What does it really mean to be a horseman? Hours in the saddle? Number of broken bones? Trophies?
Or is it just the sense of connection that sometimes happens when both of you have all the body parts moving the same way at the same time and at least one of you has a relaxed grin on your face? (I confess I'm not always in this zone, though it happens more now than it used to and it is always my goal.)
Yes, I did just watch "Buck" the movie. How could you tell? As most of the reviews state, it is in many ways much more about humans than it is about horses. It shows us horse people how to peel off the layers and look at ourselves with enough honesty to be the horsemen we want to be and that our horses need us to be.
Am I there yet? Not really. I'm not confident enough, yet, even though Bar keeps telling me it's okay to step up to the plate. In fact he wants and needs me to step up to the plate. When I do ride, he takes good care of me and even before I get on, he's asking me to climb up and work with him.
It's the getting to the riding part where we have challenges. I run through my ritual of warming him up in the round pen first and seeing where his head is, blah, blah, blah. He tells me--by nosing the saddle or the mounting block, standing still for the saddle and dropping his head for me to slip the bridle on--that he's ready for me to just ride.
It's really me that's the problem. As usual.
Last week I warmed him up in the round pen, then when we went out to the outer part of the arena he--saddled up and all--went up the side of the arena bucking and farting for about half the arena. Then he stopped, turned around, and headed for me and the mounting block. "Okay, had to test the new hacked saddle pad. Get on, now, 'kay?" I laughed at his antics over the pounding of my heart and decided to embrace his exuberance as a sign that he was feeling good, not sore. That mostly worked, actually, and we had a good ride.
Then last Sunday I got on again and had to work through the most anxiety I've felt in a long time. I did it, and he was good and patient and kind, but I felt so weak and unhappy with myself! I couldn't help thinking he deserves so much more from me! I can almost hear him telling me to just trust him and we'll be okay. And I can almost hear myself saying, "Sure, big guy!" And then part of me freezes.
So I've got the scars and some of the hours in the saddle. Sometimes that moment of clarity and connection even comes, too, but mostly I've got a ways to go to be a "horseman" I think. Luckily, I'm stubborn and not done trying. Bar says he'll wait for me, but it would be more fun if I just got down to it so we could ride.