I’ve been a bit under the weather the past couple of days. My ‘man voice’ has been a bit disturbing, at least it’s been disturbing me, anyway. Sore throat, loss of voice, random coughing fits, hearing complications… the usual obnoxious cold symptoms. A little tingly apple juice did the trick to loosen up my lungs though. I’m feeling pretty good right now.
Despite the sickness, the past few days have been wonderful. My lessons have picked up into full force again. I was driving around from barn to barn today, and I couldn’t help but look down and realize I had almost gone through an 1/4th of my gas tank within the last two days. So much driving, but so worth it. The horses and people I work with are absolutely incredible. I’m so fortunate to work with people that want to learn and give their horses the best lives possible. I do have a couple of seasonal clients. The thing I love about working with a horse for a few months, taking a few months off, then starting back up again: the quality of training you put into the horse really shows off. Sure, some horses aren’t as sharp, but some pick up right where you left, even if you hadn’t seen them in three months. One horse in particular, a Halflinger mare named Rosie, brought this to my attention the other day. I hadn’t worked with her for a few months, and she had been ridden and shown by her owner’s grand-daughter over the summer. In the spring we were starting leg yields, shoulder in, and walk to canter departs. It was almost as if she had been studying during the break. She remembered the connection we had, and tried so hard to please in everything I was asking her to do. Her shoulder-ins were amazing. Just the shift of my weight and the twist of my shoulders were enough for her to understand. We were on the same brain wave. So much different than the first time I rode her; which consisted of running into the middle of the arena, taking off at the trot, trying to yank the reins out of my hands. I have witnessed such a change in this mares attitude from just developing a partnership with her within a couple months of training. From that, we were able to pick up right where we left off in our conversation the same way you do with a long lost friend. I was happy to see her, and she was happy to see me.
I try not to get too attached to the horses I encounter on this journey of mine. My mindset is this: Whether I work with said horse once, or every week for the rest of it’s life, I will cherish that time I have in those moments spent with them. Each time I work with a horse, I learn something valuable that I can hang onto for the rest of my life. Everybody has their own path to travel (including horses), and if for some reason that horse’s path is not in line with mine: I will not hold a grudge, I will not resent anything/anyone for it, I will only be grateful for the opportunity I was given to learn from them. That doesn’t mean I don’t miss the horses I no longer work with. Pain is always a risk when you open your heart to loving something. It’s safe to say, I have fallen in love with many incredible horses along the way, and each one holds a special place in my heart. Even if I no longer work with them, I will always remember them and hope they are having the best life possible.
The one thing that devastates me is seeing a horse that was once loving life, learning and being showered by attention, now sitting in a paddock with limited amount of human interaction and the absence of consideration within that amount of handling. A muddy halter growing into the coat that was once sleek and shimmery, now dull and dusty. I used to whistle, his head would whip around and his eyes would instantly connect with mine, now he doesn’t even respond. Walking over skeptically, yanking his head away from any sort of hand gesture toward his face. He was a difficult horse that required a lot of patience, understanding, and reassurance. He could have been a champion. He could have been a pleasure horse. He could have been anything. He could have even been somebody’s friend. Now, he just sits in the pasture. Everyone despises him because they simply don’t know how to handle him. Frustration stems from lack of knowledge. That is what changes horses. People, lacking empathy, create defensive, angry, and bitter horses. Can the damage be undone? Absolutely. Those are my favorite horses to work with. Humans and horses were not made to fight each other, they were made to work together. Horses gave their lives to us and carried us through history. They are honest, trustworthy creatures. Once we show genuine respect towards the horse and open our senses to listen to their story, they do the same to us.