Thank you to a certain someone for all the reviews! :D I promise that there is some major drama on the way. ;)
Glamour practically dragged me down the stable aisle as I led her out of her stall to a pair of cross-ties.
"Easy, girl. Geez. Calm down," I said, rubbing Glamour's neck. I groomed her until she was shiny, then grabbed my tack. I draped my dark purple saddle pad with silver trim onto Glam's back. Then, I hoisted the heavy saddle up and plopped it gently on top. Glamour's ears pinned back as I tightened the girth.
"Oh, don't be like that," I scolded. Bridling wasn't much better. Glam clenched her teeth together and refused to take the bit. It took two fingers to pry her mouth open. "So, it's going to be one of those days, is it?" Glamour just started sullenly ahead. "Fine, be like that." I grabbed my helmet and buckled it on as I led Glamour towards the indoor arena.
I was the first one in the arena, which was probably a good thing. Hopefully I'd be able to work out the kinks with Glamour before anybody else got here.
I mounted, and immediately knew that it was going to be a rough lesson. Glam's walk was choppy, and she carried her head high enough that she probably looked like a giraffe. I was suddenly grateful that I'd switched out Glam's full-cheek snaffle bit for a Pelham. There's no way I'd be able to get Glamour to listen with the softer bit.
I adjusted the two sets of reins in my hands and asked Glamour to trot. She responded with a bouncy, lurching step, that didn't even out until we'd made five laps of the arena. I halted and dismounted, checking Glam's legs and back for signs of injury, then checked her tack to make sure nothing was wrong with it. Finding nothing, I got back on and resumed our warm-up.
By the time Mr. Connor came in, Glam was covered in a light sheen of sweat, and my whole body ached. I considered asking to be excused from the lesson. Suck it up, buttercup, I thought to myself. As it was, Mr. Connor noticed how strung out Glamour seemed and gave me a questioning look.
"Had a bit of a tough warm-up," I explained. "But we're ready now."
Mr. Connor nodded. "Alright then, today we will be focusing on dressage." Oh, joy. "Space yourselves out and start with a sitting trot."
I got Glamour trotting, and tried my best not to bounce too much in the saddle. I constantly played with the reins, pulling more on the snaffle rein, to keep Glamour's head down and chin tucked. She shook her head and mouthed the bit. When she lowered her head, I softened my hands. Only for her to lift her head right back up, forcing me to start over again.
"Taylor, more leg. Encourage Glamour to stretch more." I tried to do as Mr. Connor instructed, without much success. "Now everybody, collect the trot," Mr. Connor said. I worked to get Glamour to shorten her stride, while keeping the same impulsion. She complied grudgingly.
I felt sweat drip down the small of my back. I wasn't sure what hurt more; my legs from gripping the saddle, or my arms from fighting with Glamour's mouth.
"Make a ten-meter circle, then canter." Mr. Connor's voice echoed through the indoor arena. I used my hands and legs to guide Glamour in a small circle, but she felt stiff and unyielding. As we came out of the circle, I squeezed my legs and asked Glam to canter. She continued trotting rapidly, so I tapped my heels against her sides. Oops. Glamour shot forward with a big, rocking canter. I sat deep and asked her to come back to the trot, to try the transition again. This time, I held her together more, and she made a much smoother transition. I tried to ignore the fact that everyone else in the lesson was probably staring at me.
"Walk, and come into the middle," Mr. Connor said. The five of us in the lesson came to a halt in front of Mr. Connor.
"Now we are going to work through some figure-eights. I'm not going to set up any cones, because I want you to judge for yourself where the turns should be made. Ben, I'd like you to start." I watched as Ben, Try, Nichole, and then Andy went through the exercise effortlessly. Mr. Connor nodded in my direction, and I started forward.
"Just keep a nice, even working trot. Let Glamour bend through the turns without over-bending. Use your legs to guide her more than your hands."
I trotted Glamour through a big circle before asking her to turn to the left for the first loop of the figure-eight. She turned her head towards the inside, but bulged out to the side.
"More outside leg!" Mr. Connor instructed.
I corrected Glamour, then signaled her to change directions. She did it without too much trouble, which was a welcome relief. We were just in the process of completing our second loop when… BANG. I wasn't sure what made the noise, but Glamour didn't give me a chance to think about it. Immediately, her head shot up, and she shied violently to the left. Caught off guard, I lost one of my stirrups. Glamour started to panic, and took off at a fast canter. I sank my weight into the saddle and pulled gently on the reins, afraid to pull too hard with the Pelham bit. Glamour responded by twisting up in a buck that almost sent me head-over-heels into the dirt. Oh gosh, oh gosh, oh gosh! I grabbed a hunk of Glam's mane in one hand and used the other for a pulley rein. Glamour finally slowed to a normal canter, and I was suddenly aware of everybody else in the arena. My face burned with embarrassment.
"Taylor, are you all right?" Mr. Connor asked as he came towards us. I managed to slow Glamour to a walk and then a halt. Mr. Connor grabbed Glamour's bridle and looked up at me in concern.
"I-I'm alright," I stuttered. My heart was pounding, but I was okay. I slid down from Glamour's back. My legs felt like bags of water. Leaning up against my horse, I took a couple of deep breaths. Beside me, Glamour trembled slightly.
"Why don't you go back to the barn and try to calm Glamour down," Mr. Connor suggested. I nodded, running up my stirrups and loosening Glam's girth. I walked past everybody else, smiling up at them to show them that I was okay. And I was, really. Just a little shaken.
Back in Glamour's stall, I untacked her and right away checked her legs for any signs of heat. Phew, nothing. Heat would have meant that Glamour had hurt herself during her mad-dash.
Putting my saddle on the wooden bar that was built onto the stall door, I looked in at Glamour. She stood still with her head down, looking more miserable than I'd ever seen her.
I crouched down by her face and stroked my fingers down her white blaze. "Poor girl, you're just having a really bad day, huh?" I crooned. Glamour's lower lip trembled and her big brown eyes seemed search my face. No matter how badly she behaved, I couldn't stay mad at her. I was used to her having the odd temperamental-mare day. I groomed her slowly before putting away my tack.
I grabbed my navy blue/smoke blue/grey striped cooler blanket off the stall door and draped it over Glamour.
"Let's go for a walk, kay?" I said as I clipped my lead rope to her halter.
Together, we headed out of the stable and down one of the quietest trails in the woods. Maybe we both just needed some quiet, relaxed, bonding time.
After our walk, I put Glamour back in her stall, both of us feeling better. I was just about to leave the stable to go back to my room (and a nice hot shower), when Heather stepped into my path.
"This has gotten ridiculous," she said. "I was watching your lesson. You were a complete train-wreck. And so I'm here to tell you to stop. Quit. Quit the team, and go home. You clearly don't belong at a school like Canterwood, or on the intermediate team." I opened my mouth to say something, anything, when she cut me off. "I don't care that Mr. Connor thinks you have 'potential' or whatever, I'm saying you aren't cut out for this level of riding. Come back when you actually learn how to ride, because it seems like you have no idea what 'riding' actually means." Heather paused, letting that sink in.
"Even though I'm on theYENT," she continued, "I can't stand seeing the intermediate team dragged down by you. And you are, by the way, dragging the whole team down. So seriously, drop out, now. Before I make you wish you'd never enrolled in the first place." With that, Heather turned on her heel and stalked away, leaving me staring after her.
I felt my eyes fill with tears. I knew my face was probably white as a sheet, or beet red. But I didn't care. I raced blindly for the door, not caring if I ran into people or not. I somehow made it to my dorm room without losing it. For a while I just lay there, replaying what had just happened over and over again in my head. I barely even noticed when the tears started to slide down my face.