Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Where Have I Been?

Florida. Ocala, Florida, to be precise. Also I'm still there--still here?--until Monday. I drove down last Wednesday, a week ago, and it was a very fast week.

I come here because my two professional rider friends, who I have always called on this blog Angelica and Betty, come here for large chunks of the winter. I come down with my horse, and ride with them. This is the ninth year I've come to ride in Florida. Many years I came for a week, or slightly less; this year I got more than a little ambitious, way back when I was planning things, and decided to come not only for 12 days, but to leave the horse here in my friend's care, and come back for another five days in March before driving the horse home.

My wonderful aunt came with me, since this is the first time I've driven the trailer all this way myself. She stayed five days. She loves horses, too, and got to have her first-ever dressage lessons while she was here, and videotaped my lessons, and cleaned my revolting tack, and it turns out we have exactly the same ideas of what to do with our evenings, which is, eat, go back to the hotel, shower, and read books.

I have yet to turn on the television in my hotel room.

I have had remarkable riding lessons.

Non-riders sometimes question why I or anyone else takes riding lessons. The answer is that riding is a  whole lot more than just not falling off the horse. My beloved sport, eventing, is three separate kinds of riding rolled into one competition, and it's hard, and the hard is part of what makes it excellent. You can't buy yourself a ribbon in eventing. You can buy an excellent horse, but you've still got to ride it, and one of the major truths with horses is that the more talented ones are often more difficult to deal with.

Anyhow, I divvy up my riding time between Angelica and Betty. I'm very lucky in that they are very old friends who also understand me and my situation well, and they work very well together, and understand that I love working with them both. Some years I've stabled at Angelica's barn, some years with Betty. I'm with Betty this year. On Friday, Sunday, and Tuesday I had jump schools with Betty. On Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, and today I had dressage lessons with Angelica. Tomorrow I'm schooling cross-country with Betty, and perhaps throwing in a flat lesson.

Saturday I had an epiphany. Angelica told me to start out by showing her where I was with my flat work (flat work and dressage aren't exactly the same thing, but close enough for this blog). I did. She asked what I needed to be different. I told her, and I was right. She asked what I needed to do to make that happen. I told her I had no idea.

I told her I knew that what I was doing wasn't working, but I didn't know what to replace it with. "Okay," she said. So we started at the halt. Then, eventually, the walk. Then at one point Angelica, from the ground, holding the reins, jogging alongside my horse while I rested my hands lightly on the reins to feel what she was doing. Then my hands took the reins. Then, eventually, we trotted--and I was trotting all wrong. But then I got better.

The next day I did some flatwork on my own before my jump school, and I was still better, on my own, than I had been before that first lesson. Then the next day, back at Angelica's, I improved further.

It was like learning to walk all over again. It was absolutely excellent. I told Angelica that I thought my horse was singing Halleujahs. She said, "The reason for that should be sufficiently obvious."

Hoo-eee. I miss my family. I miss my husband, my daughter, my son, my dog. I've got plenty of work to do, and I'm doing some of it here, but mostly, mostly I'm getting steadily better at something I love, that I do only for the love of doing it. It's amazing. It's why I'm here.