dressage, dressage lessons, dressage training, horse personalities

Like Falling in Love

If you’re lucky, there’s a moment when your horse decides to trust you. It’s a turning point in your relationship that feels a bit like falling in love.

Natalie riding Pfifer at a recent show

Natalie riding Pfifer at a recent show. I wish my position looked that good. Photo by Andrew Martin

I actually fall in love with my horse over and over again, because I know he’s choosing to do what I ask him when he has so many other options. He’s going along with a plan that has nothing to do with his dreams or desires. When he tries despite a faulty effort on my part, I love him even more.

This week, I had the chance to ride another horse while Micah was at a show, leaving me temporarily horseless. I hadn’t ridden another horse in several months, so the prospect of trying to connect with a new one was exciting.

When Natalie texted me, “Do you want a lesson on a different horse?” I jumped at the chance. “Yes!,” I replied.

I resisted the urge to ask “Which horse?” knowing that, horse nerd that I am, I’d have more fun wondering which horse I’d get to ride.  “It’s like ordering a box of chocolates,not knowing what flavor you’re getting,” I told my husband. Carmel? Coconut? Anything but blobby cherry filling is fine with me. When it comes to horses, I’m fine with any flavor (aka: personality type) that doesn’t try to kill me. There’s always something to learn. Getting to know any new horse is a venture into the unknown — exciting.

My friend Claudia’s Friesian/Paint cross mare is super cute and I’ve always thought she’d be fun to ride. This was my chance. I settled into the saddle and marveled at the difference between my horse, Micah (a tank), and Pfifer (a more petite model). I got the sense that Pfifer was wondering about me, as well.

It took a little while to get a feel for how sensitive Pfifer is in the bridle. Thank goodness I’d had a lesson with the Equicube the previous week (see ‘What Dressage Trainers Do When Bored’ for details) — it helped me to use my hands in a less fidgety manner. I was also grateful to have Natalie guiding Pfifer and I through the getting-to-know-you process.

“Use more leg, less hand,” Natalie advised. I started using little squeezes of the reins with my fingers and Pfifer and I began to have a real conversation. She became more responsive as I started to get a feel for who she is and how she likes to be ridden. We relaxed into one another and she gave me some really lovely work.

I don’t know about you, but I always feel it’s an honor to be trusted by a horse. Pfifer was very generous today, offering me a sense of connection so quickly. After our ride, I gave her a bath, some carrots, and thanked her for being so sweet. I left a little piece of my heart at the barn with her, grateful for the experience.

As I told Natalie, “I could fall in love with this horse.”