I have been having a great time lately, shaking off the equestrian world once and for all, letting go of everything I was raised to believe, think and do. Mostly, I have been loving to not ride my horses this year, reconnecting with them- especially with Saleem- in the way I used to, back when I was young and had stars in my eyes.
When I got my first horse, Pikant, I was a 12 year old little girl from a family who knew nothing of horses, but I had read every single “Black Stallion” and “Black Beauty” book there was, and I always hoped to meet that one special horse, that would be my very own black stallion… The one none other could touch, but who would be soft and cuddly around me…
I spent hours sitting in Pikant’s stall, watching him eat, singing to him, (I still do that…) talking to him, just hanging with him, and when I finally had my vet confirm how sick he was, (it was an ongoing discovery for a while,) it wasn’t too much of a blow for me. Sure, I wanted to ride, but somehow I always knew that it wasn’t going to be Pikant that was my riding horse.
I loved being with him though. Braiding his tail, kissing his muzzle, sitting in the sun on the pasture, watching him graze…
When Poseidon came along, he was my black stallion. The one only I could touch, (and I could hardly touch him at first,) and it wasn’t really what I wanted then. I had had my girls between Pikant and Poseidon and those girls, Silver and Flicka, had taught me that I had talent for riding, and that I could win ribbons, if only I let go of a little part of my soul. The dream of being a true horseman. It was quite a struggle for me, then, letting go of competition, and returning to horsemanship and friendship, while fighting for Poseidon’s life.
Since then, I was stuck in a strange limbo, caught in the middle of those two worlds, never really belonging. For a while, I practiced what I would call goal oriented horsemanship, training my horses the horsemanship way, but still hoping to compete with them. And I did too, for a while, with Apollon, with Amalia, even briefly with Legacy and Saleem.
Every time I signed us up for a competition, I was thrilled at the idea of doing the show. And when the day arrived and we had to go, I was looking at my horse, wondering if he wouldn’t have rather stayed home, playing with the others on the pasture. Wondering what gave me the right to load him into a trailer, and subject him to all kinds of discomfort while being driven, (if you think it is comfortable being transported in a trailer, think again. I have spent my fair share of drives at the back of a trailer, with my horse. It is horrible,) the stress of the show, the people, the new place, the new horses… Why would I ever want to put him through that, in the hope of winning a ribbon?
I didn’t even care that much about the ribbon itself. I just wanted to ride the show… And show off my fantastic horse… Who would have been happier at home…
For most of my life, I have been struggling with those two sides of me. When I wrote Surviving the Equestrian World, I still was.
Not anymore though. I am not entirely sure how the change came along, but I am finally at peace. I have spent this summer, sitting on my pasture, kissing my foal, (okay so he is two years old by now, but still my foal,) running with my other foal, (that will be my five year old,) letting Saleem wander off if he didn’t want to be around me, instead of forcing my company on him, and asking him to work for me. I have been lying on the hay wheels with my girls, finally connecting with that fiery dragon that resides inside Marble, and at long last agreeing that it won’t spew fire all over me every other second.
The second I stopped asking my horses for anything, they came to me, and gave me everything I ever really wanted. Friendship and love and that special bond you have with an animal that huge, who has no spoken language.
“If you don’t want to ride, get a dog. What do you need a horse for?”
I have heard that so much through the years. And at long last, I don’t care what people think. No one is going to tell me to ride my horses anymore. I am not saying that I won’t ride them, some day in the future. I am not saying that when fall comes and the harvest is in and the land opens in unused fields, that I won’t take Saleem out and let him run a little. I am not saying that I am done working with them, and teaching them things, but I am saying that it doesn’t matter to me anymore, how fast they learn. I don’t care if my two year old can’t be tied to a wall, without pulling on the rope. I don’t need to tie him up. I don’t care if my five year old is not broken in yet. I’ll do that, when I feel he is ready to be ridden. I have no need to compare them to other horses of their age anymore. I strongly disagree with most of what other horses have been taught anyway, so why must my horses be subjected to it?
I used to think that if I didn’t teach them all the basics, I would be letting them down. Like, what if I get hit by a bus and die and Ablaze can’t wear a halter? Who would want a two year old that can’t be handled in a halter? Who would want Apocalipse if he isn’t broken in, and ready to compete at five years old? How could I fail them so badly, by not preparing them for the world? At least they have to be able to be ridden with a bridle, right?
I guess I am done thinking like that too, at long last. 15 years with Poseidon had me living life on the edge, wondering every single day, if it was going to be my last, but I don’t feel that way anymore. Of course the future is never given, but fingers crossed my horses will never know a life without me, and if so, they do not need to know anything aside from what I need from them.
Mutual respect and understanding, really, and that comes easily with the friendship that blossoms, once you let go of the rein, so to speak.
I did talk to a friend of mine the other day, who have three horses of her own, and aren’t in a hurry to ride them either. I haven’t really said it out loud before, that I don’t miss riding at all, but it was nice, talking to her, finally meeting someone who understood how special it is to have a horse, when you aren’t busy shaping it to become the next dressage superstar.
And then, of course, I did discover the down side to all of this as well. Tardis keeps growing fatter and fatter, and well, so do I to be honest. We both needs exercise, so my clever plans of not working with them this year, is kind of failing. I can’t feed them less hay, because then Apocalipse and Marble grows thin, so Tardis and I will have to start running and playing some more. Maybe I even have to ride her, if I want that belly of hers, (and mine,) to go away.
So much for my peace of mind… But at least now, when I run with her, I can be sure to make it fun for her. I can let her misbehave, rear up against me, jump around and flick her head as much as she wants, because now, our goal is not to become good at anything. It is only to lose a bit of weight. We are playing for our own sake, not to impress anyone else. I’ll have to hang on to that, if I have to start riding her this fall. Riding can be different too. It doesn’t have to be about control and submission and force. Hell, it should never be. I’ll just have to stick to having retired my bridle and see where that takes us.