I would like to formally introduce you all to Cee Cee. She is a 5 year old quarter horse, the newest addition to our lesson program, and the youngest horse I’ve ever ridden.
Cee Cee has been a part of our lesson program for a couple of months now. I was one of the first adults to ride her when she first entered the program. Our first ride went very well. She was a bit out of shape, and very new to the English riding world, so after about 40 min of working exercises all at a walk, she was tired. That is not the case now lol.
In the last few weeks, she has not only embraced her new life as an English horse, but she has shown she is fearless when it comes to trotting over poles and small cross rails. Watching her body get into shape with muscle so quickly has truly been a sight to see. Youth is on her side for sure.
Now, I’ve been making huge strides with Copper, which I am very proud of. But as I’ve said before, riding other horses has so much benefit, so I asked my trainer last week if I could ride her for my Tuesday lesson. The idea seemed great at the time, after all, I had already ridden her once before, and I not only survived being on a young non-arthritic horse who has a very forward walk, but I enjoyed it.
As the week went by and Tuesday started to get closer I realized something…was I getting in over my head? I have witnessed this horses transformation – she’s not the out of shape horse she was weeks ago…she’s got muscle…and stamina…and a lot of pep in her step. I could feel the self doubt creep in, and my confidence that is so strong with Copper, was now burying itself deep in the recesses of my brain. 😳
It’s now Tuesday. And I’m nervous. People always say horses humble you, which they do. But this wasn’t me being humbled. I didn’t come into this 2nd lesson with her with grand plans of accomplishing anything magnificent other than me getting on and safely walking her around the arena. If the walking went well, perhaps we would trot a little, but it was all dependent on how the walk went.
One of the many reasons why I love dressage is because it reminds me of dancing, you are dancing with your horse. To be honest, all horseback riding is like dancing. So my dance partner last night was Cee Cee. I had in mind a nice slow waltz…she had in mind – a little tango.
As I climb the steps of the mounting block, I take several deep breaths and exhale. I get on, and we walk into the arena. We stop as my trainer Kari makes a few adjustments to the girth. We check my stirrup length, quickly check over the rest of the tack and we get the OK to walk to the rail of the arena. Kari slowly walks away from us to adjust the stirrups of the other student who was lessoning with me, while Cee Cee and I didn’t walk to the rail of the arena…we trotted.
When a person is scared, their body automatically goes into a fetal position. When you are on a horse and scared, your body starts to lean forward. Some horses when they feel your upper body move forward to hunch over stop whatever they are doing, other horses pick up speed. Cee Cee is one of those horses who picks up speed. I wasn’t at all prepared for that very forward trot. As I’m trying to get a better hold of the reins, a little “woo” comes out of my mouth. It would’ve made more sense if I had followed up my “woo” with a “woe Cee Cee” but that didn’t happen. Instead, I attempted to sit myself back – which was pretty impossible to do as I was scared, but I steered her towards Kari and we came to a stop.
The old me, the truly scared timid rider would’ve gotten off. I would’ve ended the ride in defeat. The harm in that would’ve set back my riding, not slightly but a lot. All that I had accomplished with Copper would be a distant memory for a bit. Mind you, this was a moment on Cee Cee but the seeds of fear and doubt would’ve leaked into all aspects of riding and handling horses on the ground. It took all the courage I could muster up to not only stay on the horse, but finish the lesson.
Kari walked next to us for a good portion of the lesson. She was able to see when I was getting more comfortable with Cee Cee and she slowly started to step away. We worked lots of circles, spending a lot of time going in the direction that is more challenging for her. We worked on one of my favorite exercises called the box, where we use quarter turns to basically walk a box shape. That exercise helps with bend and control and suppleness. At the end of the lesson, Kari asked if I wanted to trot, and I politely declined. I wanted to end the lesson with what I had accomplished – not just stepping out of my comfort zone, but free-falling out of it.
As I dismounted, and landed my feet to the ground, I felt my knees buckle slightly. I realized at that moment just how scared and tense I had been through that 35 min lesson. I stood there, next to Cee Cee for a good 5 min, talking with Kari about the lesson, just trying to get the strength back in my legs. As we slowly walked out of the arena to the grooming stall, I could feel the tears welling in my eyes. Tears of relief, tears of excitement, and tears of shock.
I didn’t give up. I didn’t run away. I challenged myself on purpose to keep the doors of learning open. Cee Cee is a young horse who has shown she loves to learn new things. I am an older rider who has overcome lots of fear and anxiety when it comes to riding, and I have a lot to teach her.
Last night, Cee Cee lead our dance, with me taking the lead a handful of times. The next dance we share will be a bit different. I might not get to fully lead, but eventually, we will get there, just like Copper and I have. Cheers to us Cee Cee and many more evening dances.❤️🐴💃🏻