I had my fourth ride on Saxony today, the first where we were off the longe line for most of the lesson. I wanted to keep a meticulous log of our progress as it unfolded, or at least hers, but it's been hard because leaps and bounds have left me scrambling to absorb it all into my body, make it a knowing in my (aching) muscles not easily forgotten.
The details are important to me because they so often get left behind along the way. I tell myself now that if my body will remember everything, I can describe it later.
This was Saxony on Sunday. I had to sneak the shot from behind a tree because she always turns to look at me when I'm near. The owner of the farm turns her out in a round pen since we're only staying for a short time. The barn hands move the pen from spot to spot so Saxony has fresh lawn grass to munch along with her hay. Down at the right, sleeping on the job, are her three irksome footmen, some kind of geese or swans acquired as kids by the farm owner, who has a thing for birds in general.
I was there on Sunday with a friend to watch a clinic at an ungodly hour of the morning. It was a clinic for advanced riders and horses, but in it I saw all that we are learning, just done with a mastery that Saxony and I both lack, but which is not unattainable for either of us with work. I know this because on Thursday, after I'd done Saxony's ground work and in-hand work, my trainer decided to ride her before I did to show me what they'd been working on. I cried. It's not that shoulders-in or half pass are so elegant, or that a horse looks so different when balanced. It's not how willing and ably Saxony worked. I cried because I finally have a horse I am doing something with and I am understanding what we are doing. That has seemed such an elusive thing to me through the past few years; it was just something I imagined. I cried with relief and some pride, too.
Over our first three joint lessons, Saxony and I spent most of the lesson attached to B via the longe line. I understood why from the first ride. Saxony is forward, much more forward than I've experienced her to be. She's also unbalanced, and I am being taught how to help her move into balance with my seat, leg and rein aids. I'm also being taught how to dial all those aids way down. It's hard work. I always considered myself to be a quiet rider, but as my mare finds her way, her sensitivity is emerging. I'm not so quiet anymore, at least not relative to her. This is a wonderful thing to realize, that I am being tasked with finding subtlety along with everything else.
Today we were off the longe line and trotting on a big circle, working to stay round and rhythmic. When I keep my eyes up, I can feel Saxony go on the bit. If I try to sneak a glance down, she comes off it, responding to my distraction and change in position. Meanwhile, I circle at the rising trot not even thinking about how odd it feels to have my legs that straight, that long, that far under me. That's one thing my body is recognizing as the new norm, at least.
Self-consciousness is the enemy of accomplishment, someone once said. Boy, they were right. Ever so slightly, mine is starting fade, at least in this realm, with this horse.