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July 25, 2014: Lessons Learned: Horse as Soul Mate

A very tough day. Tougher even to write about. No one wants to let others know about their shortcomings. However, this is one way in which memoir writers such as me get at certain truths, as painful as this may sometimes be.

Woke up to pouring rain. Thought ugh, don’t want to deal. But then I thought I have spent many a day on the trail in the rain. So off we went, again back to the state fairgrounds. There we unloaded Raudi, put her waterproof raincoat in place, and trotted off to find out when we’d have the first of the day’s two lessons.

I watched a class and then tacked up my horse. We began by doing turns on the forehands the haunches, and backing, which is called rein backs. Raudi was okay with this, though I was confused.

I stopped working for a bit and then watched my three other classmates, as did Raudi. We were next to do shoulders-in on the rail. I cannot tell you what this is, because I still don’t know what it is or what it entails. I’ve read about it, and about how it is executed, but I am still mystified. Raudi was okay with this, but I was confused. I sought help from the clinician by putting myself in his field of vision, but his gaze consistently went to the others, who were to varying degrees doing what he asked. I just could not, no matter what I did, get his attention. I decided finally to call it good when another rider rode up next to him (he was on a horse) and began talking to him about shoulder-in particulars. By call it good, I mean leave the arena, in order to chill for a bit.

I consoled myself by reminding myself that the afternoon class would be more cut and dry. We’d be taking turns jumping, and so I’d then get needed attention. And this is ultimately what happened. There were four differing people in this class – Hillary and Haley from Beth’s class were present, as were two young girls. Raudi’s initial warm up canter was lackluster – she zoomed forward and slowed down repeatedly, and then she threw in a few bucks for good measure. But once we began going over poles and jumping she did just fine. We went over cross jumps and verticals several times, and each time she cleared them, landing in fine form and doing what’s called a canter departure.

After, I watched the more experienced jumpers for a bit. These horses went over multiple jumps, big multiple jumps – heck, it was like they had springs in their legs – they bounced up into the air, came down, and then went up again.

I finished the clinic day feeling disheartened because (as one person noted) Raudi and my trails experience does not translate into arena experience. A case in point – in 2011, after leaving Leadville, we had to walk along a railroad grade. It was a Sunday. After a bit, we came to a construction site where there were all kinds of things to deal with. Pete, Raudi, Siggi, and Signy and I made our way around rubble, past cranes and huge trucks, and then crossed an untrafficked future highway. Had any of our horses balked or bolted, we may have been seriously hurt.

Frustrating to remember this in relation to our arena dealings because it appeared as though Raudi knows zip. And, because it appeared as though we know zip, the attitude of the clinician and some of the other students was one of polite condensation. This was tough to take.

Ahh, but here’s the deal. This, I later realized, is an instance in which I alone must acknowledge what it is my horse knows, otherwise, I won’t progress. By this I mean, make my own personal strides. And yes, Raudi is doing amazingly well. Today she again had her wits about her, and was being extremely cooperative. I just have to keep this in mind in the next two days, and remain appreciative of this fact.

It’s the small things that matter right now. These things are so small that no one else is going to notice. Raudi (today) stood nicely as her cohorts worked – and held her own when asked to trot. And she did all this while remaining attentive and alert. Really, it’s of little consequence that her canter was erratic at times or that it felt like I was riding a tilt-a-whirl when she rounded the corners in too sharp a fashion. No, this is of no matter at all. The lesson to be learned here is that together, we are moving forward. I just need to be accepting of the fact that we are where we are, and where we are is mentally and physically in a very good space.

Next: 204. 7/26/14: Lesson Learned: The Sky is the Limit