WITH RESPECT TO CHIEF BRODY, RIP I’m going to need a longer whip.

Rebel and I are an item. There’s no getting around it. He’s got things to teach me, but they’re not, what with retrospect and all, the gentle lessons of Delilah and Argo.

The mists of time obscure the rough rides I had on both the mare, and my darling first gelding. Argo had his moments: there was the day when we were chucked together with the advanced kids, in which he went pretty mental during the jumping part of the lesson, to the degree that Nikki had me get off him, and one of the really good kids get on. Even the good kid couldn’t handle him, and I was told to bring him back up and bring down Delilah for the rest of the lesson.

Then there were the first four lessons I had on Delilah, during which she seemed to determined to run away with me, not listening to what she perceived to be deeply tepid aids.

But I stuck with them both, and now I’m too advanced for Argo, and Delilah looms like an oasis I drink from when it all gets to be too much with Reb. But she’s too easy for me now— so the instructors say— and it’s me and Rebel, and the lessons are not going to be easily learned.

I know, intellectually, what I could be doing better. My legs need to be stronger. My seat needs to be heavier, more secure. I know what to expect from him, and how to correct it, but it’s still in the process of coming naturally.

It’s frustrating, to be sure. In Thursday’s private lesson, he absolutely would not canter for me. Once it went wrong twice, I felt the thing come over me, the feeling thing, of inadequacy, frustration, the frustration of not being heard, being listened to. It feels like a fog, and through the fog I can here the instruction, I can feel my mind drift out of my body, it’s an extraordinary disassociation— I know it’s happening, I can feel it, but it’s as if I’ve lost all connection between my brain and my bum.

I know my brain needs to be in my bum, and below, into my legs, but the thing that happens, happens all upstairs, and I start leaning on my hands again. This sets off the expected chain reaction of Rebel pulling even harder, and then me shortening the reins even more… Well, it’s getting in there, in my brain, and I’m hoping it’ll drop down into my seat before long.

The thing with Rebel is that’s he’s unforgiving. He’s one of those horses who will not cover for you, no how, no way. I learned fairly sharpish that complete attention is needed whilst on the horse— this is only common sense. Multiply that by about a hundred with Rebel. He’s so sharp that the slightest relaxation in leg results in a cut corner, the merest indication of lack of balance threatens to land me in the dirt.

I’m being asked to be smarter and stronger. This is the mature approach. It’s too easy, with him, to try to blame it all on his arsey temperament, to make it all his fault. Oh, how I would like it to be all his fault. Not to say he’s not contributing— I’m not feeling like that much of a martyr. But I’ve got to be even more present than I’ve been accustomed to being. It can be exhausting. But when I do it right, all is right with the world, and since he and I are stuck with each other, for the next while, then I’m determined to work it out.

The one thing I do know, and that others who regularly struggle with Rebel’s particular charms have shared, is that he only pays serious mind to a long dressage whip. I’ve used one in my private sessions— and I know it works. Back to the internet I go, with a grumble towards those long whips I bought mistakenly, that I ended up giving away… I don’t think Reb’s as formidable an opponent as Jaws, but it’s time to stop messing around. Time to tailor the tools to the work to hand. Although I don’t fancy getting on the bus with one of those things— I’m enough of a talking point as it is…

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