So I finally sucked it up and put in a request to ride a school horse in my lessons going forward. I was worried and maybe a bit scared - I haven't ridden any horse but my own (other than to hack out at the walk!) - in years. Close to three years, I think. I can't actually remember the last time I did. I can make a decent guess, but that's it.
That's not exactly the way to get good as a rider, and certainly even five years ago I got on other horses with regularity, but my role has never been the get-on-and-ride-anything type of rider. I want to do well by the horse I have, and form a partnership with him, and I'm happy with him.
But I digress. I got to the barn and flushed Tris's foot and rewrapped it; all is proceeding as planned, and he behaved well. Then I checked in with T. and got a little Appaloosa lesson horse named Charlie.
I had a ridiculous amount of fun. There were a few moments when I felt guilty, actually, I was having so much fun. I had...maybe not forgotten, but I had been so out of touch with the idea that a properly trained horse, who has the buttons installed, who has a willingness and a base of athleticism, is magic.
First things first: Charlie, though he looks a bit on the stocky side, is surprisingly narrow to sit on, especially for someone with longer legs. The effect of this was to seriously unbalance my seat for the first 20 minutes or so as I tried to figure out the geometry of it all, which pleased T. to no end as one of my bigger flaws is my tendency to let my leg swing. Tris has such a large barrel that it took up leg even when I didn't have it right where it needed to be. Take away that barrel and I was floundering.
Then he got on me and worked hard on me for about 10 minutes on a circle and about halfway through it clicked: oh yeah. I can do this after all. And then I was deep in the saddle and keeping my leg on and connecting to the bit through my core. Not all at once, and T. nagged me for another 10 minutes or so when I started slipping, but by the end of the lesson - as he told me afterward - I was snapping back on my own.
I hadn't ridden a horse on the bit in the canter in years. Which is depressing as hell to admit out loud, but I didn't even realize it until after I'd gotten Charlie warmed up, and I asked for a canter, and all of a sudden he was soft in the mouth and I could half-halt and hey, there were his hind legs, and I could adjust the canter, and it was awesome. Sigh.
I admit to feeling a bit smug, maybe? I have watched this horse in lessons for years and years, and I had formed the idea that he would feel a lot like Tristan. I couldn't have been much more wrong. He put up only token resistance to the ideas of bending and going round, and then tried to cross his jaw - which T. said was, for him, a sign of the next level of resistance, but once I learned the feel it was easy enough to wiggle him out of - but when I put leg on properly, he was there, and when I stabilized with the outside rein, he went into it. We were looking and feeling terrific by the end of it, and he looked in the mirrors as good as I've ever seen anyone ride him, and I felt awesome and then I realized I was feeling superior to 10 year old lesson kids and adult re-riders so I should get the hell over myself already. But it was still a nice boost in confidence.