Horsemanship (noun); The art or practice of riding on horseback.
The lesson began with a seemingly simple instruction of walking Smokey up and down the arena-from one end to the other with him listening to my stops and starts. WIth the long purple lead rope in hand, i gave a little tug, clucked with my tongue against my cheek and started walking forward-hesistantly. He wasn't budging. My sweet Smokey wasn't buyin' it. I turn towards Smokey, perplexed. Becka, my teacher, reminded me how Smokey can tell who is in charge. "You can't turn your whole body to him. That shows weakness. You need to stand up taller and walk forward more confidently for him to take you seriously." What? Isn't he supposed to take all humans seriously no matter what?
"In charge," I think. "In Charge. In charge of a thousand pound horse." My posture straightens and I stride off ahead like I have an important meeting to go to. With nose slightly up charging ahead, its a very "non-Zoya" way of walking. Smokey takes me seriously and he follows alongside.
I'm a body language junkie, so this is right up my alley. I love analyzing handshakes, eye contact, personal space, arm position in humans. As a PT, I work with lots of new people and am into reading into what their body language is telling me what they want/need from me. So bringing it to back to horses- yes, the trotting, posting is exciting, too but I never imagined I'd be so fascinated with learning how to read Smokey and how well Smokey can read my intentions. This is the part of taking lessons which I didn't expect to enjoy.
When I told my sister Ella I was taking lessons, she had a slightly feigned, yet curious excitement. This happens on occasion, where i"m super excited about something and shes not. I think at times we expect each other to be excited, because we are twins after all!
A few minutes after I told her about the lessons, she texted back and replied, "Oh I just got really excited for you about your lessons. I was thinking about you doing jumps in your fun horseback boots and gear." I chuckled to myself because jumps were seriously the farthest thing from my mind and I wasn't intending to buy an ounce of extra gear. But I liked her little spark of enthusiasm for my lessons. In lieu of jumps, trotting, cantering being the "exciting" part of lessons, I'm plesantly surprised by how fun it is to build a connection with Smokey.
Yesterday was my second horseback lesson-since childhood, that is. I don't remember a whole lot from my childhood lessons aside from spending the bulk of the time grooming the horse. And never being good enough to jump. Funny how those moments stay strong in ones mind.
As I squeezed my calfs against Smokey's barrel of a chest, Becka encouraged me to "bring my energy forward, as if I'm going to take off running" to help bring Smokey to a trot. I squeeze more, and more. Slight weight shift forward, 'shoulders back' becka guides and then I finally feel Smokey respond. It takes the right cues all together-in unison. Smokey starts to pick up his pace and a second later he is trotting. The trot is effortless and coordinated and feels beautiful.