Taming Armani

What do a high-end fashion designer and an advanced lesson horse have in common?
Not much. Just the name Armani.

After countless weeks, I finally did it! I aced my tests and reached a new challenging level of horseback riding, which meant the horses I would be on were going to be very difficult to control, much less ride. What did I get myself into? I walked into the stall of an unfamiliar horse excited and ready to ride, totally unaware of what was to come. I was about to meet my match, the one I will never forget, the infamous Armani.
When most people think about the name Armani, a well-known Italian fashion designer comes to mind. Giorgio Armani’s clothes, cosmetics, leather ware, and accessories swept the nation and made a huge impression on the fashion world. However when I think of the name, the image of a two-ton, chocolate brown fanatic galloping in wild circles around the open arena is the image that is conjured in my head. Armani, also known in the horse show world as The Armani’s Code, is a petite bay colored Morgan horse that has an unpredictable temper and a longing to run fast and free. Don’t be fooled by his diminutive size, he is anything but sweet and innocent.
Casually I greeted this new horse in the same manner that I entered into any stall, a nice pat on the shoulder with a gentle stroke down his nose. Armani’s ears pushed straight back and he snorted at the sight of me, and kicked his rear legs, as he did every time we had an encounter. Whatever the reason for this behavior, I ignored it and calmly stroked his neck and tempted him into kindness by picking some hay off of the sawdust floor and holding it up to his quivering mouth for an enticing treat. After indulging in his mid-afternoon snack, he mellowed down and welcomed me with a friendly nuzzle. Success! After struggling to tame the beast, we sauntered into the freshly raked arena as if nothing happened.
My trainer once said that a horse’s personality and riding style changes outdoors. How could a horse’s personality change simply by moving outdoors? That always seemed a bit odd to me, but I just nodded and took this advice with a grain of salt. One afternoon, after mounting and acclimating myself into the riding gear, Armani and I started our usual journey around the ring, this time we went outdoors. A slight breeze blew against my face, and created a relaxing sensation, for me anyways. As the breeze picked up, Armani’s gentle pitter patters transformed into harsh strides that almost sent me flying. I wasn’t informed, until after my ride, that Armani was afraid of the wind. After the lesson, my trainer told me that Armani developed a tendency to get frisky whenever the weather was breezy. What kind of strange animal was this?
Armani was not a horse that usually got spooked while indoors, but riding him outside was a totally different story. We started a lesson one afternoon with an almost flawless ride. We glided with ease around the outdoor arena and he seemed to have a very relaxed demeanor. After several laps around the ring, Armani spotted a water hose from the corner of his eye that was located along the side of the barn. He stopped suddenly, whipped his head back ferociously, spun in a complete circle, and began galloping in the opposite direction. I pulled tight on his reigns and attempted to stop him with a firm voice. This was not the best idea! He then gained speed and accelerated down the straight-a-way at full force, with me clinging for dear life on the reigns. After numerous attempts, I finally managed to stop the beast and turn him around after this harrowing experience.

A group lesson with Armani was always an exertion. If anybody desperately needed attention, it was him. I would always have to position him at the front of the line, and far ahead of everyone else. If he was ever behind a slower horse, he would gain speed and race them with what seemed like a NASCAR technique. The beast would weave in and out of the caravan of horses and position himself at the front of the ring where all eyes were focused on him. However, this only caused fear for other riders as well as for myself. My mother watched with terror, pressed against the window eyeballing Armani’s every twitch and spin.

Finally I did it! I tamed Armani! Or so I thought. This one ride, in particular, was exceptional. There were no spins, kicks, spooks, accelerating speeds, nor jealousy wars present. Smiles replaced frowns and trepidation swapped with confidence. After weeks of struggling and dealing with Armani’s unpredictable behavior, I believed I had finally conquered it. This particular lesson, however, felt a bit unusual, considering how calm and easy going he seemed, but I kept going and let my pride get the better of me. At the end of the lesson, compliments regarding my horsemanship were given left and right. I was so proud! I walked the monster back to his den, and turned him loose into his stall. My substitute trainer approached me, as I beamed with happiness. Then she proceeded to inform me with the news that would change my outlook of Armani forever. Armani had been tranquilized for his lesson, which in response made him seem docile and me appear masterful. The smile dissolved from my face and disbelief burned in my cheeks. My pride faded and disgust overtook my body. On the inside, I was screaming with rage, so before I harmed anyone, including Armani , I calmly walked out of the barn, still shocked and furious. I had failed at taming Armani.

To this very day, I attempt to tame Armani. Every lesson with him gets me one step closer to reaching this goal. I continue to cringe at the sight of him every time I pass his stall, but I will stand firm in my determination to conquer this beast. If and when the day comes that I maintain control of Armani, the realization will finally sink in that I have become a true horseman.





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