We had a fabulous time last night, as Final Call trucked around his first-ever teenager, and I got to give a riding lesson for the first time in years!
We’ve said it here before, and we’ll say it again, there’s nothing like the bond between a kid and her Thoroughbred, and I remembered my first ride on Rillo, OTTB number one, in a western saddle, in a roping arena somewhere in the cattle-soaked swamps of south Florida. My mother watching on the sidelines. “Are you being run away with?”
“How do you like him?”
“I love him!”
I was also reminded of how much I like teaching… when I don’t have to hustle for students. When I was younger I had a thriving lesson business going in North Florida. I gave it up when I went to Ocala to be a working student and concentrate on my own riding. Later, when I came back to Florida from New York, I started up a small lesson business and got quite a fabulous little following in Brevard County. We even took some ribbons at local dressage shows.
Maybe… just maybe… I’ll scrounge around and see if anyone wants a riding instructor for a few lessons a week. Just thinking out loud here…
Back to Final Call, I was very happy with him. He isn’t used to being ridden at six o’clock in the evening – that’s the dinner hour! And he isn’t used to a crowd of spectators, either. But aside from trying to run over the peanut gallery when his rider got distracted and forgot she had to actually tell him what to do, he was very, very good.
The girl riding him (maybe I should have made it clear that I would have been blogging about this ride!) is clearly an experienced hunter rider and she has an elegant seat which I cannot emulate. Of course, here’s the learning experience – you can’t pose on an OTTB. Or, for that matter, any horse that is anything less than push-button. I haven’t ridden anything push-button since I was twelve. Once you are hooked on the hotbloods, that’s that. They make you ride.
Anyway, he mistook her elegant perch for a devil-may-care, do as you please seat, and took her on a little bit of an extended trot/working canter foray around the paddock. At which point I realized a bit of a lesson was in order and stepped in. I invoked Sally Swift and Centered Riding and jockey logic. I lectured. Final Call snored. Girl was polite and did not complain that I was lecturing. Hey, it’s my teaching style. Then she took him for a bit of a twenty-meter circle, got a quiet working trot, and jumped some fences. Success! (There’s nothing like quick learner to fool a retired instructor into thinking they should teach.)
They’re so sensitive, our Thoroughbreds, and that was driven home to me again last night, watching the difference in the horse after she settled and sat down on her seat bones, and used her body to communicate, rather than just her reins. They feel everything. If anyone has ever ridden in an exercise saddle, you’ll know that you can feel every hoof your horse steps on the ground without even trying. I don’t know how Thoroughbreds adjust to the difference in closeness, between the thin strip of the flat saddle and the padded luxury of our English saddles. But there is no doubt that they do. They feel everything we do, and respond to every move our bodies make. That’s closeness. That’s the seeds of partnership.