I’ve replaced the centaur with a different image of the horse-human connection. Instead, as a rider, I feel my waist and legs becoming a part of the horse so that our hips, pelvis, legs move as one. When riding, we both maintain our shoulders and head. This means that to be a just rider, I must release all tension from my neck and shoulder areas. My riding instructor, a wise and grounded woman, constantly admonishes us to Look Forward. Last week I looked down at my horse and she careened off track and jumped over a fence. Eyes forward. In this way I lead my horse. But my horse also tells me how she wants to be led. Her name is Pepper; she’s a Thoroughbred-Paint school horse, who knows more than me and gives me instant feedback. (She’s super smart and doesn’t tolerate fools.) Riding today, I had a smooth canter in one direction. We then switched directions and I lost our connection, tugged tightly on the reins. Pepper executed a full buck in response. She doesn’t want, won’t tolerate some one pulling on her mouth — rightfully so. Pepper is teaching me that I must have relaxed hands, that when I lose my rhythm in the canter I shouldn’t panic and yank the reins. When I lose the canter or when I don’t transition well into the canter I must rely on my seat — which means I must keep the connection between us, where I am one with her back and legs. When I mess up or fall short of the mark, it’s my responsibility to find again the connection. If it takes me several strides or a fall to find our oneness again, so be it. Towards the end of today’s lessons as we walked a few paces, Pepper knowing in advance where we needed to stop, I relaxed my hands on the reigns and asked for a halt using my seat, mind and voice. She stopped just fine and turned to look back at me. I nodded. Then I thanked her.

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