The Riding School: A column about the people who teach us how to ride

A good lesson horse is hard to find. This week, “The Instructor” introduces us her to her favorite sort of schoolie, whom she aptly refers to as The Dream.

From The Instructor:

You all have met two of my lesson ponies, sainted, slow, old-as-dirt Lightning and fiery Dragonbreath. Today, I want to tell you about Dream, so named because he so rarely exists outside the vivid imagination of riding instructors. If we are very, very lucky, we might find Dream once or twice in our careers as instructors; if you are a very, very lucky student, you might have ridden him… or even shown him. If you have, you almost certainly have blue ribbons up on the wall.

Because Dream is perfect. If I hadn’t taught lessons on him, I wouldn’t believe he exists. Tell me, just tell me if you’ve ever had a school pony like him:

* He’s 15.1 and round, so anyone, from small child to teenager to adult can ride him comfortably.

* He’s pretty as a picture. Mine was bright bay with three white socks and a cute crooked blaze. He got dapples in the spring. Hearts melted at the mere sight of him.

* He’s a good mover who adjusts to the rider on him: for tiny children, he trots oh-so-slowly around the ring with his head in the air(all the better to keep you in the saddle, my dear); with a competent rider, he is fairly easy to get on the bit and floats across the ring (there are spurs involved in this, I must admit, but he never takes offense if the rider gets him with them by mistake).

* He can jump! Comfortably, out of a beautiful rhythm, up to about 3’ – and he snaps his knees, but keeps his back smooth and flat, for the comfort of his rider. He has autochanges. Although of the hunter persuasion, he even likes cross-country.

* He’s sound and has perfect feet. He never takes a bad step or gets a mystery lump or bump – not even a sniffle.

* Bucking, bolting, shying, leaping: these are not words in Dream’s horsy vocabulary. He doesn’t even come off the rail unless specifically instructed to do so. He did briskly canter around the ring, jumping some unplanned cross-rails, with a little girl once, but considering that she was shrieking with delight and laughing the whole time, I do have to concede that, in this case, his judgment was sound.

* He’s easy to handle on the ground, simple to catch, and he puts his head down for the bridle.

* He likes horse shows: from lead line to children’s hunter pony, he’s your guy.

At this point, if you are an instructor or lesson student, you are probably shaking your head in disbelief. Just wait until you hear the kicker:

* He was free. Yes, The Dream was actually donated to the college riding program I worked for. I never wanted to ask why anyone would ever give this pony away, since he was clearly worth his weight in gold.

Writing this, I feel like I’m putting together a personal ad or some variation on the equestrian Ryan Gosling meme (Wanted: medium, dark and handsome with a nice trot who loves kids…); I don’t have a Dream at the moment, although a couple are close, and I’m always looking.

So if you find him, send him my way… it’ll be carrots and peppermints ‘til the end of his days.

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