On Friday I finished painting the Miley. After five hours of work, I stepped back and looked at how different my little murder box looked with a fresh coat of white slapped over all of its formerly rusty parts. My hands were coated in enamel, my fingers sticky and wet. There was paint in my hair and my glasses had white flecks across their lenses. I was tired, but the trailer looked so good.
You can’t wash enamel off with soap and water, so I went and watched TrainerM teach while I waited for my hands to dry. Two of the UW Equestrian Team members were jumping Boston and Belle through a vertical-five stride-oxer line. I closed my eyes and listened to the hoof beats while I soaked in TrainerM’s cries of “outside leg” and “anchor through your heels” and “eyes up”.
The day before, I rode Raglan while TrainerM polished up a training horse’s flying changes. While she cooled him down, Raglan and I meandered alongside so that I could whine in her general direction.
“I’m tired of moving his hip around.” Raglan chucked his head up and down while I complained, flopping the reins around wildly with glee. “I’m so bored.”
“Welcome to the next six months of your life,” TrainerM said without looking up from her phone. She scrolled through her schedule while the horse she was on moseyed along on the buckle.
“How long until I can jump things in my lessons? How many more boxes do we have to check?”
One of her eyebrows quirked upwards, subtly. “I mean, being able to move your horse’s butt is kind of a big check box,” she said sardonically. Her thumb paused, then continued to swipe past appointment after appointment. “Put a lesson on my schedule and we’ll see how the hip control’s coming along.”
Sometimes it’s hard to sit on the sidelines and wait for your paint to dry while everybody else is soaring confidently over oxers on the school horses.
When TrainerM finished teaching her lesson and the UW girls started untacking their horses, I shoved my mostly dry hands into my gloves, changed into my riding clothes, and tacked Raglan up. I was hot and tired and dinner was calling my name. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to get on, but my veins were still buzzing with the excitement of watching other riders jump things that I wanted to jump but couldn’t.
Just a short ride, I decided. I’d put him through his paces, do a few more haunches in, and then call it a day.
I got on and started wiggling his hip around at the walk, and then at the trot. We picked up the canter and I pushed him forward—“More pace,” TrainerM keeps telling me, “go faster. There, I like this canter better.” When I feel like I’m going Mach 10, that’s the canter that she wants.
TrainerM’s next lesson started. I gave Raglan all of the reins and slumped in my saddle, exhausted. Without even thinking about it I moved his hip around again, my legs on auto pilot.
“Go jump that vertical.” I perked up in the saddle and eyed the jump from across the arena, suddenly nervous. TrainerM laughed. “It’s like knee height for your horse.”
Was this a test, I wondered? I wasn’t ready to jump yet, right? RIGHT!? But TrainerM wouldn’t have told me to jump the vertical if she didn’t think we would make it over the vertical… I stewed for a couple more laps, my face screwed up in consideration. We walked over to the vertical. It was on the fifth hole—was that two feet? I couldn’t remember, but it looked pretty tiny from up close.
“Just trot it,” TrainerM said. “He’s jumped higher than that, hasn’t he?”
So we trotted it. And it was so easy. Raglan made 2’3″ feel like a cavaletti.
The paint’s still drying… but with any luck we’re only a few more coats away from being roadworthy.