Owning a horse is out of my budget right now. So is taking lessons every day. The thing is, I don’t want to be taking lessons every day. I want time with just me and my horse, to work on things I’ve learned. But I also want to be able to get to know him better, to establish that connection beyond those moments when we’re warming up or cooling down and it’s just the two of us. To remember how to be a horse and rider, a connected pair, working together without outside directions. I wanted the freedom to move around the arena without having a set ride time, without a set lesson plan beyond what I felt we needed to work on. Thankfully, my trainer wanted that for me too.

With the show season winding down, at least for Arabian breed shows in our area, I was offered a few different options for horses to lease or half-lease through the winter. Who I tried, though, was a nationally titled, well-broken, handsome bay Arabian gelding — a horse my trainer knew she could trust me to be on if she wasn’t around not to spook and dump me. The connection between us at first was tenuous as I groomed him, tacked him up, and walked him around the arena. The longer into the ride we went, the better we started to get to know one another. I felt more comfortable and confident on him. He’s the kind of horse who anticipates where we’re going based on the slightest shift of weight in the saddle, or the slightest pressure from my leg.

Being on him, I could completely let go. Suddenly, it was like everything was muscle memory: I sat the trot, we leg yielded back and forth across the arena without thinking about what I needed to do. I just did it. He just did it. Unlike lesson horses I was used to in the past, he needed that constant connection to keep him focused.

For the first time, I felt like a real rider.

To me, that was freedom: riding in an empty arena, in a quiet barn because everyone was out doing other things. It was just me and Peanut, pushing forward and working through the late summer heat. Knowing, too, that he’s mine to ride 2 – 3 more times a week is another form of freedom. A feeling of control over my riding future, my conditioning, and my confidence beyond a half-hour lesson with a trainer. Peanut may not be my forever horse, but he’s my perfect-for-right-now horse. Someone with a brain of his own, who’s going to make push me to be more assertive, who’s going to help me become even more aware of how I use my body in the saddle. He has a lot to teach me and I’m ready to learn, on my own.