Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Up and Down (04/02/09)
TITLE: Riding Lessons
By Shirley McClay
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I stopped when Gina, one of those bouncing, pulled her horse to a halt next to me and dropped the reins on his neck. She tipped her helmet back and glared at me, the horse, and the world in general. Tear streaks cut paths through the dust on her face. She was, by far, my most tenacious student.
“I don’t get it, Miss Laurie. I just can’t find the rhythm no matter how hard I try.”
I stood next to her and turned my thoughts to my own Trainer. “God, can you help me out here, please. How can I show her?”
We both silently watched the other riders circling. Some bounced roughly, trying to find the posting rhythm just as Gina was. Others moved fluidly, in tune with their mount’s every move. Gina’s brow was creased in concentration and her lips pursed as she studied my star pupil, Kelly. “Miss Laurie, I watch Kelly and I see exactly what you mean. With every stride of her horse she rises and then the next stride she comes back down. It looks so smooth.”
I continued to study Kelly as Gina turned Rocker back into the stream of trotting horses. Gina trotted past me again, her hips popping up and down, up and down. It almost seemed as if she was fighting the rhythm of her gentle, steady horse. Then Kelly trotted past on Dancer. So much barely controlled power in the Thoroughbred and yet Kelly barely seemed to move.
It’s like you, Laurie. Gina is going up and down, trying to make it work. Kelly is simply shifting forward and back, allowing Dancer’s gait to direct her movement.
I stood and watched them as I listened to my Instructor. His words made me fight back tears. My own spiritual life was being reflected in the riding in front of me.
Stepping into the middle of the arena, I blew my whistle. The class slowed their horses and turned them into the center, facing me. Saddle leather creaked and horses snorted. Then the sounds stilled and I took a deep breath. “I need to share something with you all. Some of you have learned a valuable lesson. One that God is asking me to learn… not in riding, but in my own life.”
I walked around and met the eyes of each of the riders before me. “The movement of your horse trotting compels you to respond. Some go up and down… some move forward and back. The up and down is not the real movement of your horse. What you are actually doing is trying to find your own way of dealing with the movement.” I paused to force back tears. “I usually react this way in my spiritual life, too. God pushes me forward… out of my comfort zone... and my reaction is to… well… react!” I would have run my fingers through my shoulder length curls but they were pulled back into a French braid, so I adjusted my hat… and readjusted it. Again. “I try to find a way I can deal with it... to lessen the tension and the pressure. Just as you tense up and have an unnatural movement in your posting… I often do the same in my spiritual life.”
My eyes connected with Gina’s and I saw understanding dawning. Her gaze shifted down to her mount and then to the rail. I knew she was ready to try again. The same longing stirred in my own heart.
“Those of you who move forward and back have found the true movement of your horse. Their legs have this same natural direction and you’re feeling their movement and allowing them to direct you. Your weight and hips shift forward as the leg moves forward and shift backward as that same leg is driven backwards. Instead of trying to find your own way, you have found the rhythm and the two of you… horse and rider, are moving in harmony. You help each other and balance together.” I saw the restlessness stir in them. They were ready to put it into action and I knew exactly how they felt.
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