Have you ever seen Stacey Westfall's Freestyle Reining run from 2006? Take a moment to go ahead and watch it--it's well worth the wait if you have lethargic download speeds like I do.
Pretty amazing, huh?
Now, on the other end of the spectrum, you have what I looked like last night. Let me back up a bit....
When I got home from work, I checked the mail and I think it was the best mail delivery ever. For one thing, there were no bills. Second, Paula's tail(s) had arrived. Third, I got my APHA Amateur card!
I didn't want to mention it before because I didn't think there was a snowball's chance in Hades that I'd get it, as I worked for a barn in Texas three years ago for nine months. However, during that entire time there, I never got to show any of the horses. I didn't even train--I was basically a glorified groom. Did I learn a lot? Yes. Would I ever aspire to become a BNT (big name trainer)? Absolutely not.
So, I took a chance and applied for my amateur card. I've gotten to show APHA a whole TWO times in the last fifteen years--one time I got last place, and the other time I showed my friend's horse because she had three horses and only one of her. She didn't pay me for it--it was for me, for fun, and to help her out, so it was a win/win--no cash involved. I looked over the rules, and it didn't seem that any of this should keep me from getting my card, but to make sure I wrote out a very long, detailed explaination, complete with names of people they could contact and check up on my statements if they wished to do so. Apparently, my analysis of the rules was correct as I got my card yesterday! I'm so excited because I REALLY wanted to enter the equitation and showmanship classes. So, now I get to go to shows and show in more than one or two classes. Yay!!!!!
As I mentioned, I also got three tails in the mail for Paula. We had a really tough time matching them up since she's such a light, and apparently "silvery" gray. It so happens that "silver" is the most expensive tail you can buy, too, so about $375 (with shipping) into it the tail people decided that we were going to get this one right and they just sent me a box full of tails. One of them was beyond perfect--better than I could have ever imagined!! It was not only the perfect color and even a better length than the others, but it was a new style of loop that they just started using--it's called a "hunter loop" and it looks so much more natural than the knobby-end ones. I assume it would be more comfortable for the horse, too. If you ever need to buy a tail, check out Tail Source. This was the first new tail I've ever ordered, so I was a VERY needy customer, plus the fact that Paula's color was so hard to fit. They custom mixed not one but THREE tails for me to make sure I got the right one after the first one wasn't correct. It was expensive, yes, but I don't think I could have gotten that level of customization any cheaper elsewhere. They went out of their way to get it right and the tail is...well...just perfect.
After trying on tails and putting them back in the house, I found out that I am apparently a true amateur in every sense. I decided to celebrate the great evening by riding Paula bareback. Now, as a kid, I entered bareback equitation classes, so I could sit the lope and everything pretty well bareback. Surely I could at least trot tonight, right?
Oh how very wrong I was!! After grooming, putting on her boots and putting the bridle on her, I walked Paula into the roundpen and asked her to move right up next to the fence. I need to get a mounting block but just haven't gotten around to it yet. I asked her to whoa, laid the reins on her neck and climbed my big butt up onto the railing. It must have been a sight! Paula patiently stood still, not knowing what in the world I was doing but doing what she was told (to whoa). I gingerly laid my leg across her back and slid on. Paula was curious but not alarmed. This was her first time bareback, too, but you would have never known it by watching her.
We took our time and I asked her finally to walk. Paula is a very graceful horse, but even that didn't matter--the minute she took a step I just about slid right off. She hesitated, knowing that she was supposed to keep walking and yet not sure if she was going to lose her rider. I fought hard to find my seat. Could I possibly be this off-balance? It's not my first time riding after all, but it sure felt like it.
I rode, just at the walk, for about fifteen minutes, slowly building up to doing turns, stops, backs, pivots, etc. I eventually found my seat but my balance was terribly inconsistent. I need a LOT more work and I can see now why our loping hasn't gone well in general. While Paula tries her best, I am definitely as all-over-the-place as I felt. The good news is that I think I've identified the problem. That's the first step in finding the solution, right?
It also made me realize how good Paula really is. I've only ever ridden her--no one else, so she's learned everything with a very unbalanced rider. She's still so collected, calm, and responsive, despite me being a total mess. In one way, I feel like she really deserves a better rider than I am, but we share a bond that goes way beyond any blue ribbons she could earn. My only other option is to try to become the rider she truly deserves.
I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,