GRRRRRRRRRRRRR Last night, my lesson mates and I, during a diatribe by the instructor [unintentionally provoked by yours truly], were implicitly lumped in with ‘some people’, who take up horse riding in order to look pretty.

Pretty? Pretty? What exactly makes one look pretty when one is riding? Is it the dusty hands covered in scurf after some time spent with the horses on the ground, giving them some strokes? Is it the streak of half-chewed-God-knows-what that Rebel smeared on my Tshirt while I was bridling him? Is it the red face that results from thirty minutes straight of flat work? Perhaps it’s my plaits flapping up and down as I rise in the trot, or is it the entire rest of my head plastered with sweat— oh, I forgot, ladies don’t sweat, we glow. No? Surely, then, it’s how hottt I look on the bus ride home, stinking of sweat and horse, face covered in dirt, fingernails black from my stylish riding gloves?

Okay, there’s couple of things going on here.

A) Taking it personally. My besetting sin.

B) There is no B. I took it personally, because I had phrased a query that might have been taken to be criticism of the instructor, and the first rule of Pony Club is not as simple as ‘Don’t Talk about Pony Club’, but rather ‘Shut Up Altogether’. Shut up and don’t question, or if a question is posed, then the demeanor must be meek. I was feeling stroppy, and hey, looks like someone else was operating under the influence of point A as well. Fine.

I know better. I’ve seen others fall into the trap of speaking like an adult. But it’s hard, it’s hard to be a forty-three year old [on Sunday] woman getting yelled at. On a good day, it’s correction. On a bad day, it’s an endless stream of criticism that one struggles to absorb while executing the shouted directions while trying to stay balanced while trying to get the horse to do the thing that he’s not doing because one is a beginner. I am still a bloody beginner, one year and two weeks into this thing— and all of it as far from a slow-motion, soft-focus canter through the surf as it gets.

Happily, I now have an answer to the big question, the question most often put to me: Where do you want to go with this? I want to ride well. I want to be able to ride any horse put under me. I want to ride well so that the horse is not unduly troubled by my presence, is, in fact, enhanced by my presence. I want to— oh, God— be good enough, better than good enough, to have my own horse someday, my own horse who knows me and I know her or him and we work together to have the thing, the connection, the joy of the action of riding, together.

It’s all so heightened, these reactions, partly due to my own personality, and partly due to the innate imbalance of power in the lesson environment itself. Val laughed at me, raging on and on during the lift to the bus. Okay, it was kind of funny, because it is so utterly ridiculous. If I wanted to look pretty, I’d be… well, not horse riding. Although I feel fairly well turned out in my jods.

The thing is, I bridled Rebel in one go. Okay, I removed the bridle after the first successful go because it sounded like he was choking. [It occurs to me now that he was winding me up.] I let the bit strap out one hole, after he’d deposited a lump of chewed-up-God-knows-what in my hand— but I got it right on him again.

And another thing is that he was in the lead again, no problem.

And the best thing of all was the last jump, the highest jump, taken at the canter, perfectly timed over the fence, and he just floated up into the air, a feather, a phrase of song, and I floated with him, sang with him, over the fence, landed perfectly, what a feeling, the most perfect jump I’ve taken yet. That’s what gets lost in taking it too personally, and I refuse to let anything ruin that feeling.

And I came up with the title of this post and made myself laugh. All is well.

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