Thursday, February 21, 2013


Most people don't understand.  "So you're going down to Florida for some big competition?"
"I'll compete a little, yes," I say.  "But just to test what I've learned. Mostly I'm going down for lessons."
This doesn't make sense.  "What's it called, the show you're going to?"
"I'm going to the farm where my friend is staying.  I'm taking lessons."
"So--it's some big thing?  Lots of people there?"
"Quite a few people stay at the farm."
Lessons.  I'm. Taking. Lessons.  Riding. Lessons.

Really, the only people that get it are fellow riders.  I count many riders among my good friends, but most of them don't live anywhere near me.  Among my neighbors and family, the only people who actually get it are my aunt and uncle, because--wait for it--they ride horses, too.

"So, you're going down to ride in a clinic with Angelica?" my uncle said, a couple of years ago.  He rides hunters, not eventers, but he likes eventing and follows it.  As I said before, Angelica is a Big Name in Eventing.

"Ah, no," I said.  "She just invited me down to take some lessons."

He snorted, because he was impressed.  As he should have been.  Angelica gets the same 24 hours in a day as the rest of us, and if she declared herself open to all students, she'd be swamped.  She's invitation-only.  "How'd you pull that off?" my uncle asked.

"Who knows?  She likes me."  We're friends, oddly enough.  I sometimes refer to myself as Angelica's Token Dilletante, her only student who has absolutely neither the interest nor the ambition to ever ride at the Olympic games.  (Never mind the talent, natch.)

This year was my fifth trip to Ocala.   I actually keep my horses with Betty's horses on a farm next to the farm where Angelica stays: we can ride back and forth.  I take a lesson every day, from either Betty or Angelica, as their schedules dictate.  I learn a ton.  Then I go back to my little corner of upper east Tennessee, where I'm the most advanced eventer in town, and I try like heck to remember everything they taught me.

Why lessons?  I already know how to sit on a horse.  I will, however, never stop learning how to ride.  Every horse is different.  This year, for the first time, I had my new mare, Sarah, instead of Gully, my beloved longtime partner in crime.  I knew Gully so well.  I still miss riding him so much.  (He's got a chronic lameness I can't fix.  He lives on our farm and I ride him at the walk sometimes, but we won't compete again.)  I've had Sarah since August, and while I enjoy her extremely, it was only in my second week at Ocala that I finally felt we were on our way to a place where we had the same goal and the same idea of how to reach it. 

It was the most fabulous feeling in the world.