It’s so easy to get thrown off, particularly after having been thrown off.

Last Saturday, we were in the outdoor, the sand sucking at the horses hooves, and Rebel knew, before I did— in fact instantaneously— that I was spacey. Oh, I’d been out for a few hours the night before, and I was going out again that night… and frankly, I didn’t even realise how out of it I was until much, much later.

Not Reb, and he took full advantage of my imperfect attention, and did his thing, playing up, and at one stage after a truly rotten canter on the part of yours truly, he almost dumped me. I grabbed mane as I flung forward, and managed to get just enough balance back to stay on. I was not going to fall into a puddle. I was not going down into that mess.

And of course I did go down; I sprung back up, covered in wet sand, annoyed with myself, and annoyed with him. I was off balance, following a jump with the intent to change direction, and he knew, and swerved, and I was on the ground.

Delilah wouldn’t have done that to me. Tango, maybe, but not any of the other horses. He knew I wobbling, and he didn’t give me a dig out. Instead, I was digging sand out of just about every orifice once I got home.

What was illuminating was my reaction to it, the same self-castigation that I always get into. I almost didn’t go out, I was so… annoyed, destroyed, full of self-loathing. Here’s where the gestalt comes in.

On Tuesday, I decided that I needed a break from Rebel. This was a big decision for me, usually so stubborn and so intent on proving something. I wanted a pleasant, productive night, and got on Delilah, and indeed had an excellent hour.

On Thursday I was ready for him again, and felt that a private lesson was the perfect circumstance to get back up there. All went well, and I got another infusion of confidence.

Most important of all, I talked about Saturday’s unhappy tumble with a couple of the instructors. I went further, and admitted that I had been riding poorly that day, something that my pride would never, ever allow under other circumstances.

And what I got in return was shared experience, from two highly experienced riders, that basically, nobody’s perfect.

Nobody’s perfect! Isn’t that amazing! I don’t have to be perfect all the damn time. The degree to which I don’t allow myself off-days is fairly pathological. Not every hour is perfect. What a relief.

So I was ready for Reb today, and the hour wasn’t without its challenges. Cantering him, in half the arena, was a bit of a head wreck. But I didn’t give up, Emma didn’t give up on me, and at the last go, Reb and I produced a fairly impressive cantering circle. And it’s that one moment— thirty seconds? if that?— that lifted the whole lesson.

Perfect circles, perfect hours— it’s all of a moment, and is teaching me more than keeping my leg on. I’m getting the chance to throw out the rubbish of a lifetime, every time I take the reins. I’d rather not journey home on the bus with an arseful of damp sand, but I’ll take my teachings as they come.

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