A Riding Lesson
“Do we get to ride them now?” asks Stella.
“You’re really gung-ho about this, aren’t you Stella, but no,” says Ishandra. “There is a bonding ceremony that has to be done first. Now, I want you all to stand really close to your horses against the front leg and, taking the side of her bridle, gently pull her head towards you. This is the stance that a mare takes when protecting her offspring called a colt for a male or a filly for a female. If you do this properly, she will accept you as her own.”
“Much the same has to be done between a dragon and its rider,” says Flora. “Although, it is best done as it is hatching from its egg. Dragons are more like birds in this respect. A hatchling will form a bond with the first creature it sees whether it is its mother or no.”
“That is interesting, Flora,” says Ishandra.
“Is this like when we bonded with our Pixies?” asks Musa.
“Somewhat,” replies Ishandra, “but the process is a little more straight-forward and there is no dream-fasting similar to what happens between a Faerie and her bonded Pixie.”
“It would be interesting to know what Piff might make of a horse’s dream,” muses Aïsha.
“Aren’t some of our dreams scary enough?” replies Bloom, laughing.
“Don’t we have this a bit backwards?” asks Tecna. “Isn’t it we who are interfacing with the horse?”
“It goes both ways, Tecna,” replies Ishandra. “It is not the same as connecting yourself to an unfeeling piece of steel and silicon that automatically does your bidding without ever tiring or complaining.”
“There are organic computers,” counters Tecna, “and many say that they have feelings like you or I and a kind of bonding occurs between an organic computer and its user.”
“Now, you are into things I won’t even pretend I understand,” is Ishandra’s reply to Tecna. “Such bonds may exist but I’m not the one to say ‘yea’ or ‘nay’.”
“Flora,” says Ishandra, turning to the Faerie of Nature. “You seem to be the one among us with experience in handling animals. What other comparisons do you think you can make between dragons and horses?”
“One should never approach either a dragon or a horse from behind,” states Flora. “Both beasts have good peripheral vision but there is a blind spot in back. Both animals consider an approach from behind as a potential attack from a predator. A dragon can bisect you with a single lash of its tail and a kick from a horse’s hind legs would probably kill you too.”
“Very true,” says Ishandra. “Aïsha, your zebra has better peripheral vision than a horse but the same rule applies. What else, Flora?”
“Dragons don’t like people reaching for their eyes because they too are favourite predator attack points,” says Flora.
“But wait!” objects Bloom. “I thought that dragons were the all-powerful ones with no natural predators. What do they have to fear?”
“Other dragons,” replies Ishandra, Mistress of the White Ice Dragon’s Fire, with a raised eyebrow and a sly smile. “I would have expected you to know that already, Little Sister.”
“Still very good, Flora,” praises Ishandra, “I shall make a horsewoman of you yet.”
Ishandra has the girls lead their horses about the perimeter of the courtyard. “Use the movement of your heads and a gentle pull of the reins to guide your horses to where you want them to go,” she tells them. However, when Stella pulls too hard on the reins and her horse whinnies and shies in protest, Ishandra shouts at her, “Ease up, Stella, I told you to use just a gentle pull. The reins are attached to a bit that is over a delicate part of her mouth where her tongue and gums are. It does not take much to cause her pain.”
After about an hour of having the girls walk their horses across and about the courtyard, Ishandra announces to them that they are ready to mount and ride their horses. “Stand at their sides and fly up upon their backs,” Ishandra tells them. “Let your horses know that it is you who are mounting them. Be gentle when you land upon their backs.”
Again Ishandra has the girls ride their mounts about the perimeter of the courtyard. “Your posture is excellent, Flora,” Ishandra tells her. “Yours is also good, Bloom. Musa, sit up straight and do not slouch over the back of your horse.”
“A lady must always remember to sit up straight at all times and exercise good posture,” says Tecna in a perfect voice imitation of Musa’s bonded Pixie, Tune, and the others laugh.
“That was a good one, Tec,” laughs Bloom.
“Neagh!” says Musa, biting her tongue sarcastically at Bloom and the others break out again in laughter but, nonetheless, Musa assumes a more ladylike posture.
“Stella, your posture is good but you are way too stiff. Relax a tad and allow yourself to move with the movements of your horse,” Ishandra tells her. “Aïsha, you are also doing well,” she tells the golden-skinned Faerie.
Ishandra continues to guide the girls as they ride their horses around the perimeter of the courtyard. But Stella’s impatience surfaces again when her horse, Lucia, does not make the turn as smartly as Stella thought she should and she pulls hard on Lucia’s reigns making the horse whinny, rear and stomp the ground. This time, Ishandra flies quickly up to Stella and whacks her hands hard across the back with her leather switch.
“Ouch!” yelps Stella. “What was that for?”
“Did that hurt, Stella?” growls Ishandra angrily.
“What do you think?” replies Stella, wincing while examining the back of her smarting hands.
“Well, that’s good,” replies Ishandra. “Now you know how Lucia feels every time you yank on the reins … and don’t give me that look, Stella. I don’t care if you think that you’re Princess High-and-Mighty and that your father and mother are the King and Queen of Solaria. Hurt Lucia one more time and I will take her away from you as easily as I gave her to you.”
« Isn’t that just a tad harsh, Isha? » sends Aïsha telepathically to Ishandra. « Offer Stella some incentive other than punishment to be easy with Lucia. You will find it works a lot better with her than a lash across the hands. »
“Look, Stella,” says Ishandra, trying hard to keep her voice at a normal pitch. “A horse is not an instant learner nor is it telepathic so it can read your mind. No, it takes a great deal of time and patience for it to come to know you and what you expect of it. If Lucia gets the idea early on in her mind that all she is going to experience is pain and abuse every time you mount her, then she will do anything but cooperate with you. It leaves a near indelible impression of you on her that is difficult, if not impossible, to undo later.”
“Listen to Ishandra, Stella,” says Flora, the empathic Faerie of Nature, who has ridden up on Valentina to join the conversation. “She speaks wisely. Even a tough-hided dragon responds a lot better to patience and respect than a lash. Moreover, Stella, every time you cause Lucia hurt, you are also hurting me because I can feel her pain.”
Flora’s remark has the golden-haired Faerie stunned into silence for a long minute. “I’m sorry,” she finally murmurs.