Hilary Moore Hebert: The Calm Before the Storm

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With an eye on the thermometer, I close the doors of the arena behind me and lead the first horse of the day to the mounting block. The frozen bits of mud, dust from layers that only seem to collect in winter and bits of hay from the countless flakes thrown to warm the belly seem to gather from hoof to helmet. They remind me that show season--shampoos, soaps, polished boots--will come with warmer weather. Now it is about the work.

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I may not be in Wellington, Florida, but the sand beneath my horse's feet is better than any beach and the steel columns of the arena are my palm trees. As I apply my aids to bring him back to steps of an effortless pirouette canter we have perfected over weeks, I am reminded of something I heard once: "The only way you can do this is if you love the daily routine. Forget competition, forget performing. True dressage is about the one-on-one work with the horse."

So there we canter, just the two of us, and it is wonderful. No spectators, scores, judges or critics.

Complete silence, save the hoofbeats and wind.

"Good boy!" I praise him out of habit, but when it is this quiet I don't need to speak for him to hear me completely.

Say what you will about the low temperatures, snow and sleet, in dressage sometimes the quiet of winter is the calm not the storm.

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