This week I had the pleasure of sitting aloft Encore! in a collected-light-airy-canter for three strides; like being on a carousel (where a sculptured horse slides up and down a pole while the base circles around and round). It was an extraordinary feeling and, for a moment, I experienced a dream realized.
Encore! is a thoroughbred born to run long, flat and fast; which she does daily, on her own, with bucking and jumping thrown in, just for the fun of it. She’s bred to win races, not to dance up and down. Today, I experienced what I only hoped was possible. She lifted and squeezed her powerful forward movement into a collected couple of strides and danced! The best part is she chose to do it herself. It’s the first time I felt the athletic lightness that comes naturally to the Akhal-Teke horses I used to ride in the wild hills behind Los Alamos, CA and, in the back country , on the coast behind Refugio Beach, in Santa Barbara County, CA.
Anyone that has a dream of doing something difficult has experienced, “the hint of success” that keeps one trying to achieve the goal. Today the hint of “it’s possible” brought joy into the challenge and, as the moon was rising on our left and the sun setting on our right, I decided we deserved a trail ride to celebrate.
The gate was already open, so after finishing our transition exercises (with my valiant effort to glue my seat to the saddle at the sitting trot) we headed out on a springy walk for the open country next door.
I chose a new direction after we passed the flapping tarp that floats above an unfortunate calf that spends his days eating in confined quarters unsuspecting of an inglorious end on someone’s plate on a table. Encore! boldly walked by without concern, which was an achievement all its own.
We crossed the street and headed out through an open meadow with a small neglected pomegranate orchard and uninhabited house. Normally, we take the trail through the oak tree thicket, but wisdom whispered it’s late and a deer might flash out in front of us causing both of us to over-react. When I ride the wild alone with Encore! I try to err on the side of caution to keep us safe.
As we traveled on the edge of the forest, Encore! was buoyant from her happy workout on the dressage arena and tried to hurry ahead. I checked her enthusiasm on every stride and gave the rein when she complied. Sure enough, on the far side of the meadow, a young buck bounced across a safe distance ahead of us and ran into the thicket, on the hill beyond us. Encore! took notice, but didn’t worry. It was a lesson confirmed in listening to wisdom.
At the top of the hill, we stood, quietly, while we watched the sun drop down through the fog bank over the Pacific Ocean. A sliver of light outlined the place where the river meets the sea and a silver lining shined under and above the fog bank to give us a narrow view of the sea. This was our reward for making the steep climb. Behind us the rising moon took over and provided a soft light for the way home.