Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Horses Who Made Me: Boy

As Phoebe's life vamped up and she prepared for college, our time together dwindled away to nothing.

Boy and I. Taken on my birthday 14 years ago.
Fortunately, a few of my close friends at school had found what seemed to be a great place to take lessons from. My parents talked to their parents and before long, I was signed up for a weekly lesson at a new place - yet another 45 minute drive one-way! (Yay for parents who understand the horse addiction!)

The new place, Arky's Stables, had a myriad of lesson horses. The trainer, Teri, had a son a year younger than me, too. It was a really awesome environment for me with so many peers around. They were involved in 4-H, too, which was part of the initial push for me getting even more involved in the organization than I had been prior.

One of the first horses I spent a significant amount of time riding (probably my first half dozen lessons or so) was a chestnut quarter horse gelding called Boy. He was a real solid citizen, as close to bombproof as you could get. He'd get up and go if you really wanted him to, but if not, he was more than happy to plod along at a stately pace.

I spent a lot of time learning and correcting my position with this horse. Lots of "heels down!", "toes in!" was shouted during my lessons.

My confidence at the walk and the trot wasn't lacking at all during these lessons. But after a few weeks of this, Teri knew it was time for me to move forward. She asked me to canter. I tried, but once Boy reached that fast trot that precedes the canter, I broke down into tears. Fear got the best of me.

Teri talked to me and soothed me and let it go for the rest of that lesson.

We revisited it every week after that. I broke down in tears every time. The fear was too much. I even swapped around on a few different horses for other lessons so that I could keep learning new things (how to ride a different horse's movement and deal with their individual quirks) while I wasn't conquering my fear.

Finally though, after weeks of lessons on other horses, Teri had me on Boy again. I remember being disappointed in this. Boy was just so boring compared to those other horses! But Teri knew best; she had a plan.

Teri had been watching my confidence grow with all the things I'd been tasked in prior weeks. She'd gotten to know me better in that time, too. This lesson on Boy was going to be different.

It proceeded like all the other lessons: warm up, then trot work. But then it changed. She had me stop and walked over to talk to me. She told me that she understood why I was terrified of the canter. But it was time for me to push through and canter anyway. She guaranteed that after that big, fast trot, it got better. She went over the movement that I would experience with me. She discussed how to ride it. And she re-hashed how to cue for the canter. If I was aggressive with my cuing - really meaning what I was asking instead of half-assing it - I'd  be into the canter and out of that fast trot quicker.

I remember crying and being scared and upset. Teri didn't let this faze her though. She picked up a harder, harsher attitude that let me get away with none of my nonsense and told me to get on the rail and pick up the trot.

I did as I was told.

She told me to cue the canter. To keep cuing until he did it.

With tears on my cheeks, fear in the forefront of my mind, and a tiny bit of determination, I did my best to follow all of her requests.

Boy did everything I asked; before I knew it, we were cantering around.

And suddenly, it wasn't so bad! It was easier than a trot. It was simple. It was smooth. My tears faded away as a shy smile spread across my face. Teri was ecstatic as she congratulated me. Boy slowed to a trot during all of this, ever the lazy, compliant guy he was.

Teri had me reverse and repeat the process.

It went even smoother than before. Boy was such a great babysitter for me to conquer my fears.

I didn't ride the big chestnut much after that lesson. But I can't forget him.

He helped me gain my confidence back. He helped me conquer my fear. He opened a HUGE door for me that I was unable to walk through before. He helped me to run through that door and embrace many more opportunities.

Thanks, Boy, for being a solid citizen who was tolerant of my blubbering and my fear. Thanks for helping me take a huge step forward in my quest to be a better rider.

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