My horse is one of my favorite teachers. She has a surely unorthodox way of creating lesson plans, and a syllabus more haphazard than any other, but she’s taught me lessons that extend far beyond the picket fence surrounding the farm. Here are a few lessons I’ve been taught the past few years on this roller coaster with my mare… and I’m sure I’ll be learning many more!
1. Never expect perfection.
It’s easy for me to set my expectations too high. “You learned this once, you just did it correctly last week, why can’t you simply do it again?” We all have particular goals and aspirations, and falling short isn’t usually easy to accept. Especially as an equestrian, dealing with what seems to be one of the most unpredictable creatures, I would like to think I’ve developed more patience in dealing with the random challenges my horse gives me. When she becomes unbearably resistant or deliberately disobeys me, sometimes I just need to take a deep breath and realize that we are working towards something greater. Perfection is probably never attainable, but with every ride, we are improving together.
2. Be grateful for the skills my horse has.
When I first befriended my horse, I was too flabbergasted at the idea of having a horse in my life to think of anything negative. Eventually, the idea sunk in and I became a bit more… realistic? In a world full of so much talent, and in an area with abundant skilled riders and horses, I struggled as I compared my horse to the others. “That horse knows much more. Look at that rider and how flawless that pair is…” But something that a lot of people don’t realize is that every horse has his or her own unique talents, and these talents are very concrete and individual distinctions. Some horses are meant to run. Others are meant to herd cattle. There are a few who are destined for the Olympics, and there are thousands who are called to the trails. I’ve come to know and truly appreciate my horse for who she is as a being, which is a miraculous experience.
3. I’m not always right!
Wow, did I actually just admit that? (It’s okay, I’ve known it for a while.) As my riding trainer proudly states, my horse should be commended for tattle-tale skills. Horseback riding is grounded in a set of communication skills that spans the species barrier, thus making both of us (horse & rider) extremely prone to misunderstandings and miscommunication. A lot of times, my horse and I will have little arguments… usually spats that aren’t even noticeable to the average person. Perhaps she will ignore my request… or maybe I asked her to do something incorrectly… oops. My trainer has also told me that more often than not, the horse is correct and the rider is wrong. That leads me to one of the most humbling lessons my horse has taught me: I’m wrong. Sometimes. A lot. But man, does it feel incredible to be RIGHT.
4. Don’t always focus on work.
This is probably one of the simpler lessons, but that doesn’t mean it is any less important. My horse and I are both athletes, and with the athletic mindset comes motivation to work, work, work. Don’t get me wrong — work is a great thing. But at times, I find myself so focused on the training plan and the goals we have that I forget to consciously enjoy the ride (literally). Of course, I typically have fun riding, but I’m not always aware of how breathtaking each ride actually is. In reality, my riding isn’t about achieving the perfect equitation on behalf of my horse and I. No. Riding is about the exhilarating entity that I meet every time I sit in my saddle. I need to remember to go to the stable with the mindset of enjoyment. It isn’t a chore (and even if it were, who said chores can’t be fun?).
5. Sometimes, tough love is necessary.
It took me a very long time to realize that being firm is necessary in certain circumstances. I’ve gone through phases of allowing my horse to disrespect me, and I’ve actually put myself in some dangerous situations because of it (that’s an added challenge of dealing with an animal that weighs half a ton). I’ve been bucked off, stepped on, had my iPhone stepped on (it didn’t survive), and I still have a hoof-shaped indentation in my upper thigh from last October. Tough love isn’t a concept to be taken lightly with horses, especially considering that they are high-risk mammals with incomprehensible power. It isn’t always easy to look my horse in the eye and demand her respect… but it is always worth it.
6. Always know your capabilities, and don’t let anyone else limit them.
This might be the most challenging of the lessons my horse has taught me… and I’m definitely still learning it. People have discouraged my horse and I for the past three years. Thankfully I’ve also had some extremely encouraging advocates for my horse and I, but I’ve also had many people who did not support us, and certainly did not believe in us. I’ve been close to quitting my riding, and even doubtful about my relationship with my horse. However, I’m highly intuitive, and when I met my horse, my gut told me we would go places one day. Together, we have learned too many things to list in a blog post, and I am still convinced that we are on the ride to our destination (I just don’t know where we’re going exactly…).
Hm. Who knew a horse had so much to tell me.
If you actually read all of that, I commend you. But here’s the thing. I can guarantee you that at least one of those lessons applies to your own life… even if you hate horses. Take my experience, tuck it away, and pull it out of your pocket when you need it. Sometimes, all we need is another mind to whom we can relate in this crazy noun spelled L-I-F-E.