Time spent with my horses is very therapeutic for me. I have a new, young mare named Remmy that in particular has given me a wealth of insight and healing as I transition her from a racing harness horse to a saddle horse. In riding, just like in my art, I am a process person. By that I mean I derive pleasure in the activity. The end goal is not as important as allowing the process to unfold. When I paint I have a general idea of what I want to do but I am open to the process and love to allow the painting to evolve and flow. I am doing the same thing with my horse. I allow her to be a part of the process by taking in consideration what she is telling me. I don’t profess to be any great horse trainer or any great anything for that matter, I am just enjoying my time with her. That’s not to say we don’t work or progress. That happens.
One of the things that came up in our process lately is Remmy’s reluctance to go down a narrowing of a path or wanting to take a sudden turn for the barn when we got to a certain spot. This is the kind of stuff that happens with horses- especially young ones. I had done the firmer cues and the more alpha mind set of do as I say and don’t ask any questions… which can lead to an argument. Yes, horse and rider can and do get in arguments on horseback. Sometimes the firmness is what the horse needs but other times it leads to a bigger fight. Thankfully we had what might be consider more of a spat than a fight. And I certainly didn’t want to get in a brawl with her either!
Lately, I’ve been doing something else. All I ask is that she face forward. That’s all. And then I wait for her to relax and give the big exhale that horses do when they let down their guard. Then I ask her to move ahead. It is interesting to watch horses as they do this. At first their heads are usually higher, their ears tensely forward and their eyes staring and unblinking. If you watch you can see the changes as they begin to relax and process their fears. Their ears will loose their tension and the head begins to lower. The eyes become less intense and the horse starts blinking again. Then they give a big exhale and release the tension completely. While she is doing this I take off the pressure and wait for her to be ready. When she is done holding her fear and tension and gives the release I know she is now ready to listen and I ask her to move forward. And she does.
It occurred to me while riding I have been trying to force the issue of finding a way to move forward in my own life. I have felt frustration on many levels and thought I could just barrel thru it so things could at least get moving somewhere!! That had the same effect on my life as it did on Remmy! Balking, going nowhere or circling around and around the same issues were constant themes as the frustration continued to build. I also have had a lot to process and was not ready to move forward because my head was too clogged up. So literally and figuratively all I am going to ask of myself is to just stand and face forward. I am going to focus on what is ahead and not what was behind. I am releasing the pressure (off myself) to perform and am going to wait for the big sigh that lets me know what was holding me back is now released. I think our family has collectively had the big exhale after a particularly difficult winter. People have asked what we need and all I could say was prayers and time. Time and prayers. Face forward. Release the fear and tension. Take a step forward.
So again I thank Remmy for providing this visual example of what is needed to let go and move forward.