You would think by now, keeping my eyes up while riding horses would be something I’d do on my own. I mean, I’ve eaten dirt at least three times as a result of looking down and on one occasion I was looking down and looked up in time to have a tree branch slap me across my eyes(this resulted in a migraine and blurry vision for a little while). Looking down is something I do a lot when I ride and is becoming a very difficult habit for me to break. I look down when I ride Zoey because her ears tell everything. That mare has the most expressive ears I’ve ever seen in a horse that I’ve ridden, she will let you know when you’re confusing her, making her mad, when she’s listen, nervous or not paying attention to me—all with her ears. I tend to make her mad more often than not when I ride her, which usually results in her either running off or bucking or both, so I fell into the habit of looking down at her ears because (1) I don’t trust my riding and (2) because I don’t necessarily trust her.
On Saturday the trainer and a boarder who’s been riding her for me on days when I’m not there, both took the time to work with the two of us for a while. That was probably the most entertaining, mentally engaging(for both of us), helpful and dare I say it, fun lesson that I’ve had in the year and a half that I’ve been out there. That was also probably the first time I managed to ride Zoey and go almost the entire ride without pissing her off. We worked on walking on a loose rein, keeping my legs against her without squeezing, and yes, keeping my eyes up when riding her( my trainer’s words were, “Unless a peanut fell into your bra, don’t look down again”).
Zoey honestly felt like a different horse when I rode her on Saturday and Sunday. I felt no defensiveness or resentment from her at all the entire time I was on her, which is unusual from what is usually felt by the two of us. She was very relaxed and very willing to give me the benefit of the doubt, and about halfway through the ride, I felt my own defensive wall begin to crumble as I let out a deep breath, sat back, relaxed and thought to myself, “This is actually fun”. Sunday I rode her without the trainer there, in the arena with four other riders, which is something I usually don’t do. We did lots of trot work in both directions and transitions, and backing up and moving forward too. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as relaxed or even confident with my riding as I did then, while riding with those other riders. We all chatted with one another and worked on various things and just generally had a good time in one another’s company. I looked up more than I looked down during that ride and even let a smile or two sneak by.
Zoey and I have been reduced to walk/trot work only for a while because she has a sore back and we both needed to go back to basics with one another so we could re-learn how to work with each other. It’s been a seemingly slow journey, but at the end of the day it’s been an extremely helpful one I think, for both of us. Sometimes breaking things down and starting over isn’t always such a bad thing, and while I would like nothing more than to just hop on a horse and lope for a while, getting re-acquainted with Zoey and re-building our relationship has been a great adventure.
This weekend we make our second debut at Cowboy Christmas at Michigan State University, and while I’m more nervous about it than excited, I am also starting to mildly look forward to it too.