I didn’t realise something was going on until we started jumping.

It had all the hallmarks of being a really good hour: only three of us in the ride, I had Rebel, personally bridled by me, the going was a teeny bit slippy in the indoor, but we were going and going, at least twenty minutes straight, trotting at a fair clip despite this being the horses’ first hour of the day, circling, changing the rein, I’m keeping Rebel going well in the turns, and truly actually working on getting him to turn on my leg in the circle [I know what that means, now] and struggling to prevent him from falling in [the meaning of which I have a vague apprehension].

I had been all over the place mentally all day long. For better or worse, I can do several things at once, one of them being able to work and function and still go off on another cerebral track entirely. It’s as if I can never get busy enough to still the auld monkey mind. Except when I’m riding.

When I’m riding, I can only be riding. If I am doing anything else apart from devoting myself to riding, then things go wrong, with the possibility of going horribly wrong. The basis of my undivided attention, in the beginning, was stark, staring fear. Once I became less stricken by nerves, I began to truly enjoy, and anticipate, these hours during the week in which everything— every single thing— fell utterly away, and it was just me, my body, the horse, and the tasks to hand. Living in the present moment is the bedrock of numerous schools of thought, from Zen Buddhism to new age self help, and it’s certainly something I’m not terribly good at, so this opportunity to learn how liberting it is has been one of the highlights of my horserding experience.

Except that I wasn’t quite so, er, centred last night.

See, the thing is, there was a crop lying on the ground in the indoor.

I’ve been cropless for a week now. I idly wandered around the portakabin before the lesson, hoping for another miracle. I thought of nipping into the indoor arena and having a nosy, but someone was working her horse, and I wasn’t that pushed. I had ordered one online, and I supposed I could wait— although I had my doubts about this whip. For all I knew, due the dearth of information on the site and my innate impatience, I had bought one of those five foot long longeing whips. I’d have to keep borrowing until I had one of my own again.

Nikki leant me hers. I almost got on Rebel unassisted but he did his little jig forward just at the last minute and I dangled in no-woman’s land for a few seconds before asking for help. I got up, adjusted everything, and settled in to begin to warm up, when I saw it.

A whip. Lying in the track. A mauvey-purpley affair, clearly well used, but entire, from handle to the wee leather bit at the end [which probably has a proper name, but I like to colloquially refer to it as ‘the slappy part’]. I managed to forget about it for the beginning part of the hour, but in the back of my mind I was imagining myself grabbing it up at the end of the lesson. And then I thought I forgot about it… but I didn’t.

We jumped a cross-pole, and then Nikki added a bounce. We were going in trot, which Rebel doesn’t really care for, nor was he impressed by the height [or lack thereof] of the fences. It was all a bit lackadaisical and, back in the queue, I thought to scold him about his laziness, when Sharon, on Ruby, began her approach, and in the process kicked the whip, and I thought, ‘Shit, don’t break it, shit!’— and realised that Rebel’s attitude had everything to do with my inattention.

Whoops. And by then, it really was too late. I never got it, never got the connection, and Rebel had clearly written me off for the evening. Nikki added a third fence, two strides after the bounce: I was so consistently awful over this combination it was breathtaking. Well, it felt awful. Everybody else kept saying ‘well done’, but it did not feel well done. I was not in the zone, and I learned something about the zone, in that I can’t get into the zone after being zoned out, because of the horse. If I’m not there from the get go, then I may as well get off.

This may sound unduly harsh to the non-horsey. I think it may not actually be harsh enough. Here: we landed after the last go, and I was so off balance, I almost fell off, and in trying not to fall off, yanked on Rebel’s mouth and threw my hands around, and okay, okay, these things happen, but it caused him unnecessary annoyance. I’m not good enough yet, maybe, to just pull myself in and get on with it, and frankly, I was so stunned to realise how much I’d been obsessing about that poxy whip that all my focus went towards obsessing about the obsessing.

The worst of it is: I didn’t even know what this was all about until this very moment, in the act of posting. Or it’s the best of it? That it’s all so heightened, and that the experience is so important to me that I actively seek to understand it. And, most importantly, that I let it go. I let it go on the bus last night. Stopped berating myself and let it go. And in letting it go, actually opened the door to understanding. How useful this might prove itself in ‘real’ life. And how utterly meditative of me, as well.

See you on a Tibetan mountainside…

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