Friday, July 27, 2012

Roman Riding

Photo from Todd Miller's Blog on
I took my daughter to Cavalia the other day. I highly recommend that show to horse lovers and aviators. Why recommend a show with acrobatics, horses and music to aviators? It makes sense to me... galloping on horseback was probably man's first experience of the thrill that was later to become the thrill of flight. Think of it, where but on horseback was a human able to feel the wind ripping through their hair, against their face and body... the pounding thunder, rocking and speed of motion that is a horse in full gallop?

I digress, this little blog isn't about Cavalia and horseback riding and flight. No, I want to talk a bit about Roman Riding. Roman Riding is riding two horses by standing with one foot on one and one on the other. You use voice cues and the reigns to control the two horses. Add difficulty by adding another team of horses in front of the two you are on, even more difficulty by adding yet another team. Imagine controlling 6 horses from the backs of two as they gallop at full tilt around an arena and jumping obstacles in the process! Wow.

Cavalia was the first time I saw Roman Riding in action. Of course, being a pilot... the first thing I thought when they came out on stage was "multi-engine". Watching the rider coordinate the two horses of the team under her feet reminded me very much of the way you need to sync the engines on a multi-engine plane. "Three times as likely to kill you, too", I thought as I watched three riders with one pair of horses each race about the stage at a full gallop.

I was almost right. The three racers came around a corner and you can tell the woman on the lead pair was having a problem. It seems her pair crowded too close to the column in the center of the stage and she lost balance. She fell to the ground and rolled, right into the legs of the team behind her. The crowd gasped as she rolled into a ball. We were sitting close enough I could see her hold her breath and duck her head, ready to be trampled. But the horses of the second team stopped, and she was OK.

She got up and got back on her team for a little bit, but I could see the fear in her face and tension in her body. The show went on and I watched this one performer closely though the rest of the show. The next time she appeared there was still a tight tension in her face.. something none of the other performers had. Her posture was stiff and her horses were just a little more twitchy than the others as they sensed her tension.  She reminded me so much of me at that point, the tension, focus and little bit of fear. That's the way I flew from July through September of last year as I didn't deal with the scare I dealt myself on a particularly bad solo landing. I was so tense and afraid, my control of the plane suffered, the same way the rider's control of her horses suffered. I hoped she would find her center again and be able to ride again with the joy she had on her face at the start of the show.

The show broke for intermission and started up again. It was a while before I spotted that rider in the next few acts. Not that she wasn't there. No, she was there. It was because she had found her center and her joy. Her face was radiant, her body relaxed, horse and rider perfectly in tune. She didn't stand out from the others anymore because she was like them. One with her horse, one with her joy. It was  awesome to see her be able to make that transformation so quickly. That reminded me of me too. The way I was able to fly after I finally admitted my fear, worked with my CFI and got through it.

In a way it was good to see this sequence played out on stage in front of me, not part of a show, part of real life. It was good to have that reminder of the joy of flying by watching these performers and their horses, the fear of mortality, and joy in spite of that. You see, I've taken another fall recently... not in flying, but in life. Scarey, painful, but here I am. I have to dust myself off again, get past my fear and get back to my center, get back to my joy. So, that's what I shall do.

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