A major storm was predicted for Monday night. There were rumors of seventy mile per hour winds, thunder, lightning, and possible tornados. Awww, I looked up in the sky and it was a pretty blue, not a ripple on the pool surface. It was perfectly calm so I proceeded with my plan to go ride. Monday is ideal at the stables because the lesson horses get their rest, and the people who board their own horses come out to play. It’s fun, quiet, relaxed, and well, perfect. I dropped the boys off at piano, and went straight to the barn. Gwinny met me with an already hot sweaty, poop caked body. I asked the stable guy why she was so hot, he said he couldn’t catch her to bring her in, and he chased her around for fifteen minutes. He also said the other horses in that paddock chase her around a lot, keeping her away from the hay. He recommended I put her back in the paddock with the ornery mares. They were at least getting used to her. Sigh. It’s hard to be new. I’ve known that eleven times after moving to new cities. She and I are two mares trying to fit in, I know that too well.
I tacked her up and took her to the arena. It was hot and humid, but not unbearable. I’m practicing all the techniques my riding instructors teach me in the lessons, turning, trotting forward, doing serpentines, controlling her speed, working on up transitions and down transitions. She’s got a little hitch I’m beginning to notice. Once we get to the canter in our practice, she wants to canter like a little kid who gets the hint that there’s something special coming like a trip to the park and asks repetitively for it, panting, begging and annoying. That’s how she is about cantering. She will canter when I don’t ask her to do it, but acting like she was reading my mind telling me , “you were going to ask me anyway so I went ahead and did it.” That’s not a good horse. So I was working on getting her right to where I would ask her for a canter, and then down transition her to a walk instead. The point was, “listen to me I am in charge.”
Well it was going beautifully except someone left the arena without closing the gate. As I rounded the corner in a fast trot and began to ask her to down transition into a walk, she saw the open gate, and made her own decision to GALLOP out of the arena and through the barn stalls.
I’ve never galloped before. In fact, cantering is new for me. (walk is a walk, trot=skipping for a kid, canter= running, sort of, and gallop is a full out sprint)
As she took off, the other riders began to yell instructions to me. I didn’t panic. I knew I had a situation on my hands and my first decision was to stay on the horse. I decided I’m not falling off. Won’t do it. Then I heard Sandee’s voice in my head (she’s my instructor) and she was saying, legs long, breathe, focus, relax. Andie was saying, tighten up your abdominals, be a wall for her to move against. Glen has the uber-relaxed zen mind around horses that I tried to emulate. I wasn’t thinking much about controlling Gwinny, she obviously took control (bad horse) I was just determined to ride it out and not hit the dust. I have to believe twelve years of yoga kicked in and I went into the zone of a quiet mind. God was riding with me, I felt His presence as if I were a child and He were behind me holding the reins. When she rode into the middle of the stalls, she hit the halt. We both let out our breath. Then we both panted for a minute before I asked her to walk on. I didn’t scold her. I wasn’t sure what happened. Someone from the arena came around and found us, his eyes were wide, and he couldn’t believe I was still on her. They all said, “bravo” for “sticking it”. I grilled everyone, “was it my fault?”, “did I cause her to do that?”, “what should I have done?”. Help me learn from this.
It was a young horse thing for her to do. She’s going to get some training on this, that’s for sure. And I was assured by other riders it couldn’t have been prevented with that split second decision of hers to shoot out of the gate.
I admit I had a fright. But when it was all done, I was so pleased that all the training kicked in, my strength in my legs to hold on was there, and Sandee has said it often enough for me to play the recording in my head so I would do the right thing. (note to all teachers: be a broken record.)
I made her work hard and trot a while after her lapse of sanity and I wasn’t soft on her mouth at all. I pulled on her to let her know I AM THE BOSS. She went completely sorry and humble on me. After I showered her off I took her in the round pen and chased her around aggressively to remind her I’m in charge. As soon as I released the pressure, and went passive inviting her to come to me, she walked straight over to me, head down, licking and chewing, ears turned toward me. Submissive and sorry.
As I drove home I thought about keeping this adventure from Craig. He is so protective over me he would like to think there is no danger at all in riding my new beloved horse. But there is. So after vascillating for an hour I sat down with him and confessed it all. He pointed to the hair over his ear, and said, “instantly gray right now.” If I am going to do this we are all going to try and be as safe as we can be, but something can happen. Tonight it did. And thanks to God that my training saluted and I stuck the sprint, and didn’t’ freak out. I went straight back to what I was doing before she bolted, and I told her who is in charge. (but I did make sure the gate was closed) Gwinny will have a memory of her flight, so I will have to make sure the gate is closed and proceed to hire someone to give her focused training so she will learn not to do that again.
Riding causes me to summon up my courage, practice bravery and face fears. After this drama I’m feeling triumphant. I believe that the lessons saved my life! My dedication to practicing and building the strength in my legs kept me on the wild horse. I am feeling a wee bit invincible, and I have to say, I like riding more than ever. Just saying that to the world means the next time you all see a photo of Craig he might be completely gray.
I have to follow my heart. Riding makes me feel more alive than I’ve felt since I was a soloist on stage as a dancer. I’m deeply happy. I’m doing it as safely as I can knowing there’s risk. I won’t stop. I’ll just get better at it, smarter, and stronger.