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My First Ride on WhiteStar

     It was my first day with WhiteStar.  My instructor taught me a series of "games".  These games were ways to prove myself both friendly and a leader, inviting the horse to move around the ring with me.  They were fun, but I needed a lot of help from my instructor.
     WhiteStar, I think, was bored with the new student.  Her personality tends to be fearful and very meek and submissive.  She wants to be with a leader she can trust.  That leader was my instructor.  I was the one giving her the signals, but her eyes were on my instructor.

Here is a little bit of the story from WhiteStar's point of view:
     If I were one given to having my own opinions, I wouldn't be standing here with this student.  She obviously has no idea what she is doing.  <sigh>  Why do they give the beginners to me?  This student doesn't know me.  She is a fair-weather friend, for sure.  I don't feel safe with her.  I don't think I can trust her.
     But, of course, I don't have my own opinions.  I am too sweet for that.  I will keep my opinions to myself.
     Aah!  Is that a lion lurking behind the tool shed?!? {WhiteStar throws her head up, stands still, and stares unblinking at the tool shed.}  Oh, no, it is not.  My instructor assures me it is not.  {WhiteStar lowers her head and blinks again.}
     My instructor is here and I feel very safe with her.  So I will keep one eye on my beloved instructor.  With the other eye, I will try to figure out with this new student is trying to say, and I will go through the motions of obeying.
     And, if I can find a way to do so without angering the humans, I will try to find little ways to do my favorite thing of all -- nothing.

     After I played with WhiteStar on the ground for a while (i.e., both of us on foot), my instructor let me ride.  We started out on a bareback pad so that I could feel my connection with the horse.  I climbed up, but I can't say that I felt much of a "connection".  I was just sitting on a horse's back -- a horse that would have humbly preferred to be somewhere else.
     "Eyes up! Chin up! Chest up!  Look where you want to go!" my instructor called.
     I felt very helpless, up there on that horse.  The horse, in my opinion, could do pretty much anything she wanted, and there was not a thing I could do about it.  I went through the motions as my instructor said, hoping they would work.
     My horse did not move.  She stood there motionless.
     Redfaced, I slumped down on her back.  There are few things more embarrassing that sitting on a horse that won't go.  And, like I said, there was nothing I could do about it.
     My instructor gave me further instructions, which I timidly attempted to carry out.  Finally, I think the instructor pointed the horse in the right direction, and she went.  I was relieved -- at least we were moving, even if it had nothing to do with my riding ability.
     As we walked around the ring, WhiteStar turned, faced the fence, and stopped.  I was completely at a loss for what to do.  We were facing a fence so we obviously could not go forward.
     And people say horses are dumb.  Ha.
     "The two things we want to communicate to our horses are speed and direction," my instructor called.  "Is this a speed problem or a direction problem?"
     "Ummm..." I floundered, staring at the fence in front of me.  "Direction?"  Obviously, as I sit there with a fence in front of me, we are facing the wrong direction.
     "Did you tell her to turn to face the fence?" my instructor asked.
     "No," I answered.
     "Why do you think she turned to face the fence?" my instructor continued.
      How should I know?  I don't know this horse, let alone what she is thinking.  "I don't know," I called back.
     My instructor then patiently explained that this was a speed problem.  It was WhiteStar's sweet way of trying to baffle her rider with a fence so that WhiteStar didn't have to walk around the arena any more. 
     Brilliant.  It worked wonderfully in my case.
     My instructor helped me get my horse going again.  We spent the rest of the lesson with me trying to keep WhiteStar moving around the arena without running into fences or taking shortcuts across the middle of the arena.  I was always far behind WhiteStar, not realizing she was cutting across the arena until we were halfway there or not realizing she was turning into a fence until we were almost square to it.  It is pretty pitiful what a clueless rider I was.  No wonder WhiteStar didn't trust me.
     And so I was not as amazing as the girls in books.  In my mind, I was supposed to be such a natural that I just swung onto a horse and rode off.  The horse and I should have been instant partners for our subsequent adventures.  But the thing that makes you an excellent in any field is not always your success as a beginner, but your commitment to keep working on it.  In other words, when you flunk your dreams on the first try, do you come back again next week?


  1. Love your blog Esther:) And I would like to say, from White Star's perspective, that she has always loved you. And she has taught you all you know - I just translate:)


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