I went to see Fanny Wednesday morning after classes. Duncan Steele-Park took her through her paces, circles and stops. It was a cold morning and Fanny and Duncan followed one calf in the large indoor arena to accustom her to cattle. At times, I saw her breath as a small cloud, rise softly, then evaporate. Fanny has been around cattle all her short life, but having a rider to give her commands was different. Duncan gave me a critique of her behavior in the workout and she stops really well. Her work on right-hand circles is testing her, although her left-hand circles are good. Fanny has about two more weeks with Duncan before we make a decision on her future. She is out of kindergarten, Duncan says, and in elementary school.
On the one hand, with progressive improvement, Fanny can stay in school and in another year become a futurity prospect in a crop of 750 cutting horses. Then, on the other hand, Fanny can have a good education at the hands of Duncan for a few more weeks and come back home to our place to be a good companion and safe horse for human beings. Duncan has stated that there could be reasons to bring her out of his training and put her on a decent, average road for horses that will not be a prospect for the Fort Worth futurity, but will give her experience for a comfortable, safe life with human beings. And, they with Fanny.
I do wish all of you could see Duncan and Fanny working together. He lets her be free in learning. By that I mean, he lets her be a force for herself, not him, not Duncan. He will start every session with turning her head with the rein and hackamore (no snaffle, no bit) to the left, then to the right. When he changes the gait in her circles, there is no overt spurring or talk, just a few clucks or pressure with his legs, and she adjusts. I could not see the cue Duncan was applying to get her to stop. Maybe there was a slight pressure from the hackamore for Fanny to whoa, but I could not see his cue for her to halt. And, she stops quickly.
So, I asked Duncan, What is the cue you give Fanny to whoa? As he was riding by on Fanny, Duncan said, Look at my leg and boot. I looked and when Duncan takes his boot and leg away from her flank, just slightly, she stops. All he does is take off leg and boot pressure about her flanks and she halts. Dead so, doesn’t move. Stays immobile, stopped. I thought: That’s why I pay tuition.
Fanny is fortunate. Fanny is under a stoa, a porch, of ancient pedagogy, a place with a teacher that doesn’t use a cudgel to beat the cursive into the student, but a stoa-arena that allows her to draw out of herself a strength and performance that instills confidence that she will possess, whether she is futurity bound or is ridden by a young, blondhaired lass in the greenest of nature’s pastures, enjoying the wind on her face and the gentle pressure of rider around her soft, sorrel flanks. Go, my darling, Fanny, go. I have given you the best I could.