Several riders rode english, which is different from the other clinics I've attended. The young woman was quiet, it was nearly impossible for those of us in the stands to hear her. She was riding a young horse, maybe 14 hands on a good day. His build was odd - huge head, pony body. He was, according to her, a Lipizzaner.
All of us were confused. This was a tiny horse. Even Mark seemed shocked, kept asking her about his breeding. The horse was well trained but you could see how rigid he was going. I gathered from Mark that she wanted to work on her canter departs. He watched as she demonstrated.
My novice eye only saw a bumpy ride, very little flow to the horse's gait.
"Go ahead and stop," said Mark. "How's your shoulder? Have you injured it?"
She said it was sore. It wasn't clear there had been an injury. It reminded me of the time I told my mom I broke my thumb hiking when I'd actually fallen from a cliff while rock climbing.
I wondered if her mom was among the auditors.
He had someone hold her horse while he took her through some physical therapy. Using a lead rope he had her do long stretches for her shoulder from three angles. Then he had her do it on the other side.
When she got back on her horse, it took just a few strides and the ride became more fluid. We were stunned.
"If there is tightness in your body, the same muscle will be tight in your horse," said Mark.
The little white Lipizzaner made it's fluid canter circles, moving into each gait softer every time.
A tiny bit of dread was dogging my heels. In another day we'd break camp here and the trainer wanted to hit the trails. I was looking forward to camping, but not to riding.
Not on the trails.
Every now and then over the span of the arena I'd see Smokey rearing in his stall, trying to see his friends. Pretty soon we'd be riding in the arena, this long, deep, glorious arena. I figured I could handle that without too much of a problem.
At least I hoped I could. I thought of the tiny Lipizzaner, his quiet, careful rider, her fluid movements. She had started that horse herself. Even in his rocky gait he was willing and quiet. And well trained.
"You did a real good job starting this horse," Mark was saying as the pair rode a slight diagonal. "Real good job."
I couldn't hear her, but saw her smile.