My friend showing in the conformation hunters at the National Horse Show
It triggered an old ache and originally this post was about my secret wish to have a hunter again. But then I started to think about it and honestly, I've made my peace with it. Trainer A may have accomplished more than she knows. I don't have any real desire to sit ringside and wait for my turn for my course. I want my ride times, my score sheet, to work endlessly to develop my seat and hands so that one day I can grow up and ride the collected and medium gaits. I want my gallop sets and banks and near death stories to share with friends over beers. It's weird after so many years to realize that the dream has changed this much. I don't want my bay hunter anymore.
Don't get me wrong, if I'm at a show with an eq division, I'll enter. The hunter kid in me can't be completely removed and I think mi papi would rock as a low level eq horse. He's darn near packer status over fences. But for the first time, I don't want a hunter of my own. I want to dressage and jump and occasionally gallop. It's a very odd feeling, to leave that part of my past behind.
Trainer A beat me up pretty seriously in my last lesson. I was trotting around and around, trying to get Theo to press into my outside rein and keep my hands out of my lap. That dirty habit of playing with the bit to get him to tuck his nose in is hard to break. I was taught that when I was 9 and I swear Trainer A is going to hunt that person down and flay them. I'm not even aware I'm doing the see saw motion, it's muscle memory. He braces, I slide the bit. I went around and around, trying to process all of the stuff thrown at me and feel what I was supposed to feel and listen to the metronome I had clipped to my collar so mi papi didn't start to rush. I swear I dreamed about my hand position last night after hearing 'shorten your reins and get your hands up!' so many times. Those lessons are the worst, where they're trying to force you to push past something so you can feel what's right, but they basically have to ride for you. I've taught those lessons and they're difficult on both sides.
It finally snapped into place and I was suddenly sitting on a trampoline. His back came up, he dropped into the contact steadily, and his stride grew by about a foot. Trainer A threw her hands up and said 'there, there, feel that?!'. I did, and it was awesome. When we moved into the indoor, I had to recreate it on my own. That was a heck of a lot harder, especially since mi papi thought he was done and decided to throw a neck curling temper tantrum. But I did recreate that steady contact with real power on my own. Not as nice as the one she helped me create, but far better than what we've had in the past. Theo finally has the strength through his topline and hindquarters to lift and carry himself. I've finally had my hands beaten into submission enough that I don't block his shoulders while trying to set his head. We can't maintain it for long, but for a few glorious moments, I was a dressage rider sitting on a dressage horse. An honest to the gods, powerful enough to almost be scary, dressage horse.
No, I don't miss the hunters anymore.