Sometimes, I just wanna sweat.
Not that I don’t sweat, when I jump, because I do. But sometimes, sometimes I just want to go around and around without stopping. Sometimes, a lesson on the flat is the best thing ever.
It was blowy and a bit spitty last night, but the indoor was a wreck, and the lower arena is actually quite sheltered from wind and various sorts of rain. Down we went, and it was a relief. God, how I used to hate being outside! But now, how I hate to be inside! I used to feel safe, with the roof and the walls, those solid, appreciable boundaries. I used to feel much more in control in the indoor. Now, I suppose I am in control — rather than just pretending I was, or depending on something else to make that so — and so prefer the outdoor ring. It’s bigger, for one thing, and it… it just feels really good out there.
It felt good to be on Connell. Rebel is really broken, he’s been turned out and holy God, the state of him when he gets back, I don’t even want to go there. Connell felt good, I felt good, we were lead file, I kept my leg on and he kept going, stopping short only once, so that was excellent.
At some stage, maybe about the middle of the lesson, in which we went around and around without stopping, I thought, I really feel like I’m riding, like I am working. I could feel Connell settling into a nice springy stride beneath me, I felt like I didn’t have to break a rib to keep him going at the head of the ride [he is very much a follower], and I felt like… I felt like things were going well, and that I was doing things correctly, without having to try too hard.
Then we had to canter in circles.
Now, in the first few lessons in which I rode Connell, we tried to do this cantering-in-circles thing. It was not a success. Granted, it was in the indoor, and I may have mentally minimised the chances for that success by thinking, Oh, crap, we’re in the indoor and there’s not enough room for this! Whatever, it was basically a nightmare. He wouldn’t turn, he got really strong, and he pulled me, at speed, to the back of the queue, even going so far as to charge in between the queue and the wall. I couldn’t get him to do it, and I began to dread the notion of ever having to do it again.
One Saturday lesson, several months ago, we began to canter in circles, as a ride. The potential for mayhem? Off the charts. But somehow, I managed Con’s exuberance — it was just like pelting around the fields! — and got a feel for how to do the cantering-in-circles-thing-with-Connell properly.
And then we had to do it last night. Not even from, like, C to X-ish, but in the H corner. So: smaller. Off we went, and I didn’t even think about it, I didn’t make any excuses in my mind, I just used my body the way I would use it on Reb, or Delilah, and ba-dum-ba-dum-ba-dum, there we were, cantering in circles. Without losing stride, even on the right rein.
I think it goes back to that thought: I really feel like I’m riding, like I am working. I was, and from that centred place, I was able to do a thing I wasn’t able to do about eight months ago*. Mainly because I had done it correctly, and I didn’t have to work out, in my mind, how to make it happen. And I felt better and better every stride we rode, cantering in those circles, and I know that state-of-being communicates itself to Connell.
It was great. I was covered in sweat. Connell had a nice balanced froth on the bit. My legs were wrecked. I felt like a rider. I felt like I’d worked well. As much as I love to jump, flat lessons are very good for the control — and if this is not too paradoxical, also good for the soul.
*Only eight months on Connell? Is that true? Hang on… UH NO SUSAN: I’ve been riding Connell since mid-December 2010, for crying out loud. FFSL.