Head Up, Heels Down

ifnotwinter
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Joined: April 6th, 2009, 5:22 pm

April 10th, 2012, 11:44 pm #1

"Yeah. Yeah, I understand. No, it's fine. We'll do a make-up sometime. Uh huh. Yeah, sure. Okay. Feel better, all right?"

Rory pressed the end call button on his phone and dropped it into his pocket absent-mindedly, turning to the whiteboard in front of him. Normally he taught a group lesson on Saturday afternoons with three girls who were relatively new to riding, but one had cancelled yesterday and the other just then. Both were apparently victims of some flu making the rounds, but it left Rory with only a single student to teach and not really enough time to call and cancel her lesson.

Well, that was okay. She'd just get lucky and have a private lesson for the cost of a group -- she was a good kid anyway, he liked her enough to not really mind doing some one on one work. He briefly entertained the thought of tacking a horse for himself as well and just riding with her...one of the young ones who just needed to hang out in the ring for a while, maybe.

He'd ask her if she minded when she turned up, he decided. So long as she didn't cancel as well. A quick grin flashed across his face, that's how you know when someone's still getting started with riding -- they don't have the 'if you can breathe, you can ride' mentality yet.

Grabbing a dry-erase pen from the can by the whiteboard, Rory erased the names of his other students from the lesson area for today and after a thoughtful moment erased the name of Lydia's mount as well, scrawling Jay in its place. Jay was one of his favourite horses to teach with, a schoolmaster who at the same time seemed to know exactly how much he could challenge his riders while still building their confidence. Lydia hadn't ridden the big chestnut gelding before and a private lesson would be the perfect time for her to try him out.

He checked his watch. She would hopefully be here in about ten minutes but he'd already finished his chores for the morning and the only thing waiting for him up at the house was homework. After considering the idea and summarily rejecting it -- homework was for panicky Sunday nights, after all -- he settled down on an upturned water bucket just inside the barn door instead and began to clean one of his old bridles. Soon enough he was lost in the rhythm of scrubbing buckles with a scruffy toothbrush, pausing once every few minutes to twist and stretch out his back.

marc st. yves
light it up or burn it down we'll all die in fire
{food for thought}

phineas rosario
fall down seven times stand up eight
sebastian conway
can't see the forest for the trees
{book of sparrows}
[/center][/center]
(so you've got to keep in mind, when you try to change the world for the better not everybody's gonna be on your side)
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MurderWeasel
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Joined: February 18th, 2009, 7:01 am

April 12th, 2012, 4:36 am #2

((Enter Lydia Robbins))

"Bye," Lydia called, waving to her father as his car pulled away from the farm and disappeared down the road, no doubt to her dad's favorite cafe. It was Saturday, and that meant riding lessons, which meant it was one of the best days of the week. It meant getting away from school and work and stress and just focusing on something purely enjoyable. The exercise was great, and, more than that, Lydia loved the horses. It didn't hurt that she had a great instructor. Rory was one of her classmates, which made him approachable and relatable, even though he knew way more than she did about riding.

The gravel of the road crunched under Lydia's boots as she made her way down it, heading towards the largest barn. There, she'd find out which horse she'd been assigned for the day, get them ready, and then ride out to meet Rory in the ring to get started. She hummed to herself as she walked, some song they'd been working on in choir that she couldn't fully bring to mind at the moment, a Simon and Garfunkel tune, she thought. She was taking it easy, keeping her pace at a nice, slow mosey. The weather was nice, nicer than usual for this time of year, warm and sunny. All in all, it was shaping up to be a really excellent day.

Lydia's spirits remained high as she stepped through the opening to the barn, walking inside, inhaling the smell of horses and dirt and wood. She stepped lightly, but not nervously. She'd been coming here long enough that the barn felt nearly comfortable. She no longer felt like an intruder, more a frequent guest at a friend's house. That was the wonderful thing about this place; whatever their business relationship with the students might be, everyone here was welcoming and warm. It probably came from a unifying passion, one Lydia found herself more invested in by the week.

She almost didn't notice that Rory was there. It was the sound of his scrubbing that first drew her attention. For a moment, Lydia worried that she was early, but no, she'd only been dropped off three minutes before she was supposed to be, and the walk to the barn had taken at least that long. The other students weren't around, though. It was a little bit awkward, so she cleared her throat and said, "Uh, class isn't cancelled, is it?"
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ifnotwinter
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Joined: April 6th, 2009, 5:22 pm

April 12th, 2012, 4:57 am #3

Distracted by the soft top 40 pop from the radio in the nearby feed room, absorbed in getting a crusted-on spot of grass and saliva off the leather of his flash noseband, Rory completely missed Lydia walking in. He started when she spoke, teeth clamping down on the sliver of tongue he'd had poked between his teeth.

"Oh, augh." He sucked his tongue for a moment, straightening up awkwardly from his seat on the water bucket and dropping the bridle to one side. A brief flush colored his cheeks as he shook his head and jerked a thumb at the whiteboard. "Hi, Lydia. No, nothing's cancelled -- well, Robin and Deb cancelled, but Deb only phoned me like ten minutes ago so I figured I might as well go ahead and still teach you today."

He laughed softly, rubbing a hand over the back of his neck. "Anyhow, uh, I've got you on Jay today. You've seen him go -- he's that big chestnut with the little socks, Deb was riding him a couple weeks back? I think you're ready to move up from Moka and Jay's a great horse to learn on. I used him a lot after the accident, when I was starting to ride again."

He'd spent a year or so with his lesson students trying to pretend like nothing had happened, like he'd just chosen not to continue with his competing but...they always found out, one way or another. Now he just pretended like he didn't care. Maybe, he figured, maybe eventually that would even be true.

Didn't matter. "He's in his paddock right now if you want to go get him. Seventeen. I've got his tack and everything in the cross-ties already so just bring him right there, okay? I was thinking I'd grab Spice and join you in the ring. That way she learns how to hang out and be calm in hand, and Jay gets a buddy. Don't worry, I'll still pay attention to you."

Spice was a pretty gray two year old, a recent purchase Addie was hoping would eventually make a good mount for eventing. At the moment though she was skittish and spooky, and both siblings had been going out of their way to try and get her exposed to everything possible. One of their favorite tricks was just having her hang out during lessons, forcing her to watch the other horses and still remain calm. Rory thought it was even starting to work.

Well, mostly.

"I can give you a hand tacking Jay up and then grab her, so no worries." Not that he thought she'd have a problem -- the Appendix gelding was unbelievably reliable on the ground, content to follow whoever was working with him and often patiently doing the right thing no matter what was being asked. They'd be a good match, he figured.

marc st. yves
light it up or burn it down we'll all die in fire
{food for thought}

phineas rosario
fall down seven times stand up eight
sebastian conway
can't see the forest for the trees
{book of sparrows}
[/center][/center]
(so you've got to keep in mind, when you try to change the world for the better not everybody's gonna be on your side)
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MurderWeasel
MW's Private Rank
Joined: February 18th, 2009, 7:01 am

April 19th, 2012, 5:38 am #4

Lydia was concerned, just for a moment, when Rory seemed startled by her presence. She didn't want to alarm him or make him uncomfortable in any way. In fact, Lydia was no stranger to giving embarrassing little jumps when taken by surprise. Her worry melted away as Rory explained the situation, however, seeming to have quickly recovered his composure. It seemed her classmates had canceled, meaning that today she'd be on her own. Truth be told, she was a little excited about that. Three wasn't too many for a class, and Rory always balanced their needs masterfully, but it was always nice to have a little more personal attention.

He told her that today she was assigned to Jay. Lydia remembered Jay. She'd admired the big chestnut in the past, and he'd seemed quite manageable for Deb. She really liked Moka, too, but getting to know a new horse would be exciting. She focused on that, trying not to think too much about Rory's mention of the accident. What had happened wasn't secret. Lydia knew the rough details, though she couldn't guess how badly it had shaken Rory. Still, she felt for him, empathized with his worries. She could still tell that his confidence was sometimes lacking. Maybe it came from her own deficiencies in that field. It was, oddly enough, another part of Rory that made Lydia feel comfortable around him. He struggled sometimes, just like she did, no matter how much he tried to act like everything was fine.

Of course, it wasn't something they ever talked about. They didn't talk about it now, either, as Lydia smiled and said, "Sure thing," and moved off towards paddock seventeen, retrieving a halter and lead rope on the way.

Up close, Jay was beautiful. He was a bit bigger than Moka; Lydia could just see over his back if she stood on her toes. She smiled at him and said, "Hey there," stroking his face and shoulders a few times before coaxing him into the halter. She was apprehensive for a moment that Jay might prove a bit temperamental, but he responded calmly and easily, following her into the cross ties.

With a little help from Rory, Lydia secured Jay in the cross ties, talking quiet nonsense to him as she did so. One of the great parts about animals was that they always gave the impression of listening without judgement. Jay was a friendly presence, and Lydia felt calm and comfortable even though she'd never worked with him before.

She then stood next to Jay and ran her hand down the back of his front left leg, giving him a tap. He adjusted a bit, then picked his hoof up, letting Lydia grasp it in her left hand. She used a hoof pick in her right to clean it, heel to toe, using her fingers in the sensitive areas. She repeated the process on each of his other legs, then took combed and brushed him down, working the tangled areas out of his mane and tail. After that, she settled the pad on his back, then placed and secured the saddle. The process had been very unfamiliar when she had first taken up class, but was becoming a little more natural every lesson.

Once Jay had been tacked up, Lydia led him outside, while Rory fetched Spice. She paused for a moment, and, while waiting for him, asked Jay, "So, are you ready? I think today'll be fun, don't you?"
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ifnotwinter
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Joined: April 6th, 2009, 5:22 pm

April 19th, 2012, 6:09 am #5

Jay twitched his ears back and forth thoughtfully, listening to Lydia's words as he bobbed his head down to nose at her sleeve in an absent-minded hunt for any treats she might happen to have squirreled away on her person. However he didn't have more than a second or two to investigate before Rory reappeared from the barn with Spice, and the gelding brought his head up to glance in her direction.

She was getting off to a good start already, Rory thought, checking the mare gently as she went to speed up the pace towards the ring. Her eyes were calm and although her ears were pricked as she gazed around, her body was generally relaxed and she was listening well to his commands. With any luck she would be content to just hang out in the middle of the ring and observe the lesson instead of her usual attempts to get loose and do her own thing.

Young horses. Idiots, the lot of them. Young riders were so much better. He smiled as he approached the ring and let himself in, guiding Spice with firm hands to stand still during the unlatching and latching of the gate. Lydia was still a new rider with a new rider's strengths and weaknesses, but he'd always felt she had a good understanding of the horses and a natural calm that they seemed to respect. It didn't hurt that she was eager to learn in a way that impressed him -- a lot of his students were just desperate for competitions, for ribbons and cups, for the higher jumps and the harder tests. They weren't interested in developing their skills over the years that it would take for a truly solid foundation, they just wanted to go fast and jump high.

He'd been like that too, of course, once upon a time, but he always found himself wondering if he'd ever been as bad as some were. He couldn't imagine so. Lydia was like a breath of fresh air, someone content to be the best she could be at her fundamentals before moving up.

Rory took a moment to check her tack -- not that he really needed to anymore, but ever since someone who'd been riding for over five years had forgotten to check her girth and broken her collarbone when the saddle slid under her mount's belly he'd been a little paranoid about it -- and flashed her a thumbs up, absently stroking Jay's shoulder and using his other hand to shoo Spice away from where she was nosing at the gelding's rump and ignoring the warning in his flattened ears. "Looking good. Go ahead and mount up, okay? The stirrups should be at the right length but let me know if they need changing."

While she mounted he headed for the center of the ring, weaving his way around the jumps that were still set up in a hunter course. Leaning against a wing standard he let Spice's lead go slack, smiling when her only reaction was to drop her head and nose at the hogsfuel. Turning back to Lydia, he pitched his voice to carry across the ring and shaded his eyes with one hand against the early spring sunlight.

"Okay, go ahead and take him out at a walk on the track. You're going to notice right away that he's a little more responsive to your aids than Moka, so keep your body quiet. He's also not going to just automatically go around without any input from you but I still want to see nice deep corners, so think about your leg and your hand as you're turning. No pulling the inside rein, you're too good for that. Inside leg presses at the girth, inside hand stays steady, outside hand is going to give a little squeeze -- good, good. Exactly like that."

He smiled. "Excellent. Watch your leg aids too -- nothing too dramatic, he's a sensitive boy. Remember, everything in its own time, everything very calm and steady. You're his leader...he doesn't want his leader to be nervous or unsure about what they're doing, or he's not going to follow. Deep breaths...push that chest out a little farther, don't roach your back!" A quick flash of a mischievous grin. "Boobs to the breeze, ass to the air as my sister always says. Good."

After a few minutes of walk work, changing directions, performing circles and three-loop serpentines, Rory beckoned Lydia into the center of the ring and went to her side with Spice trailing behind him. She was getting a little antsier now, tossing her fine head and pawing impatiently at the hogsfuel, but he ignored her minor tantrum behind him and she quieted down momentarily although her expression remained sulky.

"So how does he feel? You think you've got his number enough to try some trot work? It's going to be a little different than Moka...faster, for one...and you're going to feel like a beanbag for a little while as you get used to it, but I think you're ready."

marc st. yves
light it up or burn it down we'll all die in fire
{food for thought}

phineas rosario
fall down seven times stand up eight
sebastian conway
can't see the forest for the trees
{book of sparrows}
[/center][/center]
(so you've got to keep in mind, when you try to change the world for the better not everybody's gonna be on your side)
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MurderWeasel
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Joined: February 18th, 2009, 7:01 am

April 21st, 2012, 5:08 am #6

Lydia always felt reassured when Rory checked her preparations. It wasn't even that she doubted she could do things properly. More, she was aware of the possibility of making mistakes, and she didn't want to get herself of Jay hurt by forgetting to do something.

At Rory's command, she gave a nod and hoisted herself into the saddle. He walked over to stand in the middle of the ring, keeping Spice under his supervision.

Lydia began to walk Jay. What Rory had said had been entirely correct: the horse was a lot more willing to take her directions than Moka had been. It was actually really exciting for her. One of the best parts of riding for Lydia was that it was a partnership. She might be giving the directions to Jay, but it was only with the horse's help that she would accomplish anything. In a way, even that was selling short the number of people responsible for the activity. Rory was there, giving her directions, helping her by talking her through everything. Even though most of it was little more than gentle reminders, it felt comforting to Lydia, having him around to provide support.

Rory was good at catching her little slips or cop outs, never letting her get away with a lazy move and never leaving her without input. It was that degree of attention that made Lydia feel at home, that let her laugh along when he jokingly quoted his sister where in other situations she might have been too shy to see the humor. The entire practice session was exhilarating, and she was barely getting started. As Rory gestured for her to approach, Lydia directed Jay towards him.

"Jay's great," Lydia responded as Rory asked how things were going. "I love him."

It seemed like Spice was a little nervous, which was mildly discomfiting to Lydia, but she trusted Rory to have it under control. She continued, slightly more apprehensive as she thought about and answered his other question, though trying to sound calm.

"I think we can try trot work. I think I can deal with things being a bit faster, and beanbag sounds about right for me."

She knew that she'd have to try to act ready once they got started. From all Rory had told her and all she had observed, Jay would be a lot happier if she was confident and in control. Besides, she was ready to learn and try new things. It was going to be an adventure.
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ifnotwinter
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Joined: April 6th, 2009, 5:22 pm

April 26th, 2012, 6:33 am #7

Rory smiled as he slid his hand over Jay's neck, playing with the big gelding's mane for a moment before sliding his fingers down to his chest, checking Jay's body temperature in a movement so ingrained into his nerves he barely realized he was doing it. Not that it would be anything but normal since all he'd been doing was walking, but it was an old habit the same way he'd count respiration rates sometimes while watching the horses in their paddocks, or twist a fold of skin on the neck to check hydration when stroking someone's mount. It wasn't so long ago that he'd been conditioning Sol, after all.

Or maybe it was.

He gave Jay a final pat on the neck and lightly slapped Lydia's boot, squeezing the top of her foot briefly before backing up and gently nudging Spice away from the bigger horse. "You'll be fine, I can tell. Just remember to stay calm. Deep breaths. If you're tense through your muscles, they're going to be working against the horse. Think of it like...plastic, okay? Imagine that Jay under you is a piece of wood. If the muscles in your back and butt and legs are tense then they're hard, like hard plastic. Like those rubber balls you can get. If you throw a rubber ball against a piece of wood, it's just going to bounce off. But if your muscles are soft and loose, you're like soft plastic, like...silly putty, I guess. If you toss some silly putty on a piece of wood it'll just mold to it."

He paused for a second. Something wasn't quite right. "Except...I guess silly putty does bounce, if you ball it up. Well. Pretend you're like a sheet of silly putty covering something, molding to fit it. Mold your legs to his body and your bum to the saddle."

As he turned to head back to the center of the ring, Spice trailed at the end of the lead rope. Her ears were alternating between pinned and sulky and as far forward as she could get them, spooking slightly at far-away and imagined sights. He shanked her lightly, scratching around her withers to try and find a sweet spot to distract her with.

"Just take him out on the...left rein, okay? Wait until you've got a nice forward walk, then give him your driving aids and bring him up into a working trot. Posting please, not sitting."

marc st. yves
light it up or burn it down we'll all die in fire
{food for thought}

phineas rosario
fall down seven times stand up eight
sebastian conway
can't see the forest for the trees
{book of sparrows}
[/center][/center]
(so you've got to keep in mind, when you try to change the world for the better not everybody's gonna be on your side)
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MurderWeasel
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Joined: February 18th, 2009, 7:01 am

May 1st, 2012, 6:08 am #8

Well, time to give it a go. Lydia smiled, nodded, and said, "A sheet, not a ball. Got it," to Rory. She took a few deep breaths, trying to force her body to calm. Relaxing was a skill she still needed to work on, but it was easier when working with the horses, oddly enough. They made her feel comfortable. She liked them, and she had fun with them, so it was fairly easy to release a lot of her stress.

She coaxed Jay into a walk around the edge of the ring, her right arm facing the fence, her left the interior. Once she'd gotten a rough feel for him, she closed her calves on his sides, nudging him gently with her heels as well. At this, Jay sped up a bit, moving into a working trot. Lydia remained sitting for just a few seconds before Rory called after her, correcting her. After just a moment's hesitation, Lydia began to post, rising out of the saddle and then sinking back in time with Jay's steps.

It took her a little bit just to get into the swing of things, finding Jay's rhythm. She didn't idle too long, though, knowing that Rory would be watching for any mistakes. Quickly glancing over, Lydia saw that, in fact, she had made a little blunder, and was posting with the inside shoulder. She'd done this at a few other lessons, so she knew how to fix it, but she was still just that tiny bit hesitant. Still, she tried to correct, resting an extra beat, then adjusting so that she was out of the saddle when Jay's right shoulder was forward and sitting when it was back. He transition was slightly clumsy, but after a few strides she'd gotten back into the pattern, this time closer to correctly.

The entire experience was strange. Jay was a lot bigger than Moka, and Lydia almost felt like he wasn't moving all that quickly, though she could see at a glance that he was keeping up a good pace, covering more ground in less time than Moka could. It was hard for her to keep track of everything, staying in her rhythm and guiding Jay and keeping her arms and legs properly positioned. She worried that he'd go off course, or that she'd fall off, but Jay kept moving along the track, keeping calm.

As they came to the corner, it felt like he cut it, turning a little more sharply and leaving the track, and Lydia tensed, worried that she was about to make a terrible mistake or get called out for something by Rory, but the moment passed, and she allowed herself to relax again. Things were going fine. She was still just adjusting, but she was sure she'd get used to Jay before too long.

She briefly glanced in Rory's direction and flashed him a smile.
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ifnotwinter
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Joined: April 6th, 2009, 5:22 pm

May 21st, 2012, 5:45 am #9

Lydia looked good, Rory thought. There were little things, familiar things, classic beginner's mistakes -- her legs were a little too far back as she tried to compensate for the gelding's slower stride and still keep her balance, her post a little forward, her heels still bobbing somewhat instead of staying firm and steady -- but those were all things that came with time and muscle. Besides, she'd seen and corrected her diagonal and her hands remained perfectly steady, something he'd always been impressed with. She had good hands. They never seemed to pluck at the reins, never gave too much or too little, always remained floating while still perfectly grounded. You could go pretty far with hands like that.

Jay was still cutting his corners, though. Rory shifted the lead rope over to his other hand in order to shade his eyes, calling after Lydia "Watch those corners! Remember to think straight until you're almost in the curve of the track, then let him bend around it. Strong outside leg and inside hand...turn him into them if you have to. He knows better, he's just testing you and if you let him get away with it he's not going to stop."

The next corner was better, and he nodded to himself. She was a smart kid. Handled him well. She'd definitely been ready for the transition upward in mounts.

Hah. Listen to himself. Kid. They were probably close to the same age. Rory shook his head quietly. Didn't matter if he sometimes felt like he was sixty, he was still barely out of his teens. And speaking of feeling old, his back was starting to kill him. He tugged Spice's lead rope as he started walking towards the mounting block, intending to sit down as Lydia continued to circle the ring.

Unfortunately, it didn't quite go that way. The lead rope tautened in his hand as Spice refused to move after him, apparently under the impression that the mounting block was a terrible horse-eating monster. Rory rolled his eyes and backed up a step, tugging more sharply on the lead and clucking gently. When the mare pinned her ears and backed up a step instead of moving obediently forwards, he sighed.

Really? This is what you're going to throw a fit about? Fine.
He swung the end of the lead rope lightly out behind him, aiming it so that it would give her haunches a light touch at the same moment he stepped out firmly forwards. It was an old trick, and one that usually worked perfectly. The mare would instinctively move away from the touch, forward in the direction he wanted her to go.

At least, that was how it was supposed to work. Apparently no one had ever told Spice. As the knot at the end of the rope brushed her rear end she spooked violently sideways, hooves a blur of motion as she hurled herself away from the offending stimuli, movement only arrested by the sudden racket of falling poles as her body smacked into a jump that had been left over from whoever last rode. The noise only spooked her more and with Rory now hanging grimly onto the end of the lead rope, she kicked out hard with both hind legs.

The crack of her hind feet impacting the solid wood standard sounded like a gunshot and was followed by an almighty clatter as it toppled onto the heap of poles. Now thoroughly terrifed, Spice attempted a flying leap forwards that just narrowly missed Rory before freezing in the center of the ring, whole body shaking and every muscle outlined as though carved in marble. For a split-second Rory allowed himself to relax, to think well, that's over with at least before he realized that the sound of scrambling hoofbeats hadn't stopped with Spice's tantrum.

It took only a moment to locate the noise. Jay, obviously spooked by the younger mare, had bolted. Head in the air and ears shot as far forward as they would go the big gelding thundered around the ring at a gallop, tail streaming out behind him and eyes white-rimmed with adrenaline. Lydia was still clinging on but her reins had slipped and her body was beginning to tip forwards, instinctively curling up out of fear. She was going to fall, Rory realized with a sort of clinical detachment. She was going to fall and yes, it would be his fault, for bringing in the mare and not reading the signs of her impending explosion, for not warning Lydia, for moving her up. She might be hurt. She might be hurt seriously. She might never ride again, or walk, or breathe unassisted. Thoughts flickered in his mind as scant seconds passed, each conjuring up a more terrible scenario.

And another, more intrusive thought pressed in. She hasn't fallen yet.

It was like a switch flipped in his mind. Voice as loud as he could get it but deliberately calm and steady, as though he hadn't a care in the world, Rory began to teach once more.

"Lydia, I need you to listen to me. Heels down, and sit up tall. As tall as you can get. Hold onto the mane if you have to, but get your reins back. Keep your legs long. Long." Between sentences, pitching his voice lower, "Easy, Jay. Easy. Ho, boy. Ho. Easy," drawing out the syllables like molasses. To Lydia again as the gelding began to slow, ears flicking now between forward and listening to Rory, flicking back, "Now talk to him. Ask him to whoa, nice and easy. Soft voice. Pull gently on the reins. Squeeze and release. Squeeze and release. Legs long, body tall. Stretch up and ask him to ho. He's more scared than you right now, and he needs you to lead. Easy, Jay. Easy, good boy. Whoa. Ask him to walk. Stay up, Lydia. You're doing great. Bring him back now. Bring him back to you."

Heart pounding wildly in his ears, dimly aware that he could barely hear himself talk, waiting for the moment she'd slip from the saddle and under the pounding hooves, Rory watched in disbelief as Jay began to slow to a steady canter, and then drop down from a brief shambling trot into a steady walk once more.

marc st. yves
light it up or burn it down we'll all die in fire
{food for thought}

phineas rosario
fall down seven times stand up eight
sebastian conway
can't see the forest for the trees
{book of sparrows}
[/center][/center]
(so you've got to keep in mind, when you try to change the world for the better not everybody's gonna be on your side)
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MurderWeasel
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Joined: February 18th, 2009, 7:01 am

May 24th, 2012, 6:02 am #10

Everything had been going so well, too. Lydia was focused on her riding, was feeling pretty good about how she was doing, so the first real sign that something was horribly wrong was the clattering, crashing sound from somewhere off to the side. Lydia began to glance in that direction, and that was when things got really tough.

Jay got spooked by the noise, and Lydia felt him lurch forwards, gaining speed rapidly. She was bounced, more than she'd been before. Maybe half a second in, she felt her left foot slip out of her stirrup, and that was when she really started to get scared. She knew that Jay didn't want to hurt her, but also that there was a good chance she would be hurt if she fell. She wanted to curl up, to lean down and protect her head and try to cling to Jay's neck.

She was starting to hunch when Rory called out to her, telling her what position to take. It wasn't instinct, not exactly, but her practice getting into a proper riding posture paid off. She straightened, trying to ignore the awful nothingness she felt beneath her left foot. With her left hand, she clung to Jay's mane, while with her right she grabbed for the reins. The whole time, she tried to keep the terror confined to her mind, keep it from leaking into her body. Rory had told her, again and again, that horses were attuned to moods. She knew Jay wasn't going to calm down unless she could fake control.

She tugged on the reins, then Rory was telling her to talk to Jay, and so she did.

"Whoa, Jay. Whoa," Lydia said, talking calmly, slowly, drawing out her words, trying to pour false confidence into her speech. "Walk for me, okay? Walk."

At Rory's behest, she pulled on the reins, then released, again and again, nice and slow, the whole time wondering if the next step would send her bouncing straight off Jay's back. Rory corrected her when she began to worry and hunch again. She tried to be assertive, tried to stay in control. It seemed like Jay had been running forever. She was beginning to fear that nothing short of the horse tiring would bring an end to this, when Jay finally began to slow. It was all Lydia needed. Her confidence bolstered just that little bit more, she repeated her commands, pulling the reins and then releasing, and Jay lapsed into a quick walk once more.

Lydia let out a huge sigh of relief. She swung her foot back into the stirrup.

"That's a good boy, Jay," she said softly. Then, even more quietly: "Thank you."

Jay slowed further, calming down completely, and it wasn't long before he'd stopped. Lydia took a deep breath, rolled her shoulders, tried to work out the tension. She felt a nervous chuckle working its way up her throat, but bit it back. Instead, she looked off towards Rory.

"I, uh, is it alright if I get off for a moment?" she asked.
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ifnotwinter
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Joined: April 6th, 2009, 5:22 pm

May 25th, 2012, 5:10 am #11

Rory didn't answer for a moment, bending over for a moment to prop his hands on his thighs and drop his head, catching his breath. The crisis was over and all he had left to look forward to was the rush of adrenaline leaving him, and the guilt that would sink in soon enough. But that was for later. He had a student to look after, who didn't need to see just how badly her coach wanted to curl up into a ball and shut everything out for a couple of hours.

Straightening up again, he nodded. "Yeah, please. Hop off." In all the confusion he'd almost forgotten about Spice -- she was still standing like a rock, apparently finished her tantrum for the day. She could probably sense the tension in the air. He forced himself to center his mind, give her a quick stroke on the neck to remind her that she was okay before crossing to the fence. As much as he hated tying horses he didn't want her to get near Jay right now, and he comforted himself by just looping the lead rope around the fence. If she pulled back too hard it would come loose, and if somehow it knotted itself she was wearing a leather halter anyway, and that would break. She'd be fine.

She'd better be. He'd had enough terror for one day.

He crossed over to Lydia, schooling his face into a calm expression. He figured he was still about the color of the whitewashed arena fencing, but with any luck she wouldn't notice. Stretching a hand out to take Jay's reins, he offered her his best reassuring smile.

"Wow. You just sat a bolt that would probably have dumped me." Smile fading a little, he swept his eyes up and down her body in a quick check for anything where it shouldn't be. "You okay? Not hurt at all?" His mind was already jumping onto the next problem, that being whether or not Jay himself was hurt, but he could deal with that later. "I, um...I'm really, really fucking sorry, Lydia. I should've been watching more closely. That was pretty much 100% my fault."

marc st. yves
light it up or burn it down we'll all die in fire
{food for thought}

phineas rosario
fall down seven times stand up eight
sebastian conway
can't see the forest for the trees
{book of sparrows}
[/center][/center]
(so you've got to keep in mind, when you try to change the world for the better not everybody's gonna be on your side)
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MurderWeasel
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Joined: February 18th, 2009, 7:01 am

May 26th, 2012, 5:56 am #12

Rory tied Spice up and made his way over to Lydia, telling her she could go ahead and get off. He looked remarkably collected for what had just happened. Lydia got off Jay, very slowly and very carefully, as Rory took his reins. It wasn't until she felt her feet hit the ground that her hands started shaking and her breath sped up a little. She tried not to look terrified, tried to stay composed, but she was pretty sure she wasn't doing so well.

Rory was talking to her, telling her he was impressed, telling her she'd done well. He asked if she was okay, and Lydia nodded. Then, however, he started apologizing, telling her it'd been his fault. That snapped Lydia right out of her stupor. Her breathing slowed, because she needed her breath to say what she needed to say.

"No," she said. "No, Rory, it's... it's okay. This was, it was just an, an accident. These things happen, and it wasn't your fault. It wasn't, uh, it wasn't Jay's fault either. These things happen."

She glanced at the horse a little nervously. The adrenaline was departing, and Lydia was feeling a little bit worn out. She was worried, though, worried for Rory and worried for Jay.

"Is he okay?" she asked, looking at Jay. The last thing she wanted was to have hurt him somehow. She really didn't blame the horse for getting scared. She hadn't quite figured out just what had caused the racket, but she didn't really care. Maybe Rory had knocked something over. Maybe that was why he was saying it was his fault. Even if that were the case, Lydia wouldn't care. She didn't want to assign blame.

She just wanted everyone to be okay.
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ifnotwinter
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Joined: April 6th, 2009, 5:22 pm

May 27th, 2012, 5:38 am #13

Rory smiled faintly. It was nice of her to say, but it was equally clear that she hadn't actually seen what had set the normally implacable Jay off. No, he'd made a bad judgement call and she'd almost paid the price. Apologies weren't the least of what would be needed to make up for what had just happened, but at least he'd tried. And, like the good rider he knew she was going to turn out to be (if this hadn't put her off horses completely, he realized suddenly) she wanted to make sure that her horse was okay. That was instinct drilled into equestrians from their first faltering steps at the walk, and it stayed. He knew people who'd been kicked halfway across a barn get up clutching their cracked ribs and immediately check to see if their nasty hard sternum had damaged the horse's hind hooves at all.

"He should be," Rory said, moving to the gelding's side. Jay was still breathing deeply but it wasn't much more than if he'd just gone round a longish hunter course, and it was quieting all the while. A quick crouched inspection of all four legs showed nothing out of the ordinary; all four limbs were free of scrapes and bruises and his hooves showed no signs of any cracks or chips. Even as Rory checked him over Jay stretched out his neck, shook his head vigorously, and proceeded to nose towards Lydia's pockets in a clear bid for treats.

He's the calmest between the three of us, Rory thought wryly as he straightened from inspecting tight, cool tendons and gave the gelding a gentle scratch just under the withers. "Good boy," he told him, and scratched a little harder just to see the gelding wiggle his lip in happiness.

Turning back to Lydia, he offered a slightly calmer smile, eyes shadowed with concern as he saw the delayed shock on her face. He kept his voice as low and calm as though she was a startled horse herself, movements slow but full of purpose as he offered her the reins again. "Jay's fine, sweetheart. Are you okay to hold him for a moment so I can put Spice away?" If she hadn't figured it out by the time he returned to the ring, he figured, he'd tell her what happened.

"Or if you want to stop now that's okay too. I can untack him if you want to call someone to pick you up, or...whatever. That was a pretty dramatic moment, there."

marc st. yves
light it up or burn it down we'll all die in fire
{food for thought}

phineas rosario
fall down seven times stand up eight
sebastian conway
can't see the forest for the trees
{book of sparrows}
[/center][/center]
(so you've got to keep in mind, when you try to change the world for the better not everybody's gonna be on your side)
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MurderWeasel
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Joined: February 18th, 2009, 7:01 am

May 30th, 2012, 4:27 am #14

Rory assured Lydia that Jay would be alright, and that lifted some of the weight from her mind, especially when he gave the horse a good looking-over and didn't seem concerned by what he saw. She managed to chuckle when Jay came poking at her pockets. She wished she'd had a treat leftover for him. Then, Rory asked her to watch Jay while he took Spice back. He seemed concerned, afraid perhaps that Lydia had been traumatized completely. The truth of it was, she'd been totally terrified, and she was still shivering a little bit, but she wasn't feeling too awful anymore.

"It's fine," she said. "It's fine. I can hold Jay."

In fact, she wanted to be near Jay. She almost wanted to ask if she could try riding again, just to prove that she was alright. Riding had been a huge boost to her confidence since she'd started, and she didn't want to be defeated now. Sh certainly didn't want Rory to think she was going to quit over something like this. As she'd said, things happened sometimes. It was just how the world was.

Still, there was more to think of than just herself. Whatever Rory said, Lydia did not want to press Jay. She didn't want the horse to get scared or tense or stressed out. Jay was most important right now, and so she just stroked his face and talked to him, uttering quiet little nonsense words as Rory escorted Spice back to the stables.

Funnily enough, she wanted to work with Jay again, despite the somewhat shaky start to their relationship. She found that she already cared for the horse, just like she cared for Moka. In some ways, she thought their shared stress almost made them closer.
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ifnotwinter
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Joined: April 6th, 2009, 5:22 pm

June 2nd, 2012, 4:41 am #15

At least Lydia didn't seem like she wanted to be anywhere but near a horse right now. Rory could recall a handful of riders, mainly students with his sister, who'd stopped riding after their first falls or experiences of terror. It still made him sad. So much of riding was learning confidence after all, and brokering a partnership with an animal who approached everything in a way completely foreign to human beings. And in this case, he thought as the sick feeling in his stomach grew, if Lydia chose to quit now it would be all on him. The bolt didn't have to happen.

It gnawed at him as he returned Spice to her paddock, checking her hooves without really seeing them and not bothering with a grooming. She nipped at his backside as he went to leave, upset at being cheated out of the people-time she was used to (or just looking for more treats) and when he turned and growled she shot backwards at the unexpected discipline, ears flattened. Rory took a long breath, held it, and closed his eyes.

Fuck.

He could freak out about what happened later. For now, he had a student and a horse still waiting for him. He took another deep breath and tried to center himself, pushing away the guilt and the anger and the murky memories of falling that were trying to swim up. Later. They didn't matter now.

When he returned to the ring, he was calmer. He gave Lydia a smile as he approached her and Jay, noting with some relief that the gelding appeared to have forgotten entirely about the ordeal and was now dozing blissfully in the thin sunlight, pleased with this brief break from the ordinary. Lydia seemed relatively calm as well. That was good.

"I'm really sorry," he repeated as he drew nearer. "Spice had...she had a moment, and when she kicked the jump down she startled Jay. And I guess once he got running he figured he might as well keep at it." Thoroughbreds. Didn't matter what they were crossed with, they never lost the instinct to run. "You handled that really well though. Stayed calm, dealt with everything. I'm impressed. How're you feeling? You want to get back on?"

He braced himself for the answer.

marc st. yves
light it up or burn it down we'll all die in fire
{food for thought}

phineas rosario
fall down seven times stand up eight
sebastian conway
can't see the forest for the trees
{book of sparrows}
[/center][/center]
(so you've got to keep in mind, when you try to change the world for the better not everybody's gonna be on your side)
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