22, SEPTEMBER 2007 Yeeeeah, there’s that cynicism that I mentioned. It’s the part of me that stands outside of experience— any experience— coolly observes throughout, and then proceeds to examine it to death, mostly, I suppose, to stop me over-emoting in any given situation. Which is, in turn, ridiculous because I come at everything, every single thing, feelings first. Cosmic joke’s on me, then, or has been, until the horses started chipping away my resistance, challenging my instinctive need [safer, this way] to call it all bullshit.

Is it bullshit? All that stuff I read about in the books, all that being-in-tune stuff, all that spiritual business about horses and how they change a person, how they let us in to their thinking, into their minds, how they’re talking to us all the time? And then there’s the other school of thought, those that sneer at anthropomorphism, the ones that don’t spare the rod to spoil the foal, the ones that insist that the human has to dominate the animal.

What happens in the middle? Probably what happened with Tango and I this weekend.

The barn is gloriously chaotic, all of us having been told what horses to take, all of us fetching them out at once. I was given Rebel, who I’d only just found out was 6 years old— a baby! No wonder! I knew it!— and was complimenting him again on his performance on Tuesday, and leading him out of his stable, when one of my lesson mates came up and said, ‘Shirley said to take Tango, I’m to have Rebel instead.’ I hand her the reins— I couldn’t help feeling a little bit grim.

Tango. Big chestnut, 17hh, young, too, but not goofy with it, like Rebel is. I’ve had him only three times before, and only the first time marginally successfully. The second time he wouldn’t settle into a private lesson and Ruth sent him back up. Third time, well, read all about in the upcoming Catalogue of Falls. I had been somewhat obsessed with him at one stage, wanting so badly to figure him out, help him, give him the attention he needed in order to get him to really live up to his potential— until I was struck by the reek of codependence about the whole thing [reminding me too much of my not-successful marriage]— and decided to back off. I didn’t ask for him— I hadn’t gotten him until now.

Tango is bridleless. Shit. I grab the one hanging outside his stable, check it for backwardness, open the stable door. He takes a step out, scavenging for hay. I get it on him in one try. Hey. The big guy let me bridle him in one. I lead him out, he keeps foraging, it’s a crazy scene, all these stable doors opening, all these horses negotiating the aisle. I tell Tango that I was better than I was, the last time I had him, stronger leg, so maybe he could leave off winding me up— no napping, please!— and we could, maybe, have a good time…

Nope. Fiona calls out the order of the ride, and puts us last. Because he kicks, you see. Bugger. Totally understandable, and I thought he was as miffed as I, until we started going— or rather, it was time to start going, and Tango wouldn’t go.

I try to let him know… what? That it was okay? What was okay? We were indoors, okay; the lesson was large so it wouldn’t be much work for him, okay; that I wanted to work with him and have a good time—okay? Nuh-uh. He spooked at the patches of sunlight coming through the skylight, every single time round, and despite keeping my leg on, we never got going, having to cut corners to keep up, and in general struggling altogether.

He hates it, you see. In a flash of communication we did have, over and above everything else he was telling me with his physical behaviour, he let me know how much he hates being in the school. He hates it, it’s boring, all the other horses are stupid, why can’t he just run and jump outside?

If I was in a book, I maybe could have slowed down at the sun spots and let him figure them out for himself. I might have been able to help him over his fright or annoyance or whatever it was that made him stop dead at every square of light. If I was in a book, I’d have had time to… I don’t know what: not rush? Instead, I was in a lesson, at the back of the ride, engaged in a power struggle with a dude who must weigh at least 1,600 pounds and could toss me like a salad.

This is the most frustrating thing. Obviously patience reaps rewards, but who has time for it, in the middle of a lesson, five others mounted and trying to go? It only occurs to me, after, that Tango only needed the opportunity to make a judgment for himself about whether or not that sunshine was dangerous or not. Not until afterwards, not until well after a session of kicking and chastising him [‘Hey, big guy! You’ve got ‘go’ in your name! Go!’]… and my pride taking a knock. And the thing is, I bear him no resentment or ill will. I worry for him: he’s got so much potential, so much talent [he jumps like a champ, so strong and high] and he gets chucked into the school, and then sent back when he behaves really badly, reinforcing some seriously bad manners. Who will take him in hand? I don’t know, but it can’t be me, not yet. Others ride him, I think, with a minimum of fuss— I’ll have to watch sometime, and hopefully learn.

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