I remember last year that one of the girls who used to ride on Tuesdays mentioned how awful it had been, riding on Hallowe’en. This was on a night in November, when the winds rattling the corrugated steel roof of the indoor arena had the horses going completely mental; at one stage, Argo was going large on the right rein— and in the blink of an eye, he leapt straight up in the air and swung around to face the centre of the ring. I didn’t fancy a night of spooks, in more ways than one.

About halfway throught the lesson, Nikki remarked on how quiet it was. Generally, the celebration of the Celtic New Year [Samhain (pron. sow-en, in the pagan calendar) starts about a week early, demonstrated by loud bangs emitting from all over the city, fireworks exploding over north and south side alike, with charming young boys flinging snappers down onto the pavement in O’Connell Street, and laughing when people jump in alarm. Yes, very charming.

Right. Almost Hallowe’en, still feeling unwell, and to be frank, unexpectedly rattled from the fall off Tango on Saturday. Not so much by the physical aspects of it— although no one needs a sore bum— but rather the mental aspects. The fact that I’ve sorted out exactly when I know he’s going to refuse is sort of not so helpful. Primarily because I don’t know that I can get the big guy to either keep going or not throw me. My imagination went a haywire, picturing the myriad ways in which I might deal with that tell-tale little canter, and many of the ‘home movies’ went badly splat. I know better than to creatively visualise a disaster; this is the first time I’m feeling like there’s so much I don’t know, and can’t manage, that I should maybe—

Nope. No way. Not going there. Out of the question.

I got Rebel, and long story short, he fully embraced his name last night. He simply would not canter. Not even into the fences. We managed all the jumps cleanly, regardless, but the struggle to even get him into trot was epic. I was complimented on my tenacity, but I felt annoyed and also concerned. Was he unwell? Nikki said he’d been bolshy all week— were his feet okay? His back? His teeth? Or did he twig my own unwellness, and take advantage of it? Or… was his hyper sensitive hearing picking up disconcerting noises only an animal could hear?

Eimear reckons all the horses got slightly buggy in the last fifteen minutes of the lesson. And the hills were alive with sound of mayhem very shortly after we’d dismounted. I suppose that’s a fair explanation. I also suppose I’m in a space in which I’m pursuing explanations of the… metaphysical sort. I’ve got, to a certain degree, and one that can and will be improved upon, the physical part of this horseriding craic; it’s the mental, now, that needs to step up. And is entirely capable of screwing me up. The greatest benefit I’ve had from the riding has been the full immersion in the present moment— it’s just that now, as I move up the horse-ranks, the present moment isn’t always about mindless bliss.

Time to start thinking, now. But proper thinking, thinking in proportion to the moment— not over-thinking, or disaster-thinking, or who knows what. I had to think about how to get Reb to go— and yes, it did entail the reins-in-one-hand thing. He seems determined to school me in smacking him on the butt with the whip. [Naughty.] I’m getting better at it. And I was not one hundred per cent last night— so he’s allowed to be less than that, too.

I’m not quitting. The best cure for the heebie jeebies is to get back out there, even if your mount is stroppy— or perhaps especially if he is. My lesson is to get smarter, to ask more questions, and to take my mental preparation to the next level. I used to count on the horse, through his superior knowledge of the procedure, and interest in self-preservation, to take care of me. Argo, my beloved, was a genius at covering up, and smoothing over the rough spots. Time to participate fully. Time to raise my game. Time to get more assertive and still remain open and interested in the horse’s well-being. Time to visualise the good stuff, the perfect transition, the perfect approach.

Another lesson I didn’t know I was learning. I love this.

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