Here’s what’s easy.
Spilling coffee on a white shirt. This, I can do. In fact, I do it regularly, and occasionally, spectactularly. I wear coffee stains most days for all the world to see.
I believe my dressage is very much like my propensity to spill coffee. Occasionally spectacular, but mostly regular – or I strive to be.
Every once in a while, though, through luck or fate, I can ride at least one of horses a little bit. My stirrups “start to hum” as Torrance Watkins explained in her wonderful chapter on dressage for event horses in the old USCTA Book of Eventing.
Today there was such a humming day. Lucky was spectacular. Through, straight and round — just for a few 20m circles, and down a pretend center line — but there was also a soft halt in there, too. He bent from the heat of my calf and I felt I could hold the reins by just my fingernails and feel him. For an OTTB, this is a day Moses parted the sea.
When people say they “love working with greenies”, this is the reason why. Because that 20m circle, and that center line, validate you as a feeling, thinking human being who just happens to want to work with a 1,000-lb. live animal with a mind of its own. And think you can do something with it. When they come off the track, they yaw around, on the forehand. You work, and work, and work on achieving balance with a rider without leaning. You work on that shoulder popping, that forehand-falling, the blobbing around. Speed, without rhythm. Blasting off in transitions. All the things that make a racehorse go and a riding horse bad. You know eventually if you work consistently and patiently, they will go “bing”! one day and not be quite so hard to ride. Lucky has shown flashes of brilliance here and there. But today he became a real horse for me. He wanted to understand what I was asking, and not just pull toward the gate and buck and run. He acted like the aids were puzzles to figure out…get the right move and you win the contest. It is different with every OTTB. Some “get it” fast, some slower. Lucky’s bulb has been burning slowly and steadily, but today it shined very brightly for those 20m circles. I wonder who had the light bulb moment. Sometimes I think it is me — figuring out what it takes to stop spilling the coffee. Hold the cup still, stupid.