I’ve had some discouraging rides lately, feeling like I will never not suck, etc. Remember how Colin asked us to rethink cadence, and I forgot how to ride, and then I realized that Bella just needs a bigger canter to get over bigger fences? What I elide with a neat little narrative like that one is that the epiphany itself is almost beside the point. The stories I tell in my blog, like the running commentary in my head, are post-facto rationalizations of choices my body had already made. And muscle memory doesn’t have epiphanies, not really. You get a feeling, then you lose it, then you struggle to get it again, and you get a little worse, and you beat yourself up for sucking and being lame (which are sexist and ableist slurs, so… don’t do that, anyway.)
But you keep trying, if you’re me, in your half-arsed, forty-something, adult amateur way, as if riding ever so slightly better, not hanging on the reins, not squashing the movement with your stiffness, not blocking on one side – as if those things had some kind of moral weight, or any meaning beyond just exactly what they are. More rationalization, I guess. The truth is I want to ride because I just, I just want to ride, I always have. It’s beyond wanting to jump classes or overcome obstacles or transcend my earthbound whatever, although it is all those things as well. What it fundamentally is is having glimpsed something very good – that feeling, very occasionally, that I am moving with Bella, helping not hindering, that the two of us together are something more than the sum of its parts. And being unable to forget, or to effectively reproduce that singing moment, that plain canter with the horse moving straight under me, outside hind to inside fore, and nothing in me stopping that, my body like water, like light, like part of her body.
I had that, in glimmers, last week, and on Friday. Today we rode with Colin again and the thing about Colin is that he puts the jumps higher for us than any of the other trainers do: that’s his privilege, because it’s his name above the door. He was actually pulling them down because Toni had been jumping Coneli at a solid 4’6″, but even taken down they were 3′ or so, and the oxers were wide, and there was a hogsback.
I looked at them and knew that I could be afraid and let the fear stop me, but I could feel Bells sound as a bell underneath me, and I knew that Colin wouldn’t overface me, so I did that thing where I pretend to be the rider they think I am, and I felt the tension ebb away. That “chill the fuck out, I got this” feeling. We jumped the massive course and all I thought about was Bella’s rhythm and my line. I made mistakes but I fixed them. There was a huge oxer I thought would be a problem but when we rounded the corner to it I saw my distance and showed it to Bella and she jumped it. And then there was a white vertical five strides before the hogsback, and I turned her to it and saw the five and we jumped through it all forward, on the lightest possible contact; and it was very good.
“She goes well for you,” said Colin. “Cranky old mare.”