“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” -Diehard de Chardin
I believe my purpose in this life and any other I may experience is to grow and become more than I was when I got here. Yes, this relates to my spiritual beliefs, and no, discussing them is not the point of this blog. It’s about horses, horse training and . . . life on life’s terms as I know it. It’s that last part that brings us to this writing.
The journey to becoming the best horseman that I have in me to become is the vehicle for my latest sets of spiritual teachings, stretching's and growing's. Riding with Peter Campbell is part of that. Is he some Sufi mystic or ethereal bringer of the divine and supernatural? Uh no. Not remotely. He does happen to be a master horseman and I want what he has to teach me.
I have had a certain amount of discussion with folks over the last time I rode with Peter. Things got pretty heated when he was disgusted with my inability to figure out a maneuver that he was trying to teach. I was frozen in my head and my capacity for spatial relationships is dicey at best and it was not working out for me or the young horse I was riding. The guy is a human being and he was pretty frustrated with why I couldn’t get it. He said some pretty hard things and I got upset. I worked through it because that is my understanding of what I do when I am confronted with difficult things. I work through them and there is always benefit on the other side.
I won’t know what the benefit is until I get there, and if I storm off, quit in the middle or refuse, well then, I will never know.
Flashing forward off what is to me ancient history (I can’t wait to ride with Peter in May and make some new discoveries, new history and if it gets tough in the middle, so be it. What good thing does not?)
Today, after a slow start, I head for the ranch. I am tired behind the things that many of us get tired behind. Job, money, juggling wants, need, nothing unique about it but tired, I am. If it were not for the Distance Derby spurring me on to want to maintain some miles, and my commitment to Charlie to come out and help, I probably would have stayed home today and then I would have been unhappy that another week would have rolled by with no saddle time. Cowgirl up.
Royal is not super excited to see me, nor I to see him. He’s muddy. Melting ice and snow cover the mud and I scowl at the terrace (yes the same at which longing gazes were cast not so long ago). I saddle my horse, snapping at him when he won’t keep his feet still. I tell him, you stop being stupid and I will stop being crabby. Hmm, I think. He’s not stupid, but I AM crabby and that never bodes well for us. Time for an attitude adjustment for Terri.
I say that like it’s the easiest thing in the world. Might be for you, dunno. For me, there are some years of work invested in even recognizing I am the one at fault in the first place and a few more, gaining understanding that I do have the power to choose my attitudes, my emotional reactions, the way I approach my horse and my life.
Bridling is an exercise of “lower your head, please.” “Lower your head and keep it there, please.” “Dammit, lower your head!” Okay, whoops, deep breath. I put myself in my fingertips, releasing when he tries but also catching him on his way back up. Could I have stood on my tiptoes, bridled him way up in the air? You bet. Have I done that before? You bet, that’s why we are still here. I am cutting out the shortcuts and half measures everywhere I find them, and not just at the barn. I am told they avail me nothing, anyway.
He shakes his neck and settles to be bridled. I don’t put my foot in the stirrup til his feet are set. I have a hand on the rein to bend him, thinking he will surely move off, as wound up as he has been. I am wearing insulated riding pants and tights under those. I groan, getting my knee to bend. It takes too long, I am sure he is going to want to leave.
He stands. I settle into the saddle, he flips his head impatiently and then the feet are in motion. I gather. Wait.
Five steps up the road behind the barn, he springs to the side. Urrgh! Hardest spook we have had in awhile. I have no idea at what. Sets the tone for the day. The burn pile of soiled straw and manure, clouds of stinky smoke roiling like a fat grumpy grounded dragon, that was worthy of some dance, indeed. I wasn’t as afraid of the footing, after that.
I discovered even though my horse can have a skitzy loop nut day now and again, spooking at a leaf, he is still pretty brave and will do just about anything I ask of him. We walked through puddles, the sun blazing back at us in reflection. I couldn’t see what we were walking in and I know he couldn’t,but he did it anyway. We went all the usual places. I caught myself holding my breath as we started some shaded downs and I made myself breathe, find my center, loosen my back and go with my horse.
Royal is in love with the little Paint gelding he lives with and it’s reciprocated. At one point we are up on a ridge directly above the ranch and the Paint sees or hears us. He yells and screams his loneliness and Royal answers back. We then had about 45 minutes of opportunity to work through buddy sour issues.
I would put him to work, he would get higher and more excited (think last April when he ended up almost killing himself.) I would stop him, ask him to settle, wait for the feet to set, become still. He would surge forward, I would catch him (You will NOT run through your bit, you WILL have respect for what I am asking of you). I decided if we had to spend the entire day, right there, getting that change, then so be it. Catching just the right moment to allow him to move on resulted in a nice walk. Too soon or too late gets a different result. We experienced all three. Would get the good walk and then lose it to the jig.
I got mad and said dammit go then, you idiot and when we fall down in the mud you have only yourself to blame (and me, or rather . . ME). He trotted off, and we hit a good clip for a little while, not a slip or a slide. Coming to the top of that trail, we rejoined the road that is the major artery through the ranch. I didn’t want to run on that one, it is too open and I knew there were a lot of slick spots in the shadows. I ask him to come back to a walk and while it was a tighter, shorter, omg I wanna go walk, it was still a walk.
I was searching for my horse with the long neck, the loose easy way of going. Took awhile but I found him. I didn’t quit even when it got tough in the middle. This horse and I, we have been through MUCH harder things than this day!
I got a little smarter and started playing the trail games I would play if I had other riders with me. We pretended to leap frog, well I pretended, Royal didn’t know we were playing a game. He just knew I was changing things up and there was no telling what direction we might go next. It was confusing to him which way home actually was going to be and he pretty much gave it up as too much work to worry about.
That is what I have been bringing to life with me for quite awhile now. I don’t quit in the middle just because things get a little tough. I might have to change up what I am doing if it isn’t working even if I am doing what I think is the only thing I know to do.
There are new horizons beyond this philosophy, small changes becoming big ones before I am even barely aware they are made. I don’t pick my teachers, they arrive when I am ready to hear what they have to offer, and I understand it might not always be wrapped in cotton wool. That is not the kind of thing that tends to work best for me, anyway. It is my choice how to handle the teaching. If someone tells me I am wonderful, that ‘s great, but it doesn’t make me wonderful. They can tell me I am awful, and I might have to look at why they think that, but it doesn’t mean it’s the truth of who and what I am, either.
The Horse In The Mirror is a take off on a poem called “The Man In The Mirror.” If you don’t know it, it’s worth a Google.