Friday, November 2, 2007

Excerpt: Riding lesson

Written recently. Akshedhen teaches Nitsur to ride horseback.

“First lesson,” he said that first day, in a field near the east gate. The ground had been plowed, and was bare and soft. “A rider uses his legs more than his arms, but his body more than his legs. That’s why it won’t matter that your legs are damaged. Some great warriors of our people have been lame.”

I was perched uneasily on the back of a grey mare named Vikti, whom Akshedhen had assured me was very gentle. Akshedhen had unsaddled her. “You’ll learn to feel your horse better this way,” he’d said. “Afterwards, you’ll find riding with a saddle is just like sitting in a chair. Besides, the time might come when you have to ride bareback. I was on patrol on the steppes once, this was a couple of years ago... you know Libandh, we were at his father’s house last week? Well, we were on the watch for Locust People, but it was early in the dry and the wild cattle were mating.” He sighed reminiscently. “Good hunting, but vicious! Anyway, Libandh was with us, he’d unsaddled his horse, he was fixing one of the straps, I forget now which. This bull comes up out of a wash with no warning, horns on it as long your arm, and charges us!” Akshedhen waved his arms. “Of course we scattered. Poor Libandh dropped his saddle and got up on his horse somehow, and got away safely—but the bull trampled his saddle and destroyed it, completely ruined it. You see?”

“Yes, lord,” I said. “Are there dangerous animals like that hereabouts?”

“Eh! Not near the city. We keep them away from the herds. Don’t worry, we won’t go far until you can ride better. Now, relax.” He clucked softly, and Vikti started to move. “No, relax! Rock with her. That’s better.”

I let my eyes half-close, feeling for the rhythm. I could hear the mare’s hooves in the soft earth: plop plop plop plop. That’s easy, I thought.

Akshedhen clucked again, and Vikti’s motion changed. Tlunk. Tlunk. But now there was a jarring, up-and-down feel to it, an off-beat: I rephrased. Tlunk a-ha tlunk a-ha tlunk—I lost my balance and tumbled off Vikti’s grey back.

“Not bad,” said Akshedhen approvingly.

“Lord?” I sat up, trying to brush the soft dirt off my shirt.

“You had it, for a moment. It will come and go, until you forget there was a time you didn’t know it. Now, pet Vikti and tell her you’re sorry. She’s insulted.”

He was serious. Every time I fell during my training, I had to pet my horse and apologize to it. Akshedhen said it was very bad to make a horse think it was his fault a rider had fallen off; you could ruin a good horse that way.

No comments: