By the time I started to lease the big gray horse, Inch, I was spending less time in the show ring. The social dynamics out at the barn were shifting and so were my inner social needs.
I took the summer off from showing and went to France, where I got to ride at the Cadre Noir and the National Riding School of Equitation in Saumur. This was heady stuff for a fifteen year old. I came back raring to ride and more in synch than ever with Inch, who was a terrific show horse, and also highly trained at dressage.
My trainer saw both shifts and started to be a bit more light-hearted with me. He would suggest to judges that the riders dismount and mount in flat classes (classes where there is no jumping). He did this because Inch towered over me. Most riders are properly sized for their horses: they match. Inch and I were an odd couple.
My trainer did this because Inch had a trick. I would dismount, stand at the ready and when the judges gave the order to mount, I would tap Inch’s foreleg. Inch would bow down and be still until I was centered on his back and giving him the command to stand.
We never won flat classes because although Inch was many fabulous things, he was not what you would call a classic hunter. When standing, he was almost ungainly. Once, in a junior hunter flat class, we found ourselves lined up next to Gozzi.
Gozzi was the “It” hunter, and a sleeker, more lovely animal is hard to imagine. I looked down at Gozzi’s rider from my perch on Inch and smiled. The rider, taken aback at my lack of formality, smiled back at me. Then he let his eyes drift over the Yukon Territory that Inch occupied. I loved leaving top riders slack-jawed, so I smiled again and smugly gave Inch a pat on the neck.