As I was speaking with my friend the other day, I shared the experience I am having with Grace.
I had spent the morning doing a multitude of tasks with her. Some trailering, a creek crossing, a short walk in a brushy forest, a stroll up the road, a bit of riding in the arena and out.
I said to my friend that I was amazed at how everything we did could have been a hardship for a green horse. But instead, everything was an adventure!
My friend too, recognizes, from a lifetime of experience, all that it takes to bring a horse along. She encouraged me to write the story of what I am experiencing because it’s so valuable to the greater good.
Each time I am with Grace I feel another layer of conditioning stripped away from my mind. It’s a long process to bring a human along. But she is doing a fine job.
I hear people’s comments and questions in my head. And I feel my own historical judgments there as well. Things like… “Have you opened her up yet?” “Have you ridden out on the trail?” little insane verbiage murmuring somewhere inside.
Then the questioning comes soon after. Is what I am doing enough? Should I be doing something different? And then just as day follows night, I feel a pounding in my chest. Without even realizing it, my body is reacting in a fear response. Is this what I want to feel when I’m with my horse? What is this sensation bringing to our experience?This is just a brief glimpse into the insane life of the ego mind. The ego is a fear-based mentality.
Thankfully I have spent the greater part of my life studying horses. Not how to chase a cow, win a ribbon or jump a fence with them. I have studied, in depth, who they are in their hearts, how they feel, what their needs are, how they communicate and most of all, I have fallen deeply into their grace.
I have felt their souls. And never more so than now.
I have read and seen some amazingly inspiring changes coming through the horse training community as of late. I am so grateful for these people who are pioneers in the industry—who are taking it to the next level. These people are talking about how long it takes to develop a sound and healthy partnership with a horse. They are not trying to win popularity contests. They are stating what is true. And it’s long overdue.
The teachers I learned from also spoke of this depth. Yet still, it was widely accepted to move forward on a horse long before the horse was ready for it.
What does bringing a horse along really mean?
Well, as I stated above, in my experience, the horse is really bringing me along. And, in doing so I see there is a natural progression. This natural progression is individual to each horse and to each partnership. The partnership is actually an entity of itself.
I was never athletic enough or a good enough rider to be a cowboy. When I watched some of these colt-starters ride horses, they could blend in with them like their mane and tail. They were born on horses, raised on ranches, and used horses every day of their life. If a horse bucked or ran off, bolted or shied, they could stick on them like a mosquito in a wind storm. But I wasn’t that good. And I never will be. I had to find another way. And for me, the way was right through the horse’s heart.
I had a lot of success. And my own riding horses were very diverse and capable. We had many adventures and enjoyed a vast amount of experiences. But there was always an element of control. And with that control, for me, comes fear.
Now that I am in my 60s and riding a young horse, I have a much higher value of fearlessness. But it’s not the fearlessness I saw in those colt-starters.
It’s fearless experiences.
It’s traveling throughout our experiences within the increments of success. Now I am sure not to bite off more than we can chew. And this has made me better than I’ve ever been. This has taught me more about life than all my horsemanship of the past combined.
What I see in Grace far outweighs any opinion about “should” that I’ve ever heard. She’s completely honest and she trusts my leadership. I actually feel she trusts my leadership more than I do. But the real crux of what I want to share is about getting as far away from that insane verbiage in the head as possible.
So many times I share with folks that I can’t say what to do, but I can sure say what not to do… just don’t go there. And that in and of itself is more than enough for success.
It’s important to state that it’s not that we control these voices in our head.
It is that we ignore them. This is a massive difference. Trying to control them only brings “control” stronger and more subtly into the equation. Simply being able to redirect our attention from the verbiage in the head to the horse’s heart is at the root of being able to understand them.
When we’re listening to all of our thoughts, we’re not listening to the horse. This I see like it’s written on the side of the barn. It could not be more clear to me now. And this is the practice.
As I bring Grace along, I am pensively observant.
I want to know how she feels. Is what I am asking smooth, accepted and calm? Or is there a brace of resistance arising? It is not that a brace doesn’t show up it’s what we do when it does.
The brace is the indicator of “The line in the sand.”
Whether it’s horses or life, this seems to be the way of the world. We must come to see that resistance can teach peace. But I suppose many of us missed that day in class. Because the world at large chooses to push through resistance. We become habituated in stifling it or controlling and covering it up. We do this physiologically, emotionally, and sociologically.
This is a serious dysfunction in the human race.
It is at this crossroads of our understanding that true and lasting change can develop. True and lasting change is not a conditioned response. A conditioned response will require micro-managing for evermore.
If a result is coming from control then control has job security. If the response is from free will it is an expansion of the process. This is natural progression. This is how life evolves. And, this is how healthy relationships evolve. For this to happen fear cannot be the motivator. This is how we overcome fear. Which is, at its core, humanity’s original “Fall from Grace”.
Faith replaces fear for ever more. And I see this as much more important than any show ring or agenda could ever offer. What could be more important to a lifetime than this?
And so it is with Grace.
So I Am with her.
She has changed me from a victim of circumstance to an adventurer in life. And together we move through each experience in unity, in harmony and… in grace.