BY LINDY GUTMAN
On a recent overnight, off-season trip to one of our favorite places, Saratoga, I saw a quote I hadn’t seen before. It’s credited to Abraham Lincoln, and it started me thinking.
“Whatever you are, be a good one.”
This struck me. What am I? Am I a “good one,” especially as it relates to horses?
Objectively, I’m an amateur who loves horses—all horses. In the last few years, I’ve taken a particular interest in OTTB’s, since purchasing and advancing with Fullback. I have a lot of friends who also love horses. I’ve been asked recently to go with them to look at a horse that they are considering purchasing and ride said horse for them. I have a truck and trailer and go lots of places. I use both 3-5 times a week. I’ve picked up some horses for friends recently. I go off site to take lessons with a trainer who specializes in show hunters. I foxhunt with a local club. Am I a good one at any of that?
Subjectively, I think I ride pretty well for my level of experience and confidence. I need to get better at letting go. I have gotten braver in the past year, since starting with another OTTB, Talk Show Man. I’ve been helpful, I think, with the above referenced friends with their young horses and I’ve been riding these young horses pretty well. I am bossy and stubborn. I can be pushy. I’m a little nutty, but fine with it. I don’t really like to go out a lot. I like what I like, and am not very flexible.
And the horse that I am most afraid of is one of my own…
Fullback has had a myriad of physical problems of late. He’s just 8, but he has kissing spine. He has arthritis in his neck, worse on the left. He has crappy feet. He had back surgery in June and his back feels great, I think, based on the change in his disposition. But his neck is super stiff. He’s great fun to foxhunt, but if I put my leg on him on a trail ride he’s goofy. If I’m riding without a trainer in the ring and I put my leg on, he’s goofy. If I’m taking a lesson he’s, generally, ok. If someone else rides him in the ring, he’s ok.
So the problem is me, right? It’s in my head, I think. I can ride all of these horses—except my own. The one that got me here. The one that gave me the confidence to do this.
I’m told by people that I respect, both amateur and professional, that this is pretty common. That the “devil that you do know is worse than the devil that you don’t” (thanks, Kathryn). Why is riding such a head game?
During a lesson this week, Fullback spooked at nothing while trotting. I got so wound up that I then avoided that end of the ring. He’d gotten me. He had my number, and it got worse and worse. Thank goodness I was in a lesson, but I was almost in tears. I don’t allow myself to cry while riding, unless happy tears or I’m hurt tears. Riding is supposed to be fun—not make you cry. With the trainer’s help, I was eventually able to face that side of the ring, but it wasn’t pretty and I wasn’t happy. I try to take her advice and celebrate the win, but it’s hard.
What am I afraid of? I am afraid of falling. I am afraid of being afraid. I am afraid to get hurt. I am afraid he’s in pain. I am afraid that if I fall the progress that I’ve recently made with my confidence on other horses will suffer. I am afraid…
I’m listening and I’m trying, but I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. There’s got to be something in the energy that I’m bringing when I get on his back, something that is better when I’m talked through it, that’s causing some of the problems. Maybe? Or is there more pain? Do I keep trying? Do I just hunt him? Do I give him time off? Did I screw him up by hunting him and now he only wants to hunt? Do I call an animal communicator to ask him what’s up? Don’t think I haven’t given it a lot of thought.
Am I a good one at anything right now?
I don’t have any immediate answers. I’m going to start taking him back to lessons, off site, as I feel like he’s physically ready. He still loves to hunt.
Yesterday, I took him to a lesson off site. My trainer rode him first, warmed him up. He was great for her and jumped his first course since April. And then he did it again with me on board. Yes, he’s rusty, but he was happy and comfortable. I just can’t be with her every time I ride him. I rode him alone two days later. I worked in a different ring than the time before and he was quiet. We went for a quick solo hack afterwards, and he remained quiet. We had a spectacular hunt on Saturday. That’s three good rides in a row. Pinch me…
Is it a fluke? I second guess everything with him now. But I love him, and I won’t stop working on it. We’ll figure it out.
He is a good one.