I’m still thinking about Saturday.

I can still see it happening: coming round at the A end, Bounty just ahead, and yup, there she goes, dancing to the right, and here we go, Rebel leaping, skitting, starting to buck, maybe bucking, and somewhere between the skit and the all-but-buck, I sat back. I can still feel it my body: my leg was on, I didn’t shift a millimetre when we jumped to the right, my hands were down, and I can still feel that click, that shift, of my pelvis and seat.

I admit I am keen to try it again. I don’t know that one is meant to be keen to experience the bucking of a horse, but I’m so used to Rebel now– and sure, they’re not mighty, his bucks, it’s not like Tango bucking [which is craaaazzeeee]— I’m so used to him that I’d very much like to have the opportunity to do that again, to sit back again, to feel that centredness and power again.

The centred thing has been creeping up on me in the last number of weeks, I’d say since I’d taken that one-lesson break from Reb, and done so well on Delilah. It’s been a feeling, not so much of complacency— and, oh, can I get complacent— but something quiet like that. I consider complacency to be quiet, like falling asleep on the couch in the afternoon, but this feeling is fully awake. It’s confidence, but quiet, quiet, quiet… not nerve, but… poise? Maybe?

I see myself as I used to be, standing, waiting by the horse. In the first months of my riding career, for several weeks, an Austrian girl was in our lesson. Over in Ireland for study, she had been riding a year back home, and it showed, not just in her riding, but in the fact that she knew what she was doing on the ground. I would watch her, moving around the horse, unrolling the stirrups, checking the girth, busily, industriously, consciously. I wondered when I would be like that. [The first time Nikki told me to unroll Argo’s stirrups, I said I didn’t know how, which was true, and when she simply pulled the iron to the bottom of the leather, I sighed.]

I am now like that. I suppose I could even get up there without a block— as long as someone was weighting the offside— if Rebel didn’t like to needle his riders by starting the Electric Slide the minute you raised your leg to the stirrup. I now fairly fly into the saddle, whereas before I had to ‘think’ myself up there, much less drag myself: I had to see myself up there, as I bounced and bounced on my right leg, preparatory to making the move, my left hand gripping Argo’s mane, my right hand almost entirely [Almost? Entirely!] gripping the offside bottom of the saddle as I finally summoned the nerve and hauled myself up and on.

I had to think myself up there. Now, I don’t think about it at all. Foot, stirrup, up. No need to build up a head of steam— my body knows what it’s doing, and more importantly, knows it can do it. All these weeks, months, the litany ‘Sit back! Hands down! Sit back!’ has been absorbed so deeply into my brain that I don’t have to think it anymore. Seriously, how else do we learn how to do anything? Can you imagine walking and having to think about every single step you take? Mind and matter working together, no either/or, this is all both/and, baby, as exciting as those first real steps I took as toddler, and as freeing.

Not that I remember those steps, but I’m reaping the benefit now. As I hope to reap the benefit of my newest motor skill. So much is being written about the body these days, about how our minds are not located in our brains, but in our very cells, throughout our muscles, our organs, our bones— I’ve got concrete evidence that this is true, of the swift and invisible communication of thought, and what’s more, knowledge, that all that instruction has worked its way into my flesh and blood. Mind and matter, neither one over the other, kept me in that saddle, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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