed our problems were all mine, that I was just an awful rider, incapable of doing justice to such a wonderful mare. While everyone else in the barn would parade around with the countless ribbons they’d won, I’d slink off to my corner and lick my wounds, grateful I hadn’t finished dead last my respective class (though at times I didn’t even have that little triumph for comfort).
Over the years, I’ve come to believe I’m hopeless as far as ever being any good at dressage. After all, if I couldn’t do well on a horse like Gailey, I obviously didn’t have it in me to do well on anything. Besides, I knew I was uncoordinated. My body just doesn’t work the way other riders’ bodies work.
When I first started riding other horses, I’ll admit I fretted about making a fool out of myself. Everyone would see what an incompetent rider I really was. Yet, that’s not what happened. Somewhere along the line, I came to the startling conclusion I could ride other horses and do them justice.
The horse who drove that point home was Ciro. Ciro is owned by a wonderful woman at the barn who I’ve known for years. She’s one of those older women who doesn’t look a day over forty, a fact which I attribute to her long-time love affair with horses. She’s a doctor’s wife and is one the nicest, most down-to-earth people you could ever meet. She’s gone a lot, so Ciro is often available for lessons.
My fellow riders rave about riding Ciro, a Grand Prix level schoolmaster who is relatively bombproof. Last week, I had the privilege of saddling Ciro for a lesson, and it was a privilege.
My first realization Ciro was a different kind of horse came as I rode at a walk down the rail, I shifted my weight and legs by accident, and he went into a haunches-in. I re-adjusted my seat and legs and he travelled straight. I tried a shoulder-in and just like a well-programmed machine he did a perfect shoulder-in. No fuss, not struggle, just push the correct buttons, and he did the rest.
Wow. I was impressed. When I moved into the trot and canter, it was more of the same. As my lesson progressed, Ciro did everything I asked him, even things I didn’t realize I was asking him. We did counter-canter, changes, collected canter, etc. Everything was simple and straight-forward. You do this, he does that. I’d never ridden such an uncomplicated horse in my life. What a joy it was, and what a confidence booster for me.
And an eye-opener. You see, up until last week, I had no clue how complicated my mare really was. Now I knew. It took a horse like Ciro to drive home the fact that I wasn’t nearly as bad of a rider as I thought, and my mare, while I love her dearly, is not an easy horse to ride.
Armed with my new-found confidence, I’m looking forward to my next lesson on whatever horse I’m assigned because you know what? I really can do this.