Winston Churchill once said, "There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man." He was right.
It's now been four years (a little more) since we became horse owners, which is making me reflect just a little bit on what that one decision has brought to my life. Sometimes I get so caught up in what I want to work on, or worrying about not giving one horse or the other (Lena primarily right now) enough attention, that I forget to just enjoy the gifts they bring every day.
Lena Rey taught us very quickly about the commitment it takes--and that sometimes hard decisions are necessary--when two weeks after we bought her, we thought we were going to have to put her down for a colic absolutely terrifying and heart-wrenching in its severity. She also taught all of us joy, that each person has a different and valuable perspective and a horse can benefit--and learn from--from multiple inputs. She can even tailor her mood and energy level to the rider in question at any given time. Lena is not easy, not by a long shot, but she is strong and healthy and confident and a blast to ride 9 days out of 10. She likes to play, and inventing games to entertain her is an exercise in creativity but one well worth doing. When you have her, you have all of her, but getting all of her is her best challenge to you the rider. And the gift when you get it? It's like being one with the elements.
Bar is his own element. Some days, I think it's Mercury. But as hard as he has been for me, he has gifted me with more than I ever would have imagined. He is an exercise in patience, which those who know me will tell you is NOT my strong suit. He is teaching me to be a horse trainer, not just a horse rider, and he does not always make my job easy. Okay, he never makes my job easy unless it's cuddling his big, brown head and scratching his ears.
Bar is not as confident as Lena, but that means that once he decided I was in charge, he would do anything I asked him to do to the best of his ability. With Lena, it always has to make sense. With Bar, if he tries--even if he messes it up--you have to give it to him because he really is doing his best to do what you want.
He's also not as balanced and strong as Lena, which naturally affects his confidence. He's been hurt badly in his life, doing what people told him to do, doing what he thought was his job. He protects his body the best way he can, just as I do with my old injuries, even if that sometimes means I'm carrying my body in a way that isn't as strong as it could be.
My job, as his owner, as his trainer, is to help him be physically strong enough to do the jobs I ask him to do, wherever I ask him to do them. On the trail, he's great--sure-footed, confident, relaxed. The arena poses other issues--his trust level is much higher on the trail than in the arena--and I think I'm turning that around slowly but surely. Back to the art of extreme patience.
For all of us, it's not just the physical aspect, though that's important. It's the connection we make to a creature very nearly our polar opposite and the perspective shift that entails.
Turns you inside out sometimes, but what a glorious ride it is.