Toward the Center of the Circle
“We’ll pick up where we left off last time,” Lorraine advised us as I adjusted the side reins in final prep for our warm-up on the lunge line. “Give her four-minutes in each direction,” she directed, although we all know my sense of human time gets swept into the vibrancy of the horse. Yielding to disorientation births a fresh perspective, clearing out the debris of mechanical materialism and rebalancing, mystically containing time in the immediate moment. Isn’t that why we ride?
After the brief groundwork, Leg’cy and I continued that subtle transference where human intention intermingles with equine sensation. The invitation opens to plumb embodied meaning further into too-vacuous labels, like “balance.” Meaning deepens, transforms when poised where heartbeats resonate as possible only at the doorway to the other world, trembling into trust that there is one.
Lorraine had set up markers for the twenty-meter circle in one end of the arena. Riding a clean circle, like in life, offers purification, like Rilke’s poem orbiting the ancient tower, shape shifting as needed to move through whatever hazards along the way. And this was the difficult end where in previous rides we’d battled the entire hour to negotiate dragons that only one of us could see. But in this moment we both caught sight of the demon, a water puddle right in the dismal corner, wedged between the marker and the wall, no way around it. Horses can’t detect depth below a water surface, I’ve heard; they have to trust the rider won’t drown them.
Guidance dredged up from multitudes of coaching and reading. As we trotted into the danger point, instead of staring at the mirage, my focus turned toward the center of the circle, my breathing deepened, my outside aides reassured, and we splashed across with just a hint of rushing. Hard to believe, but on the first pass, we’d steadied through, as if held by the center instead of spooked by illusion. Lorraine told me later that many riders fail at jumping because they focus on the fence, the obstacle, instead of concentrating above and beyond. I clicked on the long lesson of that, and the just-embodied knowing resounded, “Yes!”