Monday, April 16, 2012

We've been graced with fair weather for the past few days.
Yesterday I spent a good while laying on the grass in front of the house, looking up at the branches of our maple tree, and playing with the green keys it's started to drop. They're soft and green and translucent, but soon they'll be brown and brittle. And everywhere.

A new painting started today. After this one, just one more to go.

This week's riding lesson was significantly less...graceful...for lack of better term...than last weeks. To put it bluntly, I was a disaster. Last week, the mare was very sensitive and hot, thus requiring subtle and sensitive aids and overall calmness and reassurance from yours truly-she was spooky and unsure. It was also a private lesson. This week's horse, Freckles, was the opposite, in fact he may have been a cow rather than a horse; it was like trying to convince a brick wall that it should bend around my leg and move forward. It was also a group lesson, six of us, on top of two other riders in the arena. I was heavy with my hands and my legs slid back and forth horrifically. I've never felt my legs slide around so much before; I was absolutely a sloppy, sloppy mess. The horse was lazy, he did not want to pick his feet up, and he was very adamant about cutting corners; rather than last weeks horse, Pie, Freckles required very very strong aids, particularly in the legs. My strength there is mostly gone, and if I had any doubt about that prior to today the confusion has been very much cleared up. It was a struggle to gather up enough strength to keep us where we needed to be; every time we'd come around the bend he would fall in and I'd flail around yanking on his mouth and trying to kick as hard as I could with my inside leg, and he basically continuing to cut saying "nah you're doing this wrong and so I'm just not going to listen." We did things I've never learned before, particularly shoulder-ins and half passes. I know these maneuvers well, as in I can recognize them when they're being done, but I myself have never done them before. So, eight horses plodding around the big arena, tack and buckles squeaking and clanking, and the instructor yelling from the opposite side, I couldn't hear her at all. For a good ten minutes of the lesson I felt thoroughly embarrassed and ashamed of myself; rather than getting anything from it, asking her to be louder, or explain something, I was merely following the group and trying to mimic the horse and rider in front of me, with Freckles resisting and the poor thing! My hands were so heavy on the bit and he was stretching downward and trying to avoid being yanked and I feel absolutely awful about it now but at the time I was just trying to maintain the pace and get myself balanced and keep him moving forward and to stop cutting corners. I don't know what it was about his trot or what was different with myself from last week to this week, but I could not get my legs to be still for the life of me, particularly the right leg when we were on the left trot diagonal.

Oh it did feel like kicking a brick wall.
After the embarrassment ended, my legs and back already feeling stiff, and having taken Freckles back to his stall and apologizing for the agony I put him through, I asked my instructor if I could ask her a few things, and it did help; I asked her what exactly I needed to be doing when we approached the corners, to keep him from falling in so bad, and what exactly the aids were for the shoulder-in and half-pass. At first she seemed a bit annoyed, but she's a very straighforward person and maybe it was just my personal overwhelming guilt for having hung onto poor Freckles' mouth that was seeking that out in her. Anyway, she explained them, and all I can do is wait until next week to try and correct my mistakes.

Despite all of this, and how ashamed I am of myself for making Freckles' suffer for my own disorganization and madness, I really hope we get to work together again next week. I hope she keeps us together. I remember taking lessons here before, and it seemed every two weeks we would be on different horses; I hope that isn't the same this time. I'd like to stick with him until I can understand, and get things to work. I at least hope that next week we will be together, so that I can have a second chance.

As I was untacking him and apologizing for everything, one of the women from the group approached me and started chatting. She reminds me of my anthropology instructor; an older woman, very short, thin, pixie-like, with big, wide, curious and kind eyes, and a small and shy smile. I was still suffering from my embarrassment so I mostly looked down at my gloves and didn't say much; which just made everything worse as I then felt like I'd been rude and regretted not talking to her more! I can't win against myself and my guilt, I don't let me.

So the adventure continues. I've another long, endless week to wait until the next round. Once a week is certainly better than not at all, but it's tough; I crave more. It's an awful drug. It's difficult to deal with, in every aspect; it's both wonderful and awful. It's complicated.
To put it into a few good words:

"Riding a horse is not a gentile hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of solitaire. It is a grand passion. It seizes a person whole and once it has done so, he or she will have to accept that their life is radically changed." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Until next week, the madness and insanity of art school continues. The weather will begin to cool down again, and tomorrow will have a chill, so they say. But I'm not going to think about that tonight. Instead I'm going to curl up with "The Two Towers" and wish that I lived in the Shire with Joe and Brógan, where everybody would speak Irish, drink loads of tea, read loads of books, have wonderful gardens, tell lots of stories, and enjoy the sun and the breeze and the soft rains. And maybe have a horse or two...

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