I wanted to ride Winston this evening after work. Brett fed the horses early, mucked, gave water to the goats, and brought Winston and Mufasa into the barn so all I had to do was change into my breeches when I got home. I was in a race with the setting sun.
Winston was a pill while I was grooming him -- pushy and mouthy. He reminded me of the boys in junior high who strutted around the school insulting anyone within earshot. Too cool for their own skins. Obnoxious as hell. Once we were tacked up, Brett and I walked the horses out to the dressage court. Winston balked as we approached the arena but I was on foot so I was able to keep him going without any trouble. I was concerned about getting on though.
I know some of my readers don't ride their horses at feeding time. It isn't my favorite time to ride either but I'm a firm believer in having a horse who is used to being ridden at all times of the day. I also had no other option if I wanted to get a ride in during the week. So there I stood, watching Brett get on Mufasa, with the sun setting behind the oak trees and the evening chill rolling into the valley. And a ball of dread in my belly.
Winston stood quietly at the mounting block. Once I was on, he took two steps, popped his head in the air, lowered it, and humped his back.
I gave him a loose rein, grabbed hold of the bucking strap, and nudged him forward. Amazingly, he went. He walked a few steps and then broke into a rushed trot. I sat deep, he came back to a walk. While we walked around with the reins long and his ears signaling his indecision about whether to behave or be a brat, I started talking out loud.
"One, two, button my shoe. Three, four, shut the door. Hands up. Eyes up. Ankles out. One, two... oops, hands up. Loose rein, leg on, are you getting all this Winston? Crap, my hands are low again."
Funny thing, the talking calmed both of us. Pretty soon we had a lovely swinging walk and I started working on bend from my seat. Then trot; good work. I thought I would experiment with canter. I have, historically, had trouble with my hands in the canter transition. Either I throw the reins away or I restrict. I already had Winston on a long rein so I kept them the same. When I slid my outside leg back, he stepped cleanly and quietly into a lovely canter.
I was pleased with the ride. Pleased that I got past my fear. Pleased that Winston acknowledged me as leader and got past his tantrums. Pleased that he decided to work with me and not against me. And when I got off, he looked pretty pleased himself.
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