... I tried to share with non-horsey people the elation and overwhelming sense of "being" I felt after an "Aha!" moment with my horse.

Picture this ... it's my once-a-quarter dressage lesson with Canadian Olympian Belinda Trussell at her beautiful Oakcrest Farms. The second of a long series of thunderstorms looms on the horizon as I enter the magnificent arena to start warming up for our 45-minute lesson. As the lesson begins, a rumble of thunder introduces the stormy symphony that's to follow and that will not end until the last hoof beat of my lesson ... almost literally.

I had not ridden Bear during a storm before, so really had no idea what to expect. But his calm frame of mind from the moment we arrived at Oakcrest gave me the feeling that while he was pumped and ready for action, he was not feeling the least bit offended by the unsettled air. So, the lesson progressed, and as it progressed the symphony grew louder and more intense, and somehow Bear managed to remain relatively calm and focused on his work. The crashing of water off the eaves and through a window at the far end of the arena and onto the kickboards was the only real bugaboo, and to circumvent his discomfort by that window we worked on the quarter line in leg yield and shoulder-in, far enough away that he knew it was there but didn't feel threatened by it.

Far from being agitated by the storm, Bear was feeling animated, attentive; he was responsive to the slightest touch of my leg or shift in my seat bones. He was happy ... I could feel it ... and I was over-the-moon, because he gave me the gift of what it really feels like to ride a horse who is truly through and elevated. It was like riding a wave of energy that surged effortlessly beneath me. It was magic!

Belinda helped me to use this wonderful energy to our best advantage, though it was a challenge when the rain was crashing down so heavily on the roof of the arena that I could not hear what she was saying -- even though she was miked!!! Nevertheless, she helped me to make the most of the challenging circumstances, and I came away from that lesson feeling on top of the world. Not only had I managed to ride my horse to a level of which he is more than capable (I'm the only thing in his way usually), I did it during less than desirable circumstances. It proved to be an incredible boost to my confidence.

It was, I feel, a pinnacle moment in my education with my horse. I felt alive and fully present in the moment --in true partnership with Bear. Feeling how happy and confident he was helped me to ride more confidently which in turn helped his confidence ... and so it goes.

In my excitement the next day I foolishly tried to describe this experience with non-horsey friends. Surely they would understand, at some level, what I was talking about. It wasn't long, however, before their eyes would glaze over and they'd be distracted by something (anything!). I had a good chuckle about this with one close musician friend who I thought might at least have an inkling of what I was on about (don't ask me why.) When I was in the middle of my story, however, that far-a-way look crept into her eyes, and I said quite frankly, "You're not getting this, are you?" Without hestitation she responded, "Nope!" and together we laughed. That's when I realized it was futile. Sadly, even my dear supportive partner, Lloyd, who is not a horse person but is very supportive of my horse habit, can only wander so far down the road to equestrian enlightenment.

So, I turn to Barnmice, where a myriad of horsepeople "get it" and can join with me in celebrating a pivotal moment in my equestrian journey. I really know what it feels like now to have my horse "between the aids." I can tell already that the quest to repeat that moment (sans thunderstorm) is addictive, because I want more than anything to duplicate in spades the wonder of it.

Next time I do, I'll save my non-horsey friends the agony and blog about it first on Barnmice.

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Comment by Dorothy McDonall on May 12, 2009 at 8:46am
Thanks for your wondefully supportive comments. :-)
Comment by Lee Kelly on May 12, 2009 at 7:27am
Congrats it sounds like you had a wonderful experience with your horse during your lesson. A true partnership, even with the not so ideal conditions. Just shows you how well you will do in great conditions. So happy for you!!!
Comment by Chris Irwin on May 12, 2009 at 3:11am
Hi Dorothy - just wanted to say how happy I am for your elation with your breakthrough ride on Bear. YOU SO DESERVE IT! And I also want to thank you for posting a blog that aligns to the message of my last blog. You have just shared with us an experience that is yet another wonderful validation that highly collected dressage horses do not need to be ticking time bombs that are so stressed that they lose their minds and blow up whenever anything in the environment happens to trigger their stress. For Bear to become pumped up with the noise and energy of the storm but still channel all his power with you and through you while staying between the aids - and staying calm, supple and focused is a testimony to the training you have been doing and the quality of your relationship with him. While I have no doubt that he must be an exceptional horse - he can only perform to the level of the competency of his rider. So I bow to you my friend for a job well done and congratulate you on this seminal moment in your relationship with Ben. Ride the waves!
Comment by Andrea Wetzel on May 11, 2009 at 7:30pm
Such a great post Dorothy! I have been there too with non-horsey friends, so I know that "glazed over" look all too well! (Bless my best friend's heart though because she really tries to understand it and is so supportive!)

As for your lesson, isn't Bee just the best!? She can bring out talent in people and horses alike like no one else can. I'm so thrilled for you!! I know that truly through and elevated feeling well and It is a high that nothing else can compare to.
Comment by Dorothy McDonall on May 11, 2009 at 7:14pm
lol :-)
Comment by Barbara F. on May 11, 2009 at 6:57pm
Hey Dorothy, I've been in that arena during a storm and it's true that you can't hear yourself think. Congrat's. on a great ride under less than perfect circumstances. Will you be showing this season? I'm sure you'll do great!!
By the way, talking about people who tune out, my husband was up videoing my ride yesterday, and he fell asleep in the middle, camera lolling in his hand, getting lovely footage of the dirt!! I mean how boring am I exactly?? *lol*!

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