It’s like a dance, Eli told me.
I like to dance. As long as I can do what ever I want. I’m not good at dancing when I have to follow what someone else is doing or telling me to do. I even have a hard time with the Hokey Pokey. All that left and right stuff. I still have to think about which hand or foot is my right or left.
I do have a trick though. I sucked my thumb until I was about 10 years old. I know I sucked my right thumb. When someone says to me “go right” I think of the thumb I used to suck and know which way is right and that the other is left. But those extra moments it takes to figure that out, slows everything down. I might actually miss the turn or go the wrong way because of it. Or, god forbid, put my left foot in, instead of my right.
It made sense to me when Eli said that riding a horse is like a dance. In my mind, but in my body even more. Yesterday was the first time I rode Chloe, but it didn’t feel like the first time. Some of the things Eli was asking me to do felt like the first time, awkward and a little uncomfortable. I felt like my feet were flailing around. Press with your right leg into her side, she said at one point, but don’t keep the pressure on. Press then let go, press then let go. Sounds easy right? But for some reason it wasn’t . It’s just not a movement my legs are used to making especially while sitting on a pony.
But I love the idea that our slightest movements are connected. When I was leaning in my saddle, thinking it would make Chloe go in that direction, she did just the opposite. She wasn’t being contrary, but thinking I was falling off the saddle, she was compensating. And it seems like magic to me that just by turning my shoulders in the direction I want to go, Chloe will go there. (turn from waist, not your whole body, Eli said, like a Barbie doll). And when Chloe wanted to walk around the other side of the cone, because it was mud and not snow, I was glad she was as small as she is, as I tried to make her go where I wanted her to go instead of where she wanted to go.
Shoulders down, elbows at waist, just the right amount of pressure on the reins, settled in my seat, shoulders leading the way, legs putting the right amount of pressure or not, small toe aligned with the edge of the stirrup and I’m sure some other things I’m forgetting. It’s a lot to remember and do at the same time. And someday, I’ll actually be able to do all these things. It seemed almost impossible yesterday, but I know from experience that it will just take practice. Doing it again and again.
I get all soft inside, thinking of what it will feel like to be aware of the different parts of my body each doing their own thing. Clear and subtle shifts in my fingers and legs and shoulders that tell Chloe where I want to go and how fast, and her responding. A place where the words “left’ and “right” have no meaning between us. My legs moving with the rhythm of her legs. Walking as one.
Eli said in the beginning I have to be the leader then, after time, we’ll become partners. This is not just about Chloe learning that I’m the leader, it’s about me learning that I’m the leader. Something I’ve always been reluctant to be. But I guess it time to face up to that fear of mine. I’m going to have to if I want this to work. And I do want it to work. I want to revisit that ancient dance between human and horse. A dance that will bring me closer to nature and to myself.