23 FEBRUARY, 2008 It was our turn to canter, and I put my whip in my outside hand, as I have been doing in my private lessons, and Fiona said to put it in my inside hand, which I know, but Rebel seems to get the message best when it’s delivered to his off hind, but I put it in my inside hand, and I was giving the aid and giving the aid, and he wouldn’t canter, and he was doing his fast trot thing, and Fiona said to get back to the front of the ride and try again, and Mercury, who will canter at the merest suggestion of the thought of cantering, tried to take his turn, and Lorraine got him back in the queue, and we went again, and I tapped Reb on the near hind, and he picked it up, and then we had to change the lead, but I mostly sat back and we made it around the arena, God, and I’m told that I know Rebel well enough by now to know that that’s what it takes to get him to go, and I know that, and we trot and then we walk and I want to say, ‘But in my other lesson—’ but I don’t, because I already know that it makes no odds.

That’s basically a demonstration of the runaway train that my mind becomes when I have to correct something I thought was okay to begin with.

I’m learning a lot from all my instructors, in the main that every single one of them has a different way, and ne’er the ways shall meet.

Well, now, that’s not entirely true. They all agree on the heels down, head up, chin down, sit back business. Along with ‘hands down’, this seems to me to comprise the backbone of proper riding. The details, though, differ wildly.

If I’m told to carry my outside hand in one lesson, in another I’m told to lower it. If I’m not recovering my seat fast enough on Saturday, it’s because I was sitting up too soon on Thursday. I’m told to give Reb a brisk series of half halts when he starts pulling like a train; when I do this in front of another instructor, I get told off [in the gentlest way imaginable, I must point out, and given a series of options to employ to get his attention back on the work and less on hot pursuit of the arse of the lead horse.]

It’s only as confusing as I allow it to be, I suppose. There’s an element of performance panic in this— didn’t do what I’m meant to do and everybody’s watching— and the ego business that I find so fascinating. Not so fascinating, though, when you’re in the middle of trying to do something, and being told to correct it, and again, if you thought you were doing it okay to begin with, the adjustment is actually less like firing a different synapse than leaping a tall building in a single bound.

In terms of the bigger picture, I have a deep well of techniques to draw from, so when I ride horses I’ve never ridden before, I can try any number of things I’ve learned from the repertoires of different teachers. As regards the small one though, I wish I’d kept the crop in my outside hand, and used it.

Because I am able to make decisions for myself, in the arena. We were finishing off with jumping a double, and we needed a decent trot, and Rebel wasn’t cooperating, dragging his hooves, and rather than hope he’d hit the accelerator once we got near the first fence, I turned him a circle to give him the chance to build up his momentum. This pleased Fiona no end.

This is riding actively and independently. With time I hope not to get so flustered when I ‘do something wrong’ and stick to my guns if it’s right for me. I’m not annoyed about the correction, other than my own reaction to it, but I would very much like to remember that I’m striving to ride from my own head, and not from the voice of the teacher. Getting there.

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