Wednesday, November 11, 2015

What You Can Learn from a Horse

"I want a ride that is comfy and fast. And you just can't beat the gas mileage or upholstery of a horse."
~Jarod Kintz, Seriously Delirious, but not at all serious

My daughter is a bit of a perfectionist. For the last year, she has started to take English riding lessons. As my trainer says, "There is no better sport for a perfectionist because there will never be perfect."

And that is only one of many lessons horses and the ever challenging sport of riding them can teach you.  What other sport are you trying to decipher the mood, ability and general sanity of an animal that weighs over a thousand pounds? Maybe camel racing but I've not seen that much in this area.

I've had a long list of horses in my 30 years of riding.

My first pony, Mystic, taught me that I couldn't ride. Every time I got on her ended with me flying off in some way. Taking her to a new trainer and actually learning how to ride saved us both in the sport. She later became the prize pony at a school in Maryland.

My first horse, Echo/Canterbury Tales, taught me about competition. We were an amazing team and could often win. She taught me to be dedicated, hard working, a good sport, and forgiving. Unfortunately, she also taught me about heartbreak when she had to retire at a very early age.

My third horse, Pippi Longstocking, taught me patience. She was a young ex-racehorse I bought for $800. I learned how to take a horse and polish her into something talented and show-worthy. I proved that a diamond in the rough could shine like the fancier versions.

My fourth horse, Whoopie/Sister Act, was tragic. She was an amazingly talented mare I bought as a baby who was easy to train and wonderful to work with. Personal health circumstances resulted in leasing her out for awhile. She came back to me a broken version of herself that I could never repair. I will never lease another horse I own.

That lead to my William/Sandpiper, who was simply given to me by his owner. He would never be a fancy show horse, with back issues that made him flip-flop behind (I used to say he was like those dinosaurs that had a brain in their head and in their tail) and a funny jump to the left on occasion. He taught me that the best horses are the ones that become family. Those special animals that seem to sense you. When he died I learned the meaning of losing a piece of yourself.

My next horse, Stewie, who I only had briefly, was my first ever humbling experience. He taught me fear which in all of my years I had never had before. He was beautiful, powerful, and the biggest cream puff ever to have four hooves. He was afraid of his own shadow. I never knew if a bike, a lawn chair, a cone that was moved or a jump that fell over would send him in a tailspin (all things that had actually sent him in a tailspin). He was the sweetest boy, but I could never relax because he could never relax.

Because of him I feel like I appreciate my present girl, Buena Vista, all of the more. She is very young so I can draw from my patience, taking her training slow as she grows. Her personality has already made her feel like a forever member of the family, she is so quiet and easy she acts like an old soul in a young body. She has the potential to compete someday and I can only hope, avoids teaching me more lessons in heartbreak (these horses are so fragile at times it's a wonder they can do what they do).

But as no rider is ever perfect neither is there ever a perfect horse. So we learn, practice, work, succeed, fail, cry, laugh, love and sometimes hate. We break our banks, our bones, and our hearts. If these animals get inside you, it becomes the hardest, craziest, most time consuming and most rewarding thing you will ever do.

And you will never stop learning.

"In riding a horse, we borrow freedom."
~Helen Thompson

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