Eddie screams at me from the middle of the arena. “For God’s sake, will you stop perching on that horse’s back and sit your butt down in the saddle?” Her breath sends a plume of condensation swirling around her head. She’s given me a few lessons on Eleganz, a “schoolmaster” she calls him, but I don’t think I’m dressage rider material. At least in her opinion.
“I am sitting,” I eek out through clenched teeth. My butt bones are raw. The horse is so broad it feels like my legs are being ripped off at the hip joint. His head is up in my face, and I’m sure he wants to pull me out of the saddle by the reins.
“If you don’t sit down and engage your core, he’ll pull you out of the saddle.” Now she’s reading my mind. Eddie takes a tentative sip from the thermos cup grafted to her hand before she yells out more instructions.
Dressage. Not loving this.
Eleganz pulls against my shoulders like a Clydesdale bearing down to pull a wagon out of the mud. We trot around on the same stupid circle, and I don’t know about him, but I’m ready to nudge him up into a gallop, escape through the open arena doors, and take off across country—maybe over a couple jumps.
“You’re gripping.” Her voice mirrors the exasperation on her face. “And you’re pinching with your knees. He can’t go forward if you’re pinching.”
She talks like I don’t know how to ride or something. “I’m not!” I open my knees so wide there’s an inch gap between them and the saddle, and the stupid horse shoots forward. I get thrown backward. When I recover and grab up the slack in the reins, Eddie has a smug I-told-you-so look on her face.
“You can bring him back to a walk,” she says. I’m being dismissed. “After you untack, come by the office.” She walks out.
I can ride. But Eddie makes me feel like a beginner—like I’m ruining her horse. I walk Eleganz to cool him out. He stretches his neck and hangs his enormous head with his nose almost trailing in the dirt. What does Eddie want to see me in her office for? Not to give me a raise, I’ll bet. I tick off all the work I’ve done, especially since Trey has been gone, preparing what I’ll tell her so she’ll see I’m worth taking on as a working student. I can do the riding, I just have to convince her.
The big horse wasn’t even warm, so I put him away and stand in front of the office door. I hear Eddie in there—a desk drawer slams shut, the end of a phone conversation. I don’t want to knock. I don’t want to go in and hear what she’s going to say. It’s like some force field is holding my arm down by my side.
The door swings open. “Oh!” Eddie takes a step backward. “I was just going to find you.” She spins around, leaving the door wide open. I walk in, close it, and stand in the middle of the room. Eddie perches on the edge of her desk. “I’ll make this quick. You asked me when we hired you whether you could become a resident student. Well, I’ve evaluated your work and you’re doing fine, more than fine on stable chores, but resident students have to be able to contribute more. They have to be able to work the training horses, do some warm-ups at shows and—”
“I can ride.” My words bite off hers. She eyes me and I shift my weight. “Really, I’ve ridden for professionals.”
“I qualified for Washington—”
“Again, not on horses training for dressage competition. I don’t doubt you have a lot of experience, but it’s the wrong kind.” Her words are the kiss-off. End of story. You’re not our kind.
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