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25 October 2016

How I met Dash

Lemme back up and fill you in a little.

I grew up with horses, but I had to leave that world behind when I left my father's house.

I bought a horse when I got out of the Army and got a job as a contractor making pretty good money. He was a retired ranch horse with a brand I never was able to identify. I called him Duke. He was big and red and mellow and I loved the hell out of him. Then I got laid off and I couldn't afford to feed him, so I found him a new home. I miss him every day.

My 35th birthday was a couple months ago, about a week or so after the summer Olympics. This year my finances are looking up, and I had just watched every single Olympic equestrian event when my birthday came around. Most years, if I get myself a present at all, it's something like a new pair of jeans because all my old ones have holes. This year, I realized that I could sustain the cost of riding lessons.

So I asked about instructors on the local horsey facebook page. I made a list and met several great people willing and able to teach me. I decided on a riding school run by a woman with a more casual, laid back way of doing things. I liked her no-bs way of talking. I tend to take people at their word, so if you're saying something just to be polite, there's a good chance I won't realize that. I don't worry about that with her. She's direct, and that's what I need in a teacher.

The lesson horse is a cute little mustang named Bella. Bella's a little on the lazy side, but easy to ride and I got comfortable on her quickly.

At my third lesson, the instructor told me she thought I was a capable enough rider to try riding Dash. Most people, she told me, are intimidated by his size. Dash is about the same height I remember Duke being, but not quite as thick. And, she continued, Dash is proud cut, so some people are afraid of him just because of that, but - she assured me - he's really a good boy.

Maybe I'm too trusting, but I hopped on Dash.
Literally, because he likes to step out if you take too long to get into the saddle.

That first ride was bumpy. He definitely wanted to go faster than I did, but he slowed back down when I asked and other than being antsy, he really was pretty well mannered.

I'd been up on Dash maybe twenty minutes when the instructor said, "Well, you're not in the dirt - he must like you!" That did not boost my confidence. But I knew we were right for each other when I realized that Dash was tensing up in response to me tensing up. If I was calm, he was calm. He's a sensitive guy, the instructor told me.

I may be terrible at knowing when I'm anxious, but Dash isn't, and he has let me know from our very first ride. 

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