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June 2, 2014: Horse Training: Dust in the Wind

I am still thinking about last Friday’s lesson. To begin, the wind was howling, the arena was so dusty that my eyes soon filled with grit – and I was wearing glasses. The wind came in blasts. In fact it was so windy that a jump stand blew over as a rider was approaching it. Muy dangeroso.

Pete and I decided beforehand to take Hrimfara with us, so that she’d both get a short trailer ride in and get to spend time in differing surroundings. Perhaps a mistake, given what happened; however, we made it work out for the best. She (for example) had her first encounter with pigs. Sniffed noses with them. Now our running into a herd of wild pigs down in New Mexico won’t ever be a problem.

I didn’t think that Raudi and Hrimmi would mind being separated. I was wrong. They did mind. Both neighed repeatedly for one another, even after Pete walked Hrimmi away from the arena to a near windless area with fresh green grass.

Raudi didn’t quiet. Rather, she became increasingly more agitated. I was riding with the more experienced riders because the barn horses were down at the fairgrounds, at a jumping show.

Vickie and Hunar clearing jump in dust

Around the arena went the other four horses, in near unison, appearing and disappearing in swirls of dust. Meanwhile, Raudi was alternating trotting, cantering, and tolting, at whim and not at all in a controlled fashion. I stopped her and she began crow hopping like a rodeo horse.

I was both mortified and fearful – mortified because I appeared to the other riders to be a hapless rider on a spoiled pony. Two of these riders – Jessica and Bryan, were also riders who for years, I’ve been trying to impress, but to no avail. I am both on and off horse, out of their league. In this instance, Raudi wasn’t helping matters any.

I was also fearful because I remembered what Pete had recently said about my postage stamp sized English saddle – that it was wasn’t safe and that for this reason I might fall off. And so, I tried to put it out of mind, Raudi bolting and my coming off and hitting a jump stand. Well, I did have my vest and helmet on, so the odds of my busting ribs or sustaining a concussion were less than they might otherwise be.

After warming up, we began going over jumps. The others all went over nicely. Then it was my turn. I pointed Raudi in the direction of the jump. She rushed forward, slowed down, then hopped over it. The second time around she neighed as she went over. This made me feel like a piece of chicken in a Shake and Bake bag. The third time she realized that twice she’d done the right thing, so she decided to do the wrong thing, and refused the jump.

There were subsequently several more refusals. Beth, who was standing near the jump, calmly gave me instructions. These were head up, heels down, release reins and hold onto mane. I wanted after the umpteenth refusal to get the hell out of the arena. However, I stuck it out because Beth’s directives were specific. And I knew that if I followed them, that I would be successful in getting Raudi from Point A to Point B.

At some point, determination replaced abject fear. Vickie, who was watching on Hunar also happened to say the right thing at the right time. (She always does.) This time it was squeeze my legs a few strides before the jump. This, as it turned out, made all the difference in the world, for what I realized was that I could prepare to meet my maker.

The phrase “there but for the grace of God go I” came to mind as we again approached the jump. This time, Raudi popped over the jump. From this point of time on, things got progressively better for me and my beloved red Connemara. We went over several more jumps successfully.

The grande finale was our going over a series of jumps, one on the left outside and two on the right outside line. As we landed on third, those present cheered. I then remarked to Beth that Raudi would never behave any worse than she had on this particular day, and added that for this reason that my confidence was upped in knowing that I’d be subsequently be able to handle whatever she might dish out. Beth’s response was “You crack me up!”

Beth then wisely said that we were done for the day. Notice that I didn’t say that Raudi and I quit. This is because we did not quit. Quitting would imply that we’d never take another lesson. No, we are going to continue to take lessons with Beth. This is because in part, Raudi and my going forward are now, in my mind, in part related to my taking charge.

The arena setting is not like Las Vegas – as in what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Rather, it’s the opposite. What happens inside the arena happens outside the arena. It’s a small space in which important lessons are taking place – lessons that will come in handy in larger spaces. Raudi and I have done just fine together in larger spaces. This is amazing, given that she’s so strong willed. However, our continuing to take lessons is going to make her an even more dependable trail horse.

Next: 153. 6/3/14: Horse Dealings: Lifre