I decided that I wanted to take some private lessons at Festina Lente, where I offer reiki to the horses. For whatever reason — despite my feeling that my riding has been getting worse — I wasn’t nervous. Not a bit. I stared languidly out the bus window, I walked up the long road placidly, I got myself organised once in the locker room without any undue kerfuffle.

I suppose it’s because I felt familiar with the place. Whether or not I was going to ride a horse I’d tended, I didn’t know. It was nice to be recognised by my instructor, even though we’d only been introduced twice. I chatted with the dude who was tacking up Jack, and then the instructor came up, and lent a hand.

She started to explain that we’d be taking it slow today, as it was unlikely, given my relative newness to horseriding, that I would have ridden without a bit —

Without a bit?!
Oh, shit.

I just nodded as my head went absolutely berserk: no bit no bit no bit. I lead Jack into the indoor — the enormous, pristine, mirrors-at-all-the-strategic-points arena, and did everything I usually do, got a block, grabbed rein and mane, got myself up there, sat and listened a Sue explained, in her own words, all the things I’ve been reading about natural horsemanship since well before I ever even got up on a horse.

Oh, wow. This could be cool.

Well, it was instructive. As Sue walked away at one point, Jack followed, and I realised than my seat and legs may as well as not be there. We stopped, eventually, most likely due to his choice rather than my direction. As we walked around, I was reminded of my very first lesson, on Mercury, in which I sat like a pillock on his back and hyperventilated. This wasn’t as fraught, but it sure as hell was different. And it is necessary to my growth as a rider to ‘get’ this.

I rode some of the worst serpentines of my life. In my first trot, the sound of my arse hitting the leather reverberated around the arena as if it were miked. I realised that I don’t assert myself with the horse from the get go. It was confirmed for me that my hands need lotsa work. It was glaringly apparent that my left side is weak.

And it also demonstrated that I can learn, and improve. I made turns that were predominantly directed from my seat. It was clear that I have been working towards being a better rider and that I can absorb new concepts. Once I got used to it, I got better at it. We had a brilliant trot on the right rein, and some really smooth and well-transitioned cantering.

It wasn’t the sweaty-head and red-faced kind of session, by any means, but it felt great nonetheless. I’ve got to have both in my life, a good, sober, steady, focused lesson, and the hell-for-leather, practically non-stop, go and go and go lesson.

I rode Rebel yesterday, and my hands went back to shit, but you know what? I rode some of the best serpentines I’ve ever ridden on him, because I let him know I was ‘there’ from the start, and we cantered like the bejeezus because I felt secure in the saddle. Hopefully, the benefits of the bitless work will postively effect the Rebel-hours, rather than the one ruining the other.

Can I become the rider I really want to be? Confident, assertive, yet gentle and aware? Am I riding four times a week now? It looks that way, doesn’t it? I knew this was going to happen…

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