It’s 50 degrees and sunny, which feels like a goddam miracle after the endless snow and bitter cold we’ve had for what seems like as long as I can remember now. Sitting in the passenger seat of my riding buddy’s car as we drove down the highway to the barn, I baked in the warm sun coming through the windshield. This has put me in a blissfully relaxed mood, and has brought incredible relief to the sun-starved, anxiety-ridden wretch I’ve degenerated into this winter. I can’t let the relief become total, cannot completely relax and soften with the knowledge that it’s over and we’ve come through to the other side, because we haven’t. This isn’t Spring. This is merely a respite before the cold snatches back its sovereignty. But while the respite is available, I will enjoy every last drop of it.
Maybe this is why I approached today’s lesson as I did, with much less thought than I have been recently. I came to a realization last night on the treadmill (where I seem to be doing my best thinking these days, movement having always been the best way for me to shake loose new ideas) that I really need to have something that matters in my life. Riding matters to me, and I think it could be the thing that I want to drive me. I want to eat and sleep and exercise because of riding. I want to structure my life around it, sacrifice all the other worthless crap I have in my life now that doesn’t fill the void of wanting something to throw myself into, but merely weighs me down. But the way I am living now, it can’t be that thing. Riding every other week or so is not enough, not satisfying that urge. But the problem is that I have been trying to cram that significance into these occasional lessons, and I think that’s working against me as a rider. I will continue to work toward changing my lifestyle to get it to be one in which riding can be central, or at least more central. But in the meantime, I’ve gotta quit running myself into the ground, making every second I’m on the horse be something I need to learn from. Forced, focused learning like that doesn’t stick on me. It doesn’t enrich, it drains. I’m making a bottleneck of experience, shutting down the “play” part of it all. The doing it to do it. The doing it out of love.
So while warming up on Cisco while walking around the ring, I originally started to think again about the techniques from Centered Riding for feeling the horse’s rhythm at the walk. But my mind kept shirking this kind of focus, and eventually I just said to myself, “Forget it, and enjoy.”
Hannah had warned me that Cisco has been very slow of late, and armed me with both a crop and spurs. I can’t remember ever having ridden with spurs before, but with my legs already well-used from a hard run yesterday at the gym (the first time I’ve been there in about two weeks), I was willing to have them as a backup. I was surprised, though. I’ve only ridden Cisco maybe once or twice but I remembered him as pretty straightforward. And at the walk he seemed willing and responsive enough. But I accepted the extra aids and I still don’t really know if I needed them. Cisco seemed to be in just the same sort of relaxed, energetic mood as I was in, and we had a fantastic lesson. Hannah and the other trainers in the ring expressed their confusion with what was apparently a big transformation. Just two hours prior, another trainer had to take her student off Cisco and school him herself for being stubborn and difficult. I had no problems with him at all. I started to wonder what could have brought about the change in his behavior, always wanting to chase down the “why” driving the actions of both people and horses, but then I just let it go. Why ask why today? The horse I’m riding is the horse that he is. His earlier mood has no bearing on me.
Everything came very easily. My core is becoming much stronger thanks to a return to my former regimen of 100 crunches every morning when I get up. I could really feel the difference at the canter and over the jumps, building on establishing more upper-body stillness like I did in my last lesson. There’s nothing much more to say about it all than that. I rode a horse today and I did it well and I loved it.