HERE’S WHY I approached Rebel’s stable with intent— in the main, to see how the haircut was coming along.

His head was in his feeder, and he was munching away, and I said, ‘Hey, Reb! How’s the—’ and was shocked to see his head come flying up. I didn’t think I was that loud. Hmm. I checked him out, he checked me out, he was obviously acclimated to his new clip, and I was eager to build on the conclusion I’d reached, and accepted, that he is full of beans, and I meant to let him know that that was okay by me.

I was intrigued by his reaction to the sound of my voice, though… so I went away, distributed Polo mints to everybody else, and went back to Rebel’s stable. His head was back in the feed. I didn’t like to curtail his snacking, but he isn’t that bothered to be interrupted. I whispered— truly whispered, ‘Reb. Hey.’ And he lifted his head, backed up, and moved over.

So, he’s a sensitive guy. I know that horse’s hearing is acute, but it seems that much more so with him. Interesting.

And things just went from strength to strength from there. No open order, no taking the lead, we were fourth in the ride and happy about it. He took up the trot from the leg aid, and whilst I don’t think I had him bending terribly well on the circles, we went and went. Fantastic!

We jumped a fence from the queue, and then Nikki had us all take progressively higher fences one at a time. The breakthroughs continued, and the canter tonight was a revelation to me. Busy with the work of reapproaching the fence, I paid no mind to him and what he was doing. I sat the trot for the beat, looked up to where I was going, gave him the aid, and off we went.

This is the key. I realise now that, having had little confidence in my ability to give the aid with authority, that I was doing it all wrong. I was looking down at him, throwing my seat off, willing him to transition, but in actual fact, preventing said transition by not looking where I was going. In the work of getting around the arena, and looking at the fence, I was looking where I was going, and therefore sitting fully in my seat, and there was no hesitation whatsoever— on either of our parts.

I knew that I was meant to look up and ahead. This is a challenge I’ve written of before and the evidence of it being surmounted increased my confidence exponentially— and by extension, Rebel’s confidence in me. For the whole of the lesson, in fact, it was as if… it was as if I wasn’t thinking about him at all. In the best possible sense. The last few wrangles we’ve had, had resulted in my focusing entirely, once again, on the back of his head, looking down. By looking down, I raise my seat, and that millmetre, that infinitesimal measurement, communicates insecurity to the horse. From the get go, tonight, I was looking up, I was looking out, doing my part, giving him the opportunity to focus on his own part of the job.

It felt absolutely brilliant. I was in my seat, strong, straight, looking where I was going, trusting my mount. Most of all, I gained perspective: as much as I want every single lesson to be perfect every single time, as perfect as it was tonight, it can’t be— and perhaps it shouldn’t be. How do we know what we need to learn if we don’t come up against it now and again?

Oh, Saturday! Who knows what’ll happen then?

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