little brown horse, a love letter

Despite my best efforts, I will probably never be much good at riding. The numbers are against me. For something like equitation, the ten thousand hours thing is legit, and though I’ve ridden as much as I possibly can for the last seven years, “as much as I possibly can” is at best three times a week. I’ve added maybe a thousand hours to my childhood total of maybe another thousand and a half. If I maintain the same course and speed I’ll clock up ten thousand in fifty years, when I am 95. If I retire at 65 and spend ten years riding ten hours a week, I’ll get there by 75. So, longshot.

Also working against me is my conformation, long-bodied and short-legged, which had the significant advantage of being effortlessly good at birthing a couple of ferociously healthy little girls, but is entirely the wrong way round for looking elegant on a horse. My trademark seat is my torso swaying like a poplar even as I struggle to get my meaty peasant calves around Sam’s ribs.

And still. And still. I’ve been riding Sam for a quarter of a year, and I’ve learned how he likes to be asked to come round, and how sensitive he can be to the pressure of my leg. Sit on him holding the buckle of the reins and flex one ankle down; he steps away. I’ve learned to love the softness in his poll, the sparkle and flow of his impulsion. I’ve learned to ask more of him and of myself, because he is far and away the best-trained and best-natured horse I’ve ever had. I’ve learned to see our distance and sit on the saddle and wait and count our strides into the fence and tuck in my elbows as we go over, just as he tucks his knees.

Today in the indoor, Laura raised the fences, and a man on a big bay went around, the bay horse snorting and blowing. And Laura said, “Now you, Rachel.” And I knew how the jumps would ride, and I knew Sam was engaged and in front of my leg and cheerful and willing and game. And around we went, pop, pop, pop, as if it were easy. These are the only compliments on my riding that really matter: the trainer putting up the fences, and my little brown horse being happy.

Leave a Reply

Comments are closed.