Midge is easy-peasy for me to ride, always has been. He just makes sense to me. Ella has never made sense to me, but I've spent a disproportionate chunk of my lesson budget on her, and it's getting better every day. They're making wonderful progress, and I see the path before them.
And then there's Fender.
Fender is a wonderful, wonderful horse with a kind heart, a sharp-enough mind and a HUGE talent. And as I've written about ad nauseum, I go through these huge crises of confidence about where to go with him next. He does the work. He struggles with the strength and the balance and the power. So what next?
Lately, I've felt like he's been getting a little strong in the hand, which is not really bad or good necessarily, but it's different. And I said, "You know, I want a second set of eyes." Or, rather, butts. I want someone else to ride him.
Enter my friend Justin, one of Michael's assistant trainers. Justin is a beautiful rider, and he did a wonderful job, of course. The best thing, though, for me was watching Justin get into the same roadblocks I find in Fender - the lack of confidence in picking his own back up, the being stronger on the left rein than the right, the better reaction to the right leg than the left.
It was exactly what I needed - the reassurance that yes, there are still things I need to work on (no kidding), but that no, it's not some deep flaw in my riding. It's just where Fender is in his life right now.
That sort of feedback is so invaluable. "None of us work in a vacuum," Michael said, and it's true - none of the top riders go it alone. There's this funny little tick in Americans about wanting to be pioneers, to reach great heights by ourselves, but that's just not how it works. The joke about "behind every great man is an even greater woman?" It's true, naturally. (How could they get anywhere without us? Arf, arf, arf.) But I think there's a whole village behind every great anything.
Yesterday, Justin was my village. And today, I know I'll have a better ride for the confidence his opinion gave me. (Look out, Fender! I'm a man on a mission today!)