Sunday was the first Western Gaming Playday at Meridian Riding Club for this year. Smokey and I were, of course, in attendance.
While we held our own last year, with 15 people in the Super Senior Division at this event, and with placings only up to Fifth, I thought for certain we were going to get skunked. While this event is primarily about having fun, many of these folks ride like they mean it.
Well, I hate to brag, but...we brought home ribbons in five of the six events. Looking over my times from last year, I shaved as much as 3 seconds off some of my times. A friend commented to me "you've really stepped it up a notch." Having not practiced one iota all winter, I can't really claim to have worked on improving. So what changed? I had to think about that.
My conclusion is that the improvement is two-fold.
First, and foremost, I have implicit trust in Smokey. I know that if I give him the right signals, he will respond as I want. He doesn't have a mean bone in his body, and while he spooks rather easily, and in a rather large manner, he won't buck, rear, bolt or do anything dangerous. But make no mistake, Smokey Joe is fast, and needs very little encouragement from his rider to take off like a rocket. I know that horses don't think or feel the way humans do, but I dare say he enjoys a good run.
Second, I have gained the confidence in my riding skills to safely sit perched atop a running horse. I think I have reached the point of being a good rider. Not a great one, nor do I think I will ever achieve that level, but good, yes.
It was a good day, and the weather was beautiful. I have the ribbons and sunburn to prove it.