Lessons From the Pen

ImageTwo weeks ago, I was gifted a horse, from my husband, for my birthday/Christmas gift. Now, let me just say, in the past, I have hated the “double gift.” I often times just want to say, “hey now, wait.. you get two separate days, and I want equal time. But, this year. This gift. It was all good.

I am a “cowgirl interrupted.” I fell in love with a horse as a little girl. It was that magical friend whom I could tell my every secret too, without the worry that she would some how tell. I also loved that, that little horse was a mode of transportation. It would and could take me away.  As a little one, I was never afraid of the horse. Perhaps due to the fact that I had never come off of one un-voluntarily …. yet.. Or; maybe it was just that I had so many other things that were terrifying that the horse was the least of what I had to worry about…

I had never intended to live my life without a horse of my own. I married a “cowboy”. But, as life often does, it took us down a different road. One, where farming was more the focus. Well, farming and raising kids. And, the cowgirl in me… was well… interrupted.

I have been blessed to have friends who have always been gracious enough to let me ride. To get my fix. But, on so many levels that isn’t the same. Therapy for sure. But, not the same. It was somewhere in this time that I became more afraid of the horse. I had climbed up on a few that I didn’t know well enough, and well.. Came off a few that I quickly learned well enough, and, a healthy respect as born.

In the last two weeks Ginger… aka Sissy…. has reminded me… confirmed for me, some of the same lessons that life has taught me. funny, how horses really do magnify back to you who you are, how you show up in your own life…. For that reason; I am glad that I waited to get her. I needed the last two years to work myself out, in order to be where I am for her… and for me….

What kinds of things, you might ask. Things like;

1) Trust your OWN gut – No one knows you, and your ability (or lack there of) better than you.  If you are showing up in your own life, and doing the work to see yourself in an honest way, while you can certainly use those that are closest to you to confirm what you know… you no longer need to change your judgments for theirs. As well intended as their advice is, in the end, you know what works for you. Sissy teaches me this everyday. Tom calls me a “sissy whisperer” and he is right. I work hard to listen to her. I know that when she is done… with the training day, she is done. And, while I don’t let her dictate to me  when training is done.. I do try to be sensitive and put her slightly past it. The people in my life, that love me, and that I work best for 🙂 do the same with me. Which leads me to the second thing.

2). More isn’t always better -Sissy and I share similar personalities. She will give you a lot, but if you push her to hard… to fast…to much.. things are going to go south. I’m not saying that either of us are proud of this behavior, yet, so grateful that we each understand that about the other. Case and point: I get that sometimes… Sissy  needs to act out… Maybe to let me know that I am hurting her, or that she is just ticked off. So, you let her, just a little. Many times in the last two weeks I have had to stop, drop the reins ( lower them, not let go of them), to give her a moment…… to decide that she is Okay… You know… sometimes a girl needs a moment. And, then when she is done, we can move forward. To push her, and to ask her to do more in that moment.. is insane. It is not going to get me the results I want, nor is it going to allow her to focus at her best. Over the last couple of weeks, I have noticed that she needs those “moments” less and less.

3). Mutual Respect – Is the key to every good friendship. I have had friendships where mutual respect isn’t key – Shoot, I have had family relationships where the same is true. I find that those relationships have nothing to sustain them. They quickly become acquaintances, or worse… duty. Relationships roll two directions – they are either growing or they are dying. My relationship with Sissy is one of mutual respect.. it has to be. I have to know that I can trust her.. shoot, I am 51 this year and my bounce isn’t what it use to be. And, she has to know that I am trust worthy as well. She needs to know that I am working on my skills as hard or harder then what I am asking of her. That I am educating myself on what she needs, what works best for what I want and need for her to be able to do for us, and for her to be the best she can do. I love a certain look she can give me that just says, WOW MOM… where did you learn that?

4). Positive Communication Goes a long way – Sissy responds well to verbal commands. I am overjoyed by how bright she is. She loves to “please”. Don’t get me wrong, she has her moments.. But, at the heart of her, she loves to get the “atta girls.” She will do a lot, to get them. She responds to positive communications.. well.. in truth she responds to negative communications too… but, you get what you say. If you are sweet and calm and understanding and heavy on your praises when she earns them.. then… she tries to earn more.. if you are abrupt in your words and get “spooked” and let it be known in your words.. she reacts accordingly.

5). Love trumps Fear – I have been on Sissy everyday… There have been moments when she goes sideways – that in the beginning I thought about bailing… literally jumping off.. Now, I know that if I drop the reins, take tension off…. and give her a moment.. she’ll collect herself…. think it through…..figure it out….. and then get back to doing her best to comply…. I will always have a healthy fear…. but, the more I get to know this beautiful animal we call Sissy, the fear is “bridled,” “harnessed,” “reined in.”  This may be one of the biggest lessons that I have found in the pen. I have had a head knowledge of this truth….but the reality of it, has been life changing for me….. When you know someone’s heart – —  it is easier to deal with their actions. If their heart is a good one, then you know that when their actions don’t line up, that something needs to shift. Either the way we are “riding” them, or reining them, or corralling them.. or coming at them….. Something needs to shift and it is an external thing that can she shifted and fixed… If you take the time to do so… I have had small moments where Sissy has reacted to something and….. caused me fear or pain or… had it not been for love, I could have run the other way and.. made a case for what a horrible creature she was.. to bite, or buck, or kick or… whatever the case… OR, I could stand my ground….. take a step back give her a little space… and ask myself “what is she reacting too?” do the work, make the shift in me…. and go back in….

Not all horses (or people) react to external things…  some, react to a more internal conversation, As a rider, we have to evaluate whether that conversation can be worked through….. IN Sissy’s case, she has let me show time and time again that her desire is to be a teammate… a friend… a companion.. and I am all the more lucky for that. I hope that she, and others, can say that about me.

I have a lot to learn, to be the rider that Sissy deserves… but, at least my butt is in the saddle.

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