For Lesson #66 Karin picked Krystal for me to ride. Krystal is a Percheron-Thoroughbred and she’s a pretty big horse. Shorter than Caspian, but wider than Vinnie.
Krystal and me last year. She didn’t jump, bless her heart.
I rode Krystal a couple of times last year. She’s the one who repeatedly took me into the corner of the arena and just stood there for minutes at a time.
I remember Karin saying something like “If you thought ahead and started turning earlier, you wouldn’t have this problem.” And then she left the horse and me alone to solve the corner puzzle.
This time it was better. Karin told me at the beginning of the lesson that she intended to make me work.
“I’m afraid you’re falling behind. We need to get you going.”
Falling behind what? And exactly where was I going?
Nowhere fast, apparently. At first, Krystal trotted a few steps and then decided to stop. I couldn’t keep her going.
Karin was busy helping a couple of horse camp kids mount, but she saw enough to know that we weren’t doing enough.
“You must trot five times around the arena, Bob. Three to the right and two to the left.”
We could barely trot five feet without stopping. No way were we going to sustain a trot for five laps. The woman was asking for the impossible. Besides, how did she come up with that particular combination of directions?
However, my instructor had assigned a task with a clearly defined goal. It was now up to me to either do or not do it. There was nothing left to talk about.
I growled/sighed and got my legs on Krystal the best I could. I thought if we even got once around without stopping that would be a huge accomplishment.
As we completed the first lap, Karin glanced up at us: “Now keep her going!”
We kept going. Twice more around the arena to the right, then we turned and went twice to the left. My arms and legs went everywhere, my posture made me look like the Leaning Cowboy of Texas on horseback and I even slipped out of the stirrups a couple of times. The only thing that mattered was to keep moving. This was the Art of Equitation turned ugly.
But we did it. I was gasping for air, I wasn’t entirely certain that my feet where actually still attached to my legs and various body parts were chiming in with damage reports – but we did it.
Then Karin told us we had to canter. I figured we had already broken the Crazy Barrier, so why not?
Again, it wasn’t pretty, but we did it. Krystal is faster than Vinnie and we got from one end to the arena to the other sooner than I expect. This took me by surprise, but it was fun.
I concluded Lesson #66 with a highly competitive game of Red Light/Green Light Whilst Mounted against the two horse camp kids. In the process, I discovered that I could back Krystal pretty well. A big improvement over the first time I tried to back a horse a couple years ago:
Obviously, I’m not on my way to FEI glory or upper level anything. Or even middle level anything. My “falling behind” is not based upon these kinds of expectations. It’s actually based on a measurement against, well, myself. With more work, I could become a better rider than I am now.
The equestrian pursuit is highly individualized. Horses give us so much, but we all experience it in unique ways.
The role of the teacher is not so much to squeeze us into the predefined forms and expectations of the equestrian world, but to enter our world so that she can discover the best way to connect each of us to the horse.