Despite having been ridden hard the last two days by S, the pony came out of her paddock on fire today. It didn't help that I hadn't been out all week and my nerves were jumping so bad my hand shook when I tried to do up her throat latch. A horse walked by and Tess hunched her back, lifted her tail and left a puddle behind her. A horse down the aisle coughed and she tried to spin, her eyes round and wide. It was also a cold, sunny morning (29F) and the sun was just starting to thaw out the ice on the arena roof. Drip. Drip. Drip. The pony stood trembling for thirty seconds while my shaky hands fumbled with the lunge line. Then she was off. Rearing, bucking, kicking, snorting. Galloping wide eyed around me her head swinging to the outside as her shoulder cut in towards me. After about five dizzy minutes, L saw her and advised me to un-tack her and let her get her fizzies out. Even after five minutes of galloping, Tess fidgeted while we took the saddle off. The second the saddle came off her back, she tried to take off again. I dug in my feet and gave her a sharp correction on the lunge line. Then I sheepishly asked L to come back and help me get the bridle off. By this time my anxiety had turned into cold, sweaty fear and my hands were shaking hard.
I started to think about ways I could get out riding in my lesson, ways to get L to ride her for me. Should I say I just can't do it? Should I feign injury? Sickness? These thoughts spun around my head while the Princess spun around the arena in a long, low gallop. As she flew by me for the tenth time, she tossed her head and slowed to trot for a moment. A suspended, fancy trot. Her neck was arched and had her mane not been covered in green goo, she would have had a long, flowing silver mane. I looked up, my fear simmering back down to anxiety. Her nostrils were wide but her eyes were softer. I lifted a hand and she spun around easily, galloping the length of the arena. After about ten minutes she stopped, ears pricked, steam blowing out of her nostrils and waited. I walked up to her and gave her a quick pat on the forehead. She followed me carefully. I asked her to move out again and she moved out at a controlled trot, her sides heaving, her eyes watching me. She had gotten her fizzies out.
Following that, we had an amazing lesson. I rode in S's jump saddle and the difference in Tess's movement was nothing short of a miracle. We had forward! We had round! We had soft! We also cantered. And cantered. And trot to canter. Canter to trot. Trot to canter. Keep cantering. Keep cantering. Keep cantering.
At the end of our lesson, we had a steam cloud that rolled off of us as we walked. Her head was low, her back swinging and the smile on my face stretched from ear to ear. Days like this remind me why I do this. Because when we get it right and we're a team, we're a damn fine team.
I hope you are all enjoying the holidays and giving your ponies extra hugs and kisses for Christmas. It looks like I will be starting the saddle search next week, so I have that to look forward to!