As adult amateurs, failing is a typical part of our existence. We don’t always know what we’re doing, and even when we do, life likes to creep up and kick us in the pants for funsies. I’ve come to accept is as a part of growing as a rider, and I tend to laugh off the failure, even when it actually hurts.
There was one particular fail, though, that brought me to my knees in embarrassment. It was nearly seven years ago, and I had been riding again as an adult in the local baby hunter classes for less than two years. Because I like to make bad decisions, I had already failed my way through my first horse. I then went the polar opposite way away and bought a lazy, giant-bodied draft-cross for the job, but he could also be…. Stubborn. I could call him a few other words, but let’s just go with stubborn.
We were at one of our first shows together. A nice little local show in a relaxed atmosphere where I could go over my little crossrails, get beaten by little kids and go home tired and with a few less dollars. You know, the usual. This show, we’d decided that – to get him in a listening state of mind – that I should lunge him and get him moving.
As I was entered in the speedbump divisions, it was approximately o-dark-thirty in the morning. I set out to the lunging arena, coffee in hand and prepared to get SpongeHead StubbornPants listening. Clipped on the lunge line, got the whip up and was ready to go.
But I had made a mistake. A grave mistake. I had forgotten the stud chain. But surely Mr. Lazy wouldn’t need it today, right? He was moving like molasses. I decided to give it a go.
BEEP BEEP WRONG ANSWER.
No later than half a circle of lazy trot around me, out bulged the shoulder, and suddenly the circle ended and he was making his way toward the arena exit. Despite the terror, I did not have my life flash before me. Because he was going approximately 1.5 miles per hour, I had a double-feature matinee of my life, complete with intermission and a wrap party.
There went my horse, very slowly and beautifully hunter cantering toward the barns. He suddenly dropped down to graze, content that he’d won that battle.
When I went to retrieve him, a girl was holding him for me. And by girl, I mean like an eight year old. An eight-year-old girl caught my lope-away horse (I can’t really say RUNaway….). I thanked her and went back to the arena, determined to do this again and make him behave. I did not go find a stud chain, because I thought surely I wouldn’t be caught off guard this time, but I did put my gloves on.
Back in the arena, as soon as I lifted the lunge whip to get him going, he took a trot step obediently. I was pleased, thinking he had learned his lesson.
WRONG AGAIN. I AM ALWAYS WRONG.
No, that “trot step” was really just him positioning his shoulder again so he could pop it out with even greater force. But I was determined to not let him get away again. I was hanging on for dear life as he very slowly pulled his way out of the circle. He kicked my coffee mug on the ground in the process, and it flew upward all over me as I was being half-dragged toward the arena exit.
Everyone was staring at me with mixed looks of horror, confusion and pity. I finally had to let go of the lunge line when I was about to collide with another horse and rider, and my hands were burning with more force than the bad words burning my mouth.
As I watched my horse trot away this time (he totally blew his energy load with the last slow-motion lope-away), I didn’t even pretend to run after him. He very predictably went to the same spot to graze, and the same little girl went to collect him.
When I walked up, covered in arena dirt, coffee and regret, the girl was standing with her hands on her hips, with a look of judgment all over her face. “Maybe you shouldn’t try to lunge him.”
“Yes, I agree. Thank you.”
I turned to walk back to the barns to get ready, abandoning my lunging plan when I heard that wee girl add some salty words.
“Well at least you got some exercise… y’all probably need it.”