We are Flying

October 16, 2011
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“I don’t want to ride anymore. I want to get off. Now.” I am standing in the center of the dusty riding ring, begging my instructor to let me dismount. My voice is trembling. I continue, unsure of myself, “Jasper is scaring me. He is too spirited and unpredictable. I am not a good enough rider.”

My instructor shoots me a shocked look, as though I just lied. “Zoe, you are a good rider. You are not getting off.” She motions for me to ride back out to the rail, and continue cantering. Jasper and I canter a few uneven beats, and then I pull him back to a slow trot. The tips of my fingers turn white as I tightly grip the reins.

I instruct him to canter again, adjusting my position so that I will have better control over his rocket ship speed. His body’s three-beat rhythm quickens as I lose control of him once again. I feel defeated, outsmarted by a horse.

Jasper is the first horse that has ever made me feel like, not simply a bad rider, but an incompetent one. Jasper makes me feel like an inferior person. He is a beautiful horse, a shining brown coat with a few small while spots and a delicate, graceful air. But his attitude towards his rider has taught me something else entirely.

Like many people, Jasper does not care about my personal space, or my feelings. He wants to upset his rider; he wants to test me. When I ride him, I become nervous. I am afraid that I may fall off. Each lesson sends shivers down my spine and makes my legs shake against the old, worn saddle.

However, as my weekly lessons progress, I realize my instructor does not mean any harm by having me ride Jasper. It is because my instructor knows I am capable of handling him. She knows that I will rise to the challenge, that Jasper and I will learn to work together. Knowing this, my confidence around Jasper improves, and I want to be in control. I no longer hide behind his unpredictable behavior; instead, I begin to confront it.

My hands bleed and the skin peels off my fingers. But, I sit straight and hold the reins tightly. I fight back, and I win.


It’s hot out. Jasper stands confident and tall, the same way he did two years ago. Only now, he does not jerk his head. My fingers stay comfortably closed on the reins as we trot around the ring. His movements are more refined, and mine are more self-assured. This time, we work together.

I ask for a canter. He picks up the correct lead, and we sail around the outside of the ring. Together, we turn to face a jump. He sees it, and I recognize the familiar sound of his eager hoof beats, as they gather speed. His ears flick forward with anticipation, and suddenly we are in the air. Jasper and I are a team. We are flying.





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