“Crap! Lee, I just found out that he’s not here.”

“Well, I’m just around the corner. Do you have another horse I could ride?” I’m fondly remembering cute, little schooling  ponies and the Quarter Horse that really likes team penning. Yeah, that works for me. A nice low key ride.

“Hmm, how much of a challenge do you want? You could ride Tucker.”

Tucker? Memories crash to the surface of her daughter attempting to mount him. It took three people to hold him there. Three. Then there was a schooling show where he attempted to explode several times. Gulp. His name has induced an instant response of sweating hands and a racing heart.

“Uh, I don’t want to die.”

“You won’t. He’s more mature now and you have a lot more experience.”

“Okaaay.”

“Great! See you soon.”

I let out a slow breath and wipe a sweaty palm on my breeches. Low key ride? Ha.

 

I exit my vehicle and warily approach the barn and indoor arena. After all a fire-breathing horse lives here and I must be prepared to turn tail and run. I find Tucker in his stall calmly eating hay. We exchange glances and he resumes eating. I haven’t spotted any plumes of smoke emitting from him and offer a silent prayer of thanks.

Wait.

We haven’t introduced a saddle. Or rider.

Yet.

I wipe sweaty palms across my breeches and go in search of his owner.

 

We’re all tacked up and ready to go without incident. Mounting? A piece of cake. Now let’s get acquainted in the indoor. How much leg can I use? Hmm, not overly sensitive but responsive. Good. Tripping a little going to the right. I’ll need to support him more with my inside leg and push him into the outside rein. Better. Let’s change direction. Feels good. Let’s shorten your stride and pick you up a bit.

“Why’s he walking like that?” That would be the peanut gallery. Did I mention that this is a hunter/jumper barn? And that I don’t ride in front of an audience.

“His rider is nervous.” True. I’ll give my friend that one. “Sit back.”

“Thanks. Working on that.” When will I learn to sit back? When?

Now let’s trot. Stumbling but willing. I wonder if it’s the footing? More inside leg to outside rein. Better. Other horses have joined us for their lesson and he doesn’t bat an eyelash. Good.

A few minutes later we all exit the indoor. It’s absolutely gorgeous and we’re going to ride outside. There’s just one small problem. We have to walk past a horse-eating, plastic trash bag. Each horse gives it the hairy eyeball and attempts to walk past it sideways. No way are they turning their backs on the enemy! Thankfully, there’s no wind and the plastic bag allows us passage.

Our lesson ensues, minus jumps, and we both start to relax. As we relax Tucker’s back comes up and he starts to frame up nicely. No fire-breathing horse here. Just a horse, a really nice horse. Whew!

We trot deeply into the corners while others cut them off entirely. A little sitting trot, a little half seat—my thighs! The peanut gallery has followed us and I overhear, “…she’s so straight.” While my firend says, “Are you breathing?” Oh, how well you know me.

Then the call goes out.

“Everyone move to the center of the ring so Lee can canter! She’s never ridden him before so let’s give her room.”

Oh, boy. Sweaty palms emerge.

The peanut gallery erupts into cries of “His canter is great!”, “You’ll love him!” Uh-huh, we’ll see about that.

“You can ask from a walk or trot. You’re choice.”

That’s good. Hmm, I forgot to ask how he was with his leads. We’re almost in the corner, here goes.

Canter.

Nice, a little strung out though. Approaching the next corner. Stronger half-halt. He comes back really nicely. Wow.

“You’ve got it!”

From the corner of my eye, I notice that a latino barn hand has stopped to watch. They see it all. If he’s stopped to watch I must have it. Yah!

I decide to try an even lower gear. WOW! It feels like I’m cantering in place. This is amazing.

Now for the other direction. I’m not as good going to the left. Darn, I tipped forward on the depart. He’s definitely strung out and it’s my fault. Half-halt! Nice. Not as good as before but nice.

We both finished up slightly out of breath and the peanut gallery erupts. “You look great!”, “You did really well.”, “Great job!” but my favorite comment came from one of the mothers.

“You were dancing.”

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