A new fellow came into my life this year, a younger man.
His name is Argentos, and he is a sweetheart.
After two seasons of riding Storm at Herrmanns’ Royal Lipizzan Stallions ranch near Myakka City, I demonstrated enough ability to advance to Argentos. He’s about 12, roughly a decade younger than Storm.
I could have danced back home one day a few weeks ago, when head trainer Gabriella Herrmann told me she was amazed at how much progress I had made in my lessons over these past years. A new student that same week had made her think back to the first time I rode Storm, in December 2008. This new student was, shall we say, as inexpert as I was at that time.
Of course, I am in no way an expert now. Still, Gabby’s daughter, Rebecca — who has been teaching me most of this season — has been like her mother in building my confidence. Just as they do in training those magnificent four-legged creatures, they skillfully use positive reinforcement with their human students. I am convinced that’s the biggest reason I have made so much progress this season.
When Argentos and I successfully perform our pattern through the cones Rebecca has set up in the arena (just like those traffic cones you see on the roads), or we have completed a nearly picture-perfect example of a side pass, I have to say it is a remarkably good feeling of accomplishment.
Sure, I still have some wobbly moments in the saddle at the trot, but my balance also has improved markedly. Argentos has very smooth gaits, just as Storm does, so that helps. In fact, Argentos’ canter is the stuff of a horse lover’s dreams, even if he reminds me from time to time that he knows the cue for the canter better than I do.
Of course, Argentos also reminds me regularly that he is a youngster, with his ears seemingly always pricked at his surroundings and his glances at his stablemates in the pasture or as they are getting baths, while we make our way around the arena.
It also is easier to forget about Storm being a stallion, with his calm, solid manner. Argentos occasionally trumpets a note of machismo to one of the other Lipizzans, an assertion that he is confident about his place in the barn.
In just a few weeks, I will bid Argentos adieu, as Gabby, Rebecca and the others prepare to load up the horses and head north, for their summer of shows. They won’t be gone all that long, but I know already to beware of a certain grumpiness that will flare in my demeanor as the weeks pass. When Gabby lets me know, as she always does, that they have returned in the fall, and I can begin my lessons again, I’ll feel that grumpiness slough off. In its place, I will relish that magical lightness of being that comes from riding one of the grandest creatures on this earth.
Dress rehearsals scheduled this week
Before the Herrmanns head off on their summer tour, they will present three dress rehearsal programs, featuring the riders in full costume as the horses perform their Airs Above the Ground:
• 3 p.m. Thursday, May 3, and Friday, May 4
• 10 a.m. Saturday, May 5
The ranch is located at 32755 Singletary Road in Myakka City. The phone number is 322-1501. For more information, visit the website at www.hlipizzans.com.