practice at it and found she missed the saddle for balance.
“It’s a little like riding a bicycle,” Carole told her. “Once you realize you have to go with the movement of the horse instead of trying to compensate for it, as you can in a saddle with stirrups, you’ll do fine. You’ll also do better in the saddle as a result.”
Lisa tried it. First, she slipped to the right and had to hold onto Chocolate’s mane to keep from slipping right off.
“It’s a good thing horses don’t have nerves in their manes,” Stevie remarked, looking at Lisa’s white knuckles clutching at the thick black hairs of the horse’s mane.
“And I wish I didn’t have nerves in my …” Lisa countered, straightening herself up.
“Oh yes, you do,” Carole told her. “It’s really important to feel with your seat and your legs. Just relax and let it be natural.”
“Natural, natural, natural,” Lisa told herself while Chocolate trotted easily in a large circle. She found that the tempo of her own voice began to match the pace of Chocolate’s gait, and that her own movements, slight though they were, began to match those of the horse. It was as if she were trotting along with her.
“You’re doing it!” Carole said excitedly. “I can see. You’ve got it!”
“I do!” Lisa agreed. “I think the secret is to let the horse do the work. I’m just along for the ride, right?”
“Right,” Stevie echoed. “Nice job!”
Lisa was proud of the work she’d done, even though it mostly consisted of letting the horse do the work. Using her legs to signal Chocolate, she brought her to a walk and then a stop. She leaned forward and patted her on the neck. “Good girl,” she said.
“Good girl to you,” Christine added. “Next time we’ll try that at a lope.”
Although Lisa was pleased with her bareback trotting, she thought she’d be able to wait quite a while to try bareback loping!
* * *
L UNCH AT THE campsite was more than a little odd. It seemed that most of what they’d been able to pack up before their dash from the approaching fire was potato chips and fresh fruit. Eli and Jeannie hinted that they were saving something good for dinner, so the riders weren’t too concerned about their stomachs. Besides, as the morning’s fisherwomen pointed out, they’d had a magnificent breakfast.
In the afternoon they went swimming again and then took a relaxed hike through the valley. Lisa and Christine collected wildflowers. Some, they said, they were going to dry and take home. Others were selected to adorn their dinner table that evening.
“What dinner table?” Stevie asked. “We don’t have a dinner table.”
“Since when did you get so particular about particulars?” Lisa joked. “Don’t worry, we’ll find something to adorn!”
Stevie smiled and shrugged. She and Kate were chatting about competition riding. Stevie wanted to get some ideas from her about the aspects of competition that went beyond riding skills.
“So tell me about psyching out the other riders.” Stevie said.
“There are a million theories,” Kate replied. “They range from hot speaking to any of the other riders until the competition is over, to being friendly with everybody, and everything in between. Personally, I found that the only way I could compete successfully was to be myself and to ride the best I knew how.”
That, Stevie decided, was the best way to do it.
Carole and John walked together, behind the others. They, too, talked about horses. They talked about riding them, about training them, about breeding them, about owning them, and everything else about them they could think of. Carole was always happy talking about horses, and she found herself feeling particularly happy to be talking about horses with John. She was so content to be near her friends and with John, that when he took her hand and squeezed it gently, it seemed to be the most natural thing in the world. She squeezed back and smiled to