A Lesson without Saddles


“You brought the flowers right?” Lacey asked, giggling.

I smiled and pulled out the bundle of lilacs I’d plucked from tree outside of my house.

She grinned and grabbed a few from my hand. “Great.” Then she turned and walked towards the palomino horse in the cross ties at the end of the aisle. She placed the flowers beside her tack box and grabbed her curry comb.

“Too bad I can’t put them on Shadow.”

I laughed, running my hard brush over Magic’s white and brown hair. Our coach, Nick, was forcing us to have a bareback lesson. His punishment of some sort. I had no idea why…well I had a bit of an idea why. Lacey and I had weekly lessons with Nick and our favourite thing to do was to disagree with him. Though I think he secretly liked having the challenging students.

“Did you bring the pink polos?” I asked when I finished picking out Magic’s hooves.

Lacey tossed two pink polos and two flowered polos at me. “Put the flowers on the front. He’ll hate them.”

I giggled, placing the polos aside and wrapping his first leg. If there was one thing Nick hated it was when we dressed up our horses. Even worse, when we dressed our male horses in pink. I personally think Magic liked it. Pink brought out his handsome blue eyes.

When I finished wrapping the four polos I grabbed my riding helmet and crop. Then I looked to Lacey. She too had just finished with the polos. We both grabbed our bridles and, once on our horses, we threaded the lilac stems through the different fasteners. If Nick hated polos, he would despise the flowers.

When we finished, Lacey and I exchanged grins. I hoped this lesson would at least be fun.

***

Lacey and I warmed up our horses for nearly twenty minutes before Nick came out and began teaching us. He rolled his eyes when he saw our horses’ decorations, clearly not appreciating them quite as much as we hoped. At least Lacey and I enjoyed it.

“Alright guys, let’s see your two point.”

I scoffed. “You’re joking right?”

Nick chuckled. “Well if you can’t do two point, how do you expect to get over the fences?”

I glanced over my shoulder at Lacey who was riding only two horse lengths behind me, trudging along on Butterscotch, the palomino school horse she’d been tacking up.

I swallowed. I had been hoping we weren’t going to jump. Gripping Magic’s mane just above his withers, I squeezed with my calves and hoisted myself into the two point position I would have to take over the jump.

Again Nick chuckled, “There you go, not so hard.”

I glared at him, but could only do so for a minute because I had to concentrate to stay steady.

After our difficult lesson the week before, Nick grew tired of our attitude saying that if we talked back one more time in that class then we’d have no saddles the following week. Unable to hold my tongue, something I was horrible at, I challenged his statement. And now we were here.

Really, I should have known better, after all I rode the laziest horse in the barn all because I was a smart ass and told Nick that another one of the coaches in the barn made me work harder. That quickly changed. It was a blessing in disguise of course; I suppose most of what Nick did for me was.

My legs quickly began to ache and burn, but Nick didn’t let us stop. Eventually I started posting which, on the smoothest horse in the barn, was not an easy task. But Nick was quick to scold.

“Hey! I didn’t say stop.”

I shot him another glare. “If you’re making us jump, I’ll probably fall off if I don’t stop now.”

Nick grinned. “Do you think I care?”

I pushed myself back into the two point. “Obviously not.”

He made us do another round before letting us stop. Then we slowed to a walk and rested for only a minute while he set up a low vertical fence.

“Okay guys, over this, left lead.” He looked at me. “You’re up.”

I swallowed and kicked Magic into a slow canter.

Right away Nick criticized me. “Faster canter pace. Use your crop.”

I reluctantly gave Magic a light tap on his bum, urging him forward. I was always anxious when it came to cropping my horse. He used to be a bucker and sometimes I was certain he wouldn’t think twice of tossing me from his back.

He picked up the pace into a steady canter and the air rushed by, whipping at my cheeks as we approached the small fence. I counted in my head.

One, two, one, two, one, two.

I held my breath as I forced myself into two point over the low vertical, and released it as we landed. He retreated from the fence at a steady pace, readying to go again. Lacey and Butterscotch followed right after us and I smiled. This was actually kind of fun.

We took the jump a few more times each before Nick told us to stop. Then he raised the fence by three holes. I frowned. It was a big change. Not a high fence by any means, both Lacey and I were experienced riders, but that was with a saddle. Jumping bareback wasn’t quite as graceful.

Nick looked at me again and waved me forward.

Another nervous swallow and I urged Magic into the steady canter. Again we approached the fence and I tried to count. But I lost it and stared at the daunting jump, afraid I wouldn’t get far enough off Magic’s back to clear it.

Sensing my discomfort, Magic slammed on the brakes directly before the fence, sending me falling forward onto his neck. I said a quick thank you to him for not dropping his head; otherwise I’d be on the ground, or worse, the fence.

I straightened and pulled Magic away from the jump. My heart was beating so hard it wanted to leap out of my chest. But all Nick did was laugh.

“So what happened there?” he asked.

I pursed my lips. “I dropped him.”

Nick smirked. “You dropped him.” He looked to Lacey and waved her forward.

Lacey whacked Butterscotch on the bum with her crop sending the mare cantering forward at an alarming pace, faster than I’d seen her move before.

“Pull her back, Lacey,” Nick coached as Lacey approached the vertical.

But Lacey didn’t listen, instead driving Butterscotch towards the fence, determined that she wouldn’t stop. The mare took the fence an entire stride early, clearing it by over a foot. Lacey was thrown from her back, landing on her right side in the arena dirt. Butterscotch landed and came to a halt in the center of the ring.

Nick went to Lacey’s side and pulled her to her feet. My blonde friend was laughing as she dusted herself off.

“Didn’t I say pull her back?”

Lacey nodded. “You did.”

Nick grabbed her left leg and hoisted her back onto Butterscotch’s back. Then we continued the lesson. This time each of us cleared the fence no problem and two more higher than it.

When the lesson ended, we were tired and my legs ached. Tomorrow I would probably have a hard time moving.

Nick called us into the center of the ring when the lesson was done, giving both of our horses nice pats.

“Great job, girls,” he said.

Lacey and I grinned at each other.

“Thanks Nick,” we said in unison.

Then he chuckled. “Did you notice, that when you focus, neither of you have much to say about my coaching. It’s a nice change. Cool them out, girls.”

“Hey!” Lacey called as he walked passed us towards the barn door. He turned, continuing backwards.

“Shut up, Nick!” I chimed in. “We know you love it.”

Again he just laughed. “See you next week guys.” Then he was gone.

Lacey and I exchanged looks again. “Ugh what a jerk.” I said.

“Serious jackass,” Lacey agreed, kicking Butterscotch forward and directing her to the shoot door. “Want to walk down the driveway?”

I nodded and followed her out of the arena, smiling to myself. The bareback lesson had actually been a blast, I was almost glad he made us do it. Though, I knew I’d regret it tomorrow.




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