Coffee….  Hmmm…  I’m so not a morning person.  I hate my alarm yelling for my attention from across the room.  It takes much caffination in the first couple of hours to kick my brain into fully functioning mode.  And so, my regular fellow pony players are well used to me standing in the middle of the arena with a flask or travel mug in my hand.

Recently one of my early bird riders asked – “my regular coach says I lack structure, what does he mean?”  Well…..  After a minute I said, I can tell you what I mean by structure but he maybe on a totally different train of thought.

My dance space…

I asked her, “what’s in this purple flask I’m holding in my hand?”

“Coffee” she replied, she knows me…

“Describe coffee”, I asked.

She barely even thought for a second.  Coffee, she was adamant, is a milky cappuccino, heavy on milk, lots of foam, not too strong and pile in the sugar…  No, I said, wrong, that’s not coffee, try again.  She went through a few options – foam won’t last in a flask, so just a milky, sweet latte?  Nope.  (She’s knows me well enough to know I have a seriously sweet tooth).  Instant with milk and sugar; instant with just milk; instant with just sugar?  It took a while before she hit on strong, black, bitter filter coffee, nothing added.  What’s the saying?  Black and bitter like my soul / sense of humour?!

Insanely strong, spicy, black, turkish coffee – perfect…

If you suggest the word “coffee” to someone, there are so many variables, and none of them are wrong.  It’s all down to the person’s own perception and taste.  But, if I ask someone for coffee, I can’t then blame them for bringing me the wrong thing.

In a similar way, if someone asks me for directions, what’s going to be my first question?  Where are you coming from…  I’m currently in Singapore.  If someone asks me how to get here, my first question is, are you coming from England, from America or from Africa?  You’ll need to head east, west or North, from one of those.

A coach says you need structure…  My personal thinking would be physical structure – holding your own body framework.  Remember the iconic Dirty Dancing scene, when they say ‘your space, my space”.  If you hold your structure, you don’t allow the wiggly horse to twist you into a pretzel.  You maintain your neutral spine, your vertical-ness.  Maybe your coach means more mental structure, planning the use of school figures, the order of the exercises you are planning to use.  Maybe it’s the structure of your spatial awareness – are your circles round, are you using the corners, is the centre line straight.  Maybe it’s emotional structure – not allowing a naughty pony who pushes boundaries, to take over the ride, holding your own.  Asking you to “coffee” doesn’t give you much information, unless you get more clarity.

Since that day, I’ve used my coffee flask question a lot.

“Use your leg”…  For clarity – which part? My leg is over a metre long, do you mean ankle, calf, shin bone, knee, inner thigh, outer thigh, lower thigh, upper thigh?

“Add leg”…  To what?   Grow them longer?  Add to the power forwards, backwards, sideways?  If it’s legs against the horse, which part, because it’s going to either be thigh or calf.  Is it a tap leg, with a rebound.  Is it a slower squeeze, is it a clamp?

“Sit up straight”….  Am I currently leaning forwards (so I need to lean back).  Am I leaning backwards (so I need to lean forward). Or am I leaning right / left? If I don’t know where I am, I don’t know where I need to go…

If you have a very high tone, strong, athletic male coach, and he says you should be quite relaxed, his perception is going to be, that “relax” still has a relatively high amount of tone.  If you’re a slightly unfit, office working (less active) lady, you’ll need to hold a fair amount of heft or tone, to match his version of being soft…  If you’re all aiming for Singapore, he’s coming from the west if he’s in London, you’re coming from the east if you’re in California.

How much outside rein should I be using?  Well, how much milk do you add to your coffee?  There is no absolute answer – it just depends, moment by moment…  So, just what does coffee mean to you?


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