I thought maybe a personal look at my horses at home might reveal some of those valuable life lessons that horses teach us. No matter how long we have owned horses or how proficient we have become with them, horses are just full of life lessons for all of us, all the time.
While working on written lessons and course materials, I saw that writing things down forced me to realize what was in my head, what I did know, what I didn’t know (that I needed to actually research). Trying to organize what was in my head also made me realize how challenging and humbling it is for anyone to become good with horses. In thinking back about each teacher I have studied with I realized that each one had an important piece of the puzzle. None had all the answers and none were wrong. All I can do is pass along the best I have gained from each mentor coupled with my own insights along the way. Each teacher we work with offers a unique perspective that helps guide our personal experience and understanding.
But ultimately the journey we take with our own horse is one that we take alone. Learning happens in the moment, as a unique experience between each horse and each rider. Every horse offers an important challenge that is often perfect for us as individuals. It is only because we choose to keep our horse and face the challenges they offer us that the right mentor then appears. The puzzle pieces of horsemanship begin to fit together day by day and the love we have for our horse is why we remain willing to learn.
Prima, my Arabian mare, has been with me for all of her 15 years. It is a bitter pill to swallow to realize that her challenges are no more than a reflection of my own learning curve. On the one hand she is the easiest horse I have ever owned because we have such a strong bond and on the other she offers no mercy for repeated mistakes. She kindly points out my weaknesses regularly and keeps reminding me to stay humble. I do believe that Prima was put on this planet to make sure I get it right one day. She is my toughest, most honest teacher without a doubt, but also the kindest.
Mic turned 12 this year and moving him home was the best thing for our relationship I have been able to do. He came into my life as a green 5 year old and I always had in the back of mind that Mic would be for sale at some point and I always struggled with him. It wasn’t until Mic returned from a lease in poor shape that I finally promised he was mine forever and I would never try to sell him again. We began to make progress once I changed. Trust has been hard earned with Mic after our rough start and finally having him at home has been a great thing for us. The importance of trust, love and commitment to the relationship with a horse makes all the difference.
Because of life pressures, I took a long break from my normal riding schedule and even stopped working the horses at all for few weeks. I just shared time with Mic and Prima while I was busy writing and working. Spending time with my horses seems to matter the most. What didn’t seem to matter was working them or not working them, progressing or getting stuck, having a training agenda or no agenda at all. Just spending time with my horses, with no particular goal at all, brought back some of the simple pleasures of just being around horses. I got that feeling you get as a kid when you just wanted to be at the barn even if you didn’t have a lesson or work to do. Most days, while I puttered around the yard doing various chores they would hang out, follow me and share their quirky herd conversations with me.
I realized that when my schedule involved “working my horses” I almost always had my own agenda and had sort of forgotten to take the time to really observe what was important to them. We had trust, a good relationship with mutual respect and we shared love for each other. What more did they want? Why hadn’t I asked that question before? While of course I have provided the very best care I can, I started to see that there was no substitute for my time, for simply my presence as part of their herd. It did’t seem to matter to them if the agenda was work or play, they just enjoyed time with me as much as I enjoyed my time with them. This was a very valuable lesson.