I don't know what it was. Maybe it was the week off from proper riding (bareback jaunts don't count!). Maybe it was the pack of howling coyotes roaming around outside the building housing the indoor arena. Or maybe she just felt good and her new, toned body allowed for it.
But on Monday I worked on collection with Limerick and at the end of the ride, mid-canter, I let the reins go loose. I kept my position within the saddle--shoulders back, seat deep, chest up (I will never forget the words of the owner of the Andalusian mare I rode last spring--"Ride with your heart!").
I held my breath.
And Limerick retained that beautiful curve in her neck, the veins standing up in little mounds beneath her taunt skin. Her hind legs continued to gather deep beneath her and her forelegs lifted high into the air. She felt perfect, and it was all on a rein so loose that it draped in two great loops. After two laps around the arena I gently pulled her down into a long-strided trot and allowed her to float her nose an inch above the arena dirt.
I tried to remember the last time she felt this good. Oh sure, she had the ability and shape years ago. But what had changed? Am I more patient? Despite a sore lack of lessons, more understanding of the biomechanics required of equine collection? Is it the greater level of fitness I personally have? The knowledge that, right at that moment, I have no one to impress but myself?
Or is it Limerick--is she more willing to work hard for me, to give her all for me? Perhaps she finds pleasure in putting her nose to the grindstone during the one or two days of the week that I ask for serious work--and perhaps the days I set aside for play or interesting tasks hone her mentally, and now she has the mental sharpness as well as the physical ability?
It's probably all of these things together. Either way, I am very pleased. Shows in the fall? How about the spring?!