Do It With A Smile

I haven’t ridden my horses in a long time. I kind of wondered how I completely lost interest in riding for a while now, and if I was ever going to find the energy to get back on the horse. Pun intended.

I have been looking at Tardis lately, wondering if I should start over with her. I never really got her broken in, a year and a half ago, when I rode her the last time. She hated the bit and spent more time gnawing on it, and rolling it with her tongue, than actually trying to work with me. Not the way I wanted to break her in at all. Since it was going pretty well, riding Saleem without the bridle, I tried that with Tardis as well, but she is not nearly as obedient or cooperative as he is and I have to admit, I did not feel safe, riding her without the bridle.

I have to add here, I am riding on my pasture, among the other horses. I have no training grounds. Just a great big pasture, filled with explosive and playful youngsters, one of which, is her (by now, almost three year old,) foal. Needless to say, breaking in a headstrong Arabian mare, without a bridle, in surroundings like that, feels a little like suicide. Mostly, I am alone at the stable as well, so if something were to happen to me, I have no one to pick me up and get me to a hospital.

So, I kind of stopped riding Tardis. And in time, Saleem as well. Maybe because I didn’t feel like riding one, when I was failing the other. I don’t know. Maybe I just really did not have the energy to work out how to proceed with any of them. Saleem and his frail mind and his headshaking, is not problem free, no matter how well he responded to losing the bridle. Maybe I just really needed the time off, to reset my mind and reevaluate my values.

In any case, I came across this picture on Face Book this morning.

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For those of you who don’t watch Supernatural, that is a quote from season 7, I believe. Bobby just got shot and Dean has a pretty low point and this guy, Frank, tells him to suck it up, more or less, and carry on. “Be a professional,” I believe he tells him.

That is without question, one of the hardest, most heartbreaking scenes in the series, although there are a lot of those. Strangely enough, it is very motivational as well.

It’s kind of true. Do it with a smile, or don’t do it. Be professional, if you can’t be anything else. I believe Dean called it “faking it…”

Anyway, I guess it resonated with me more than I first realized, having that quote thrown in my face this morning. Once I was done with my chores at the stable, I just started brushing mud off Tardis, realizing that if I did not feel safe riding her without the bridle, then there was no shame in wearing one. I did contemplate using the halter instead, since she despises the bit so much, but I let my own crusade against the noseband win out.

She actually did not mind the bridle as much as she used to. She still fights the bit, no matter if I touch the rein or not, and has most of her focus on this strange piece of metal in her mouth, but once I climbed back on her back, and let her walk onto the muddy pasture, I felt her tense in her shoulders. And I instantly nudged her and corrected that. It is second nature to me. I did not even think about it. I just adjusted her and had her relax her neck an shoulders and move forward in a steady four beat walk.

More than anything, I was good at riding, once upon a time. At building the horse up, activating the right muscles, creating a strong, well balanced horse, that could handle being ridden without breaking. It’s what I do. It’s what I have always done.

And what I was really good at, was figuring out how to handle every horse as individuals, and train them in the best way possible, to suit their personalities and their special needs. As much as it may have worn me down over the years, working with “problem horses,” and always being super sensitive, it really is what I do best.

I was smiling too, because I really did miss riding. I missed the feeling of the horse responding, learning, and working with me. Of moving her legs, instead of mine. And let’s face it, nothing beats riding a hyperactive pony on a chill spring day, with the two youngest playing beside us, thrilled that exciting new stuff is happening in their lives.

Tardis made sure to roll afterwards, proving that the whole grooming process is truly overrated…

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She always rolls when she is excited.

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Her tails is growing back, by the way. (She had a skin infection last year and lost most of it very quickly, before my vet and I could figure out how to stop it.) Even if it still bothers me that she looks like this… Luckily, the new hair is looking healthy.

Encouraged by how much I actually enjoyed riding Tardis again, I picked up Saleem as well. I did use the bridle for him as well, mostly because I knew that Ablaze would be trouble. Ablaze is testing Saleem these days, no doubt wondering if shy and gentle Saleem is strong enough to be the Alpha of the pasture. Which means, that as soon as I ask Saleem to trot, Ablaze is on us like a hawk, circling Saleem, rearing against us, and provoking him as much as he possibly can. Needless to say, that is unacceptable, so I knew I would need to focus a lot on Ablaze, which meant that I let the coward side of me win out and used the bridle. Because what if Saleem got agitated or did not let me handle Ablaze?

He did though. He is such a superstar. I truly did not need the bridle at all.

Wearing it on him for the first time in almost two years, did remind me of a few things, though. I still help him carry himself better, when I have the rein. Somehow he understands the “forward and low” neck line much better when he is reaching for the bit, than when he isn’t. I will have to figure out how to correct that. And, with the bridle, he dares canter. I swear, he doesn’t when we don’t have the bridle. He is so unsure and so afraid of doing something wrong, that he would rather no try, than try and fail.

So, yeah, I took advantage of the bridle and asked him to canter on a completely lose and disconnected rein. He responded instantly. That is so sweet. The rein really doesn’t matter to him at all, but somehow he feels that he has some kind of safety net in wearing the bit, even if it is not used.

On the mega, ultra, super, happy dancing side, he did not shake his head once today, even with the bridle. He was super relaxed and focused and happy. Even if we still have a long way to go, we sure have come a long way already. I should remember that more often.

All in all, I should remember to not let myself be discouraged by the things I can’t do, and hang on to the things I do well. Sometimes it is easier said than done, but I guess that is when I should tell myself to be a professional. And do it with a smile. I owe them that much. I really do.

I guess that I was reminded today, of who I used to be. I won’t say that I want that Veronica back, because I have a lot of aspects of my past in the equestrian world, that i never want to revisit. But some parts of me, I should not let go of. Like the joy of jumping bare back onto your horse and riding simply because it makes me smile. No competitions, no one to impress with my skills, other than my horse. Just enjoying his company.

I should never let that go. I don’t know when I did, but I do know that I will try very hard to not let it happen again.

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Here we have Saleem, and the two little ones. They follow us everywhere when we ride. Once Ablaze understood to not attack Saleem at random, it is actually really awesome to have them come along. I love being part of the herd like that.

Looking at that picture, I found myself singing this song for the rest of the day;

“We’re the toughest little ponies in town

Got the moves, got the mojo, no harder working ponies around

We are a trio, work as a team

We’ll be the first ponies out on the flag-waving scene…..

We’ve got hearts as strong as horses.”

So I guess that between Supernatual, my horses, and the cutiemark crusaders, I was reminded of who I used to be and what my special skill is.

I almost settled for being a writer, and letting go of the rider in me. I really hope I will never let that happen. As much as I love to write, nothing makes me smile like I do, when I work with my ponies.

I am cautiously optimistic about the future today. I hope I hang in there and that I’ll do it with a smile from now on. If not, I’m just going to have to remind myself, to be a professional. And to always keep fighting 😉

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About Starstone

-Owned by horses. Writer, Photographer, Director, Musician.
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