It’s been a stretch of time since I rode ten horses a day and started youngsters for ranches on the Central Coast. When Encore! arrived as a four month old thoroughbred filly that I bought for one dollar sight unseen, I’d been away from equestrian pursuits for a while. Now back in the saddle with the hope of dancing with Encore! I find I’m worse than rusty; the tell-all is my sitting trot. I’m fine for the first few strides into the trot, but when Encore! gets going, I get bouncing. I am improving, so there is hope, but I had no idea how far down the ladder I’ve slipped. I have tried to find a thoughtful approach to sitting Encore!’s spirited trot, but have come up empty, until that is, I got my surcingle repaired. Yesterday, I waited patiently while Jose Carrillo (he owns the shoe repair in Solvang) stitched the broken strap. He took a few extra moments and found a ring and then zip, and he had the long line equipment back in play. While I waited, I picked up a classic cowboy straw hat and bought it for six dollars. I love second hand treasures; but I digress.
Back home it’s late afternoon; so late the daily breeze stopped. I bribed Encore! to leave her paddock for dance practice with carrots.
I prepped Encore! with my meager, but effective long line skills and verbal commands to walk trot walk trot halt trot walk, etcetera, so that when I’m aboard, I can simply ask her to walk when the sitting trot becomes a bouncing trot. This is particularly useful, because I can’t do much when my hands are flopping around when Encore! picks up speed. With a review for Encore! in the long lines and my voice commands, it all becomes more manageable. Yesterday, I got a glimpse of how I might actually be able to gain dominion over this most difficult and necessary skill for dressage as I coax Encore! to listen to the aids and, mercifully, slow down.
Long lines are a double bonus for me. First I’m able to encourage Encore! to focus and mind my voice commands and second I get to watch the progress from the ground. Best of all, at this point, is setting up her square halts and half-halting for transitions. I get to watch the effect of my aids from a distance and when it’s right it’s beautiful. I’m encouraged by Encore!’s natural ability to move gracefully and see how I can influence each stride. It’s a little like being a puppeteer with a thousand pound horse held by two strings. It’s my hope to do everything on the ground with long lines that I do when I ride. It’s an art; wish me well.
I don’t have mirrors (which are common for dressage training) so I rely on a glance at the reflection on the French doors, near where I mount up, to check my position. In the arena, I use our shadow to check square halts. Nothing is perfect about our journey, but it’s a beginning. Since this entire project of dancing with Encore! is outside the norm, I feel free to go ahead with enthusiasm and intuition; devil may care.
Dancing with the wild on the back of a horse is heaven.