How Does One Come To This Odd Conclusion?
I actually got to ride Solo yesterday, on the most glorious of Carolina fall mornings. Even as I fed him breakfast, I could feel the palpable restlessness flowing between us. It was a quiet, echoing chorus of, "let's ride, let's shine, let's be US."
Part of the beauty of eight years of partnership is knowing exactly which of your horse's joints need longer to loosen & the precise schooling exercises required to stretch the tightest muscles. Every ligament, every sinew in his body is yours because you have spent more than 3,000 days as a team of two become one.
|Trademark Solo "forward walk sux" face|
After an obligatory Orange Horse protest on the principle of "forward because I say so," leg-yields were followed by shoulders-in followed by haunches-in suppling aging bodies (ahem, we won't say whose) at the walk. These are vital for Solo's hocks & back before asking him to step forward in trot.
Moving down to our dressage 'arena,' we coaxed his inside hind leg to truly step into my outside hand & kept that QH butt active. Creating that kinetic energy gives you something to work with, allowing you to create bend & corners & balance. We are nothing without forward.
As the days cool, it is harder on arthritic joints (let's not name names here either...), so I kept our canter warm-up brief, but correct because I really wanted to take him over a few very small jumps. It's a fine line, walked by feel, between pushing to strengthen & asking too much; I am always listening carefully to my horse.
We both wandered to catch our breath as I made a brief jump plan. Perhaps 8 or 10 efforts, with an emphasis on balance & softness for us both. I included extra care with my lines: he wears his trusty Cavallo Sport boots on his wussy front feet & there were still traces of dew on the grass.
|Not so much like this (8 yrs ago!)|
Well, for most of them anyway. Did I mention learning? Yeah, it's still a process, a long, stumbling process, but a snail's progress is still progress!
When I got it right, we were...THERE. If Solo believes you won't fight him (I'm not sure why he wouldn't after our long history of, errrr, pulling matches, heh), he will jump & land & canter away like a lovely beast. He might take 3 or 4 quick steps, but that is where the trust comes in: I punch my instinct in the face, stay off his back, shove my fists into his neck on landing, & sit up. My trust is rewarded by his & we just...flow.
Um, So Which Part Of This Was Sucky Exactly??
Thanks to Priscilla & David & my clinicians & in no small part, to Encore, I am finally GETTING how to really use my leg, thigh, core, & upper body. I am GETTING how to ride the horse into the outside rein without sacrificing the forward energy. I am GETTING how to feel, process, & respond with the correct aids when my horse needs an adjustment.
|Creepers gonna creep...|
We hear these things suggested, yelled, repeated, written to us & at us over & over & over throughout our riding lives, but it really isn't until the 10,000th time we feel the links connect & our brain & our muscles finally digest that feeling, that it becomes truly knowing.
I wouldn't call it a lightbulb. It's more like...a train. Sparks fly from wheels spinning on the tracks at first, while the locomotive strains to begin moving. But slowly, the momentum builds as the effort is put in, until, with enough time, you are rolling down the line.
So now I ride Solo & while I revel in how very little rein I need & how responsive he is to my lateral aids & how much FUN he is...I want to go back & do it all over again! I want the rider I am now to bring along the horse he was when we began, to do it better, to do it smarter.
|As if I'd say maybe to Tennant!|
While it's a frustrating tickle in my head, at the same time, he made me & I made him. We learned from each other (even if it was "ok, never do that again") & I am still proud that we got here in spite of my fumbling about. What's that saying about a blind hog & acorns?
Besides, I lack a time machine unless The Doctor shows up. And even though it may have been a bumpy ride, Solo is still the one who carried me here. It is his wisdom, his quirks, his baggage, his personality, & his heart that continue to teach me, call me out, & remind me that every step counts. Both the mental & physical ones.