A Demanding Teacher

The more I ride Remy, the more I realize what a schoolmaster-type he is. He may be young and relatively inexperienced, but he has a certain wisdom about him, and I swear he rides like a much more educated horse. But he is demanding. Very demanding. He responds to the tiniest little shifts of my seat, which is fantastic, but also requires me to sit absolutely perfectly balanced when I’m not asking for something. If I am the littlest bit tense or distracted, he mirrors it. But as soon as I take a deep breath and focus, he seems to tune right in to that as well. He has produced movements well beyond his training level, including canter half passes (I just shift my weight, and he floats over under me like it’s no big thing) and flying changes (yup, just closed my “new” inside leg). He understands his shoulder-in and haunches-in. I like to think I’ve taught him those things. But he’s taught me some things too. For example, our trot work is leagues ahead of the canter for the most part. Once I get him into a good canter, his canter is awesome. It’s lofty and light, uphill and so balanced. But getting him into that canter…

Well, that was where he reminded me that he knows more than I do. After all, he was born knowing how to trot and canter, I wasn’t. So I listened to him. When I put my outside leg back to canter,  he moved his haunches-in. Correctly I might add. So he had a point. So I put my outside leg back enough to get an inside bend, and considered my options. I wanted him to go forward, but straight forward into a canter. I already had enough bend. I closed my inside leg and he cantered off effortlessly. Now with my outside leg still available, I saw how I could use it to increase the bend, or move his haunches. Interesting. We repeated it again and again, getting smooth transitions and no longer missing leads. It was as if he was thinking “Oh good, she’s finally learned her leads!” as I got off him, shaking my head in wonder.

Over and over I’ve repeated that scenario with him. I’m trying to get him to do something the way I’ve been taught to do it, or the way I’ve always heard it “should be done” but Remy has his own ideas. When I get my balance right and get my aids right, he effortlessly offers advanced work. But when I’m not quite right there is no convincing him to accept my lacking ability. He trudges on patiently, ignoring my pleading voice and responding only to my aids, continuing to “do what I say, not what I mean”. He never seems bothered by it, nor does he seem interested in compromising. He is determined to make a better rider of me. And, when I really think about it, I am grateful for that.

He’s also made me realize just how awesome Liam is. Liam never seems to question my knowledge. Where I lack, Liam jumps in to help. He offers more than I ask for, and when I muddle something, he tries to make it work anyways. Now that I’ve attended “Remy school” for a few semesters, I am realizing that some of my difficulties with Liam as we move up the levels are due to his generous heart and “just wants to please” nature.  Instead of demanding perfection from me, he tries to make sense of whatever I give him.  So sometimes I can get away with giving a not-quite-right aid, but other times when I do give a correct aid, instead of taking it at face value, he tries to interpret what I meant and gives me something other than what I wanted. I’m realizing more and more how often that seems to happen, like in my counter-canter story from a few days ago. He knew I wanted to canter, he knew my aids were “wrong” but he cantered “correctly” for me anyways, instead of taking the aids as they were and giving me the “wrong” lead, which Remy is more than happy to do! Now when that happens, I’m going to try to remember that it comes from Liam’s generosity rather than naughtiness. I know he’d do anything for me, and if he knew what I wanted he would happily deliver.

It’s kind of funny to reflect on the two horses, my 5 year old school master and my 16 year old who seems to only want to please with a childish innocence.  Two matching thoroughbreds, but entirely different, somehow complementing one another perfectly, each offering me what the other can’t. Hopefully between the two of them they can help me become the rider that every horse hopes to have.