“Get that thing off me.” My horse shakes his head rebelliously, sulky eye cast anywhere but at me. He’s ready to be done with his bridle, done with me and I don’t care a whole lot for him either, just right this second.
It was a very different parting than the pride filled pat I gave him last Saturday returning triumphantly home from a wonderful day at Kip Fladland’s second clinic. After a little much needed soul searching, I know exactly why.
I woke up on the wrong side of the bed yesterday morning. In all honesty, it’s the same side I have been waking up on for awhile now. Why? Who knows. There’s a lot of things I want to hook my out of sorts-ness on but what really matters is that it was not my horse. Wasn’t my young coworker, not my friends, my son, my husband, my job, etc. I set a goal yesterday to take nothing personally and it kept me and those around me quite a bit further out of harm’s way than what might have taken place otherwise as everything felt personal and not much of it in any good way.
And then I get to the barn. I have a game plan to go to the indoor arena, practice some of the things I got further inspiration on while riding with Kip. The mud in the yard stood in deep ruts, testimony to what I would find up on top, I was sure. Still, when I was told it would probably be okay, just be careful, I took off in search of Derby miles and one more push out of my comfort zone. What I know now is that one really needs to be IN a comfort zone to get comfortably pushed out of one.
Royal was a little high from the get go. I am going to tell you he read the unstable energy bubbling just beneath my thin layer of calm surface. You can hide out from yourself but you cannot hide from your horse.
We slipped and slid a little going up and I thought it would be dryer on top and kept going. Royal snorted at the burn pile, and I cursed under my breath. “Jump around now, you idiot, and we are going to end up on the ground in a pile.”
He didn’t, but he also didn’t gain confidence as he normally does. We can start out a little funky, have many times, but usually by the time we hit the top of the ridge we are both settled into a happy stride. Not this time.
The way we usually head to the back 80, a north facing slide, glittered dully with dirty snow. We opted to go to the left instead up the hacker trail rather than attempt what looked to be and later proved itself to be a very treacherous stretch of ground.
Going up, Royal’s feet slipped and slid, one way then another. I sat in the middle thinking only to get to the top in one piece. What goes up must come down but I was not thinking about that, just yet.
As we came out of the narrow draw onto the broad straw strewn hayrack road, my stomach was a leaden ball, my mouth filled with a metallic taste of fear. That has not happened to me in a long time. A couple bad wrecks put it in me several years ago, resulting in a year’s off from training and almost from riding entirely, while I hung around on fence tops wanting desperately to be back on a horse and happy.
Don’t try to get to something good by going through something bad. I have heard Peter say that a hundred times. Sometimes, I don’t know any other way. I was thinking we would ride through this, I would breathe, Royal would settle and we would get to other side in better shape than what we showed up in.
I wish I could tell you that is what happened, but it really is not. He got higher and more unsettled. Looking at it from his point of view, it makes complete sense. His partner, holding most of the shares, was lost in memories of thudding to the ground, the soft crack of breaking bones that don’t quite hurt yet, doesn’t turn into real pain til just a little later . . .
Believe me, I did everything I know to turn this around. I did breathing exercises, I told myself sternly to ride the horse that was showing up, the one that was really just trying to get down the road, was moving out in a way that on normal rides would have delighted me. Ride the ride that showed up. We weren’t falling, hadn’t come close. Yes, a little slick, but we were handling it and that was what I went up there to do. If we are going to do Competitive Trail Riding we have to be prepared to ride in all kinds of terrains and all kinds of weather. I know from watching my friends, they don’t cancel for a little mud.
I got triggered is what happened and it got away from me. We ended up in a war on the way home on a narrow single track trail. He was completely focused on where the barn was and his footsteps were rushed and careless. Being afraid brings my mad up and I got mad. 10 steps forward and 9 steps back you sonova . . . We stayed at that for awhile, it was not pretty and I am glad there are no photos except the ones he took and to those I will have some explaining to do.
Now we are facing the hill I had chose not to come down. About 40 feet is all but a drop on one side and a high bank on the other. It’s very dark now, and I can’t see if there are thawed places so we head out as best we can. Sure enough, solid ice. More clacking of hooves as Royal scrambles madly to stay upright. I am not angry at him now, boy howdy, I am with him every step, speaking soothing and encouraging words and praying we make it to the top.
We do. It’s not wonderful getting down the long hill to the barn, he’s completely ready to be done with this ride and you know, so am I. We don’t quit at the bottom. I know it cannot end like this for either one of us. We found decent footing in the barnyard, did a few things, ending up with some softness on both sides and I called it quit there.
I write this because I believe in keeping it real. I’d have rather told you about the amazing day we had with Kip and that group and I probably will, another day. We made some important breakthrough’s and had a lot of fun. Both me and my horse left Chance Ridge with a happy glow in our eyes. But, my journey is not all Zen and butterflies as much as I would like it to be and this is as much a part as any other.
My hope and saving grace is that I know it was all me. My horse was not a “bonehead”, a nutball, a sonovabitch or any of the other things we tend to label our horses when things don’t go well. I am not a crappy partner, though I certainly had some crappy moments. We will go back in, and he may or may not show me some Arabian skepticism, but I will start with the groundwork I have been taught and I will put as much try into it as I ask of my horse. That, right there, will make a heck of a difference, just like it did last Saturday and will in the days filled with promise ahead of us.