Father. I come to you with a heavy heart today. A horse I know is sick. The worse thing that can happen is happening and Lord I am out of words.
My heart aches for both of them. I know the mares' sweet and kind eye. I know her nickers and I just take care of her….. I know the kindness in her riders heart, in her hands and in her heart. I have no words.
I work with them everyday day. Roll my eyes at their antics. Laugh at their silliness. Comfort them when scared. Help them when in pain. And here I am helpless....and yet again I have no words.
I ask my heart and I pray - Give me the strength and the wisdom to know what to do and what to say. Let your words be like salve for their hearts. May it start the healing process...May the doctor's hand have super natural healing….May they know that alone they are not...may she know a miracle...perhaps…I may have some words…
“Do you give the horse its strength or clothe its neck with a flowing mane? Do you make it leap like a locust, striking terror with its proud snorting? It paws fiercely, rejoicing in its strength, and charges into the fray. It laughs at fear, afraid of nothing; it does not shy away from the sword. The quiver rattles against its side, along with the flashing spear and lance. In frenzied excitement it eats up the ground; it cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds." Job 39:19-25
And lord, as I read and reflect on this Bible scripture I want you to know that I have benefited from this wonderous creation called horse…I have borrowed from their strength when I have had none. When my knees where weak, my stomach full of butterflies, my hands shacking and my heart aching….their manes have caught all my fears. Their manes have allowed my hands to caress, grab and hold on tight. Their manes have accepted my tears and my hugs and my kisses. I have petted them a million times and I thank you for it.
I love how you made the horse laugh at fear, for the ones I ride are pretty chicken but I as I sit here today, I maybe, think you meant the other type of fear, for they take nothing for granted and face each day boldly...and they live in the moment. That's what makes them fearless.
A war horse is what you described and a war horse is what I've become. Give me the strength that seems to have left my body. Better yet just be there with us...
And when it's my turn to make these choices, as I have made a choice to share my life with them, know that I have loved them deeply. I have spent a lifetime trying to understand them...I humbly ask and hope to see them at heaven's gate...hoofs thundering, eating up the ground as I make my way to them. Reunited once again, free from pain and able to ride like we did when we were on earth. And if I'm not made for heaven, please Lord allow me to see them just once more in all your glory. In your name we pray.
Once upon a time I purchased a horse. He is gray. They are always dirty. Or maybe the same level of dirty but more obvious than a bay? I have no idea...to be honest. There's just a lot of dirt. I must say he is gorgeous though, mane and tail for days. He sized me up pretty quickly, the side eye and the up and down. I looked at him both in awe and with some fear. He is power, perfection and I am...well lacking in those departments. Before we go down this story line, first you must understand where I am coming from as a rider....
Six months before the aforementioned beautiful gray beast entered my life, I had a riding accident that left my elbow joint broken, a dash of PTSD with a sprinkle of self doubt. To say my riding confidence was hanging by a string (not fishing line, but more like a delicate one) is an understatement. I had some choices to make...the first time I rode him I felt so much power. The other horses I had ridden felt like ponies compared to him. Can I do this? Should I do this? What if I get hurt again? I've got a daughter to raise, a business to run, people that count and depend on me. Is this foolish? I am an adult amateur...I have nothing to prove. Am I capable? Am I enough? And then I realized these are all the same questions we ask ourselves any time we embark on something new....I didn't come to this conclusion easily and it took some time to get there.
Where to begin? I shared my doubts with my therapist. A wonderful woman who listens to me while I divulge my fears. We discuss them in detail, she listens as I talk about my riding and my horses like she would if I were talking about human relationships. She is amazing.
Back to the horse - he arrived a beautiful and perfect specimen with a mouthful of a name. Immediately I renamed him to something that I could actually say without laughing and thinking of Gorditas. I decided to name him Remy....after the main rat character in the movie Ratatouille. Something about his eyes reminded me of that little rat. Ready for adventure, a bit of mischief, spark of high intelligence. But could I make this work even if he had the perfect name?? Although the perfect name does indeed help the situation...
My trainer helped me so much with this endeavor...she has three entities to deal with: Remy, my head, then my body. Turns out my body knows what to do. My head and fears get in the way. I would love to shut my mind off sometimes but it's not possible but at the very minimum, I understand it. It's trying to keep me safe and it doesn't trust my body because once it let it down. I get all this and yet, I struggle in the saddle.
The first couple of rides with Remy, I would make my trainer warm up my horse...that worked for about a month and then it was my turn. Remy is like driving a well oiled machine. Power, beauty and intelligence. Me? Well I reckon I'm the opposite. On a good day I stand 5', short torso and I simply struggle with my riding confidence.
In the early days, when we arrived at the trot portion of the lessons, another trainer at the barn asked me if it was hard to sit the trot. I was like no, I just suck at this. It was true - as much as I have ridden, he was new to me. We were new to each other. Try getting on a new horse whose buttons you don't know and ask him to do things you are not so sure of yourself. And that's how I felt every time I rode. A fish out of water. I had trained horses through 3rd level. Had ridden a GP school master yet here I was not even able to make a 20M circle. I was so humbled. Here was a horse that demanded in a very real way to stand up to the proverbial plate on a daily basis. And on a daily basis l was reflected in my horse's eyes. A mediocre rider who could afford a nice horse. How to change the narrative? Remy took it all in stride after he figured me out. He thought he was retired and his show days were over. He also thought he had to do the minimum because I could only do the minimum...the days passed - if this was movie you would see a montage of me riding every day making tiny incremental strides -- then one day we arrived at the center portion of our lesson and neither he nor I know what happened but he bucked into the canter transition and I feel on his neck and he panicked and I double panicked and I came off. He ran away, but stayed in the arena, looked back at me with the "oh shit look in his eye". Had anyone ever come off him? He comes from the land of exceptional riders and by the look on his face it might have been the first time. There I was eating sand in my arena. My left elbow took the brunt but it was not injured. Just a boo boo. However, more fear crept in my heart. A better way to put it, that fear made a permanent residence in my heart.
It took 5 months before I cantered again. In those 5.months many small, tiny things happened to me:
We figured out posting trot, sitting trot, leg yield, shoulder-in, 3 loop serpentines, haunches in, haunches out, 10M circles, extended trot. I don't know how or when it happened but it did. Every day we slowly became like a team? Perhaps even friends? His work ethic is impeccable. But he expects you to match it and be there for him. He has stallion moments where he tells me not today's sister. Did I mention he was a stallion for 8 years (until I imported him). I insist like a little sibling or an annoying gnat. I have all day...he gives up quickly thank God. This horse has pushed me out of my comfort zone like no other, then meets me on the other side and pushes me more. When we work together it is a dance, harmony. A feeling I have not felt in a long time. When I am not present or hesitant he calls me out. I love him and at the same time makes me so uncomfortable. BUT guess what? I can canter now and sit his trot. He has taught me that it's ok to be afraid and face the fears. To embrace the fear but not move in with it. He has pushed me like no other - and all the credit goes to his ability to embrace change... but as I look back I see my trainer: Slowly, gently, pushing me forward. Making jokes when I want to cry, telling me stories when I want to get off. Asking for one more transition when she really means 2 million more. The horses before Remy - all those horses that took my harsh hands and made them soft...that taught me timing, that taught me feel. All those kind, patient souls that allowed me the opportunity to ride. To the trainers that took the time to teach me to post the trot. That introduced me to the sport. I am forever grateful and will not forget your kindness.
So...all this to say that it's good to have dreams, but they require lots of hard work and the right team. Here's to all the wonderful people (and animals) in your life :)