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December 06, 2022 11 Comments
All horse lovers have a dream of riding off into the sunset or something like that. Most of us had those dreams realized at a young age when mom, or pop, or Uncle Ben's let us ride for the first time and then, eventually, helps us get our first horse. Then, with a little luck, we continue to have these amazing horse experiences throughout our life. Some of us end up getting more than one horse, and throughout our life we might train and ride a dozen or so different horses.
But occasionally... one horse shows up in our life and changes us at our core.
My horse was Frontier. A brown and white paint horse that questioned everything I asked of him. He taught me about finesse, how to ask with kindness for the things I wanted. He taught me the importance of grace. Grace is giving that time for a horse to respond to you. A graceless rider or trainer asks and demands without any delay. A graceful rider asks and waits for the horse to get his ducks in a row and execute the plan with elegance. Frontier taught me all about grace and patience.
If I didn't allow enough time for him to respond to my cues, if I didn't ready him right and just told him what I wanted, he'd let me know. Usually with some kind of bucking blow-up! His bucks were so extreme, I'd inevitably fall, only to watch him buck around without me for another thirty seconds. He had a hair trigger. The amazing irony is that when he was solid, when his mental faculties were at their best, we could do anything. He forced me not to assume things would always be the same, because I'd have one good day and the next would be horrific. I met a famous horse trainer named Ray Hunt once that talked about his life changing horse. The one that would either win the show or send you to the hospital. He'd laugh when he told the story because he spoke of the horse with fondness. Now I laugh, because that was Frontier to a T. I miss that horse dearly, in spite of our ups and downs and the concussions I received while learning. But one thing is clear. I became a different trainer after him. I became aware of the horse like no-one else.
I began to see the little things, things nobody could sense. Now I can hear the breath change, feel it change. I can feel the electricity change and the muscles tighten in places you wouldn't think to look. I can sense excitement before the horse had any visible signs of excitement. As a result, the way I request things change. I don't blast a cue and demand a response. I feel for his attention and connection in every request. I "whisper to the horse" as they say. And I listen to his whispers too. I can't help myself. I do this with every horse I meet now because that horse changed me. All my horses have changed me and all the horses I meet in my clinics change me. But that horse was the catalyst. Without him I wouldn't feel for the horse Iike I do now.
Now I could have given up. I mean I didn't know what to do to solve it. And professionals better than I had tried with him already. I was naïve enough think I had what it took to get through to him. At first, I didn't. But I kept my mind open and I learned more from him than any other horse. I'm grateful for him and I encourage all my students and friends to be grateful for their challenging horse situations. Embrace the challenge. Be the leader for your horse but never forget... He or she... is the teacher. You are the leader, they are the teacher. We have horses for a reason, and it's not always just for fun. It's also for learning about ourselves. How we act, and react. How we lead and follow. How we love and communicate. It's all part of the big picture.
Now I want to ask you to go down memory lane with me. For some of you, you wont have to go far because you might own the horse right now. Here's the question: Who was your life changing horse? Comment below. Tell us his name and give us a glimpse into how he or she has changed you at your core!
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