I have just completed my seventh week of riding lessons. Each week a new lesson is learned- not just about riding, or handling a horse- but about myself and my fears.
These are the most beautiful creatures on the face of the earth. Not only beautiful, but also intelligent, friendly, loving and proud. They still often scare the hell out of me. But, mostly I scare the hell out of myself.
In 7 weeks I have gone from being deathly afraid of getting near them (let alone getting up on top of one) to being still somewhat afraid- but becoming more trustful towards them and even more trustful of myself in handling them. And, most of all falling in love with each and every one of them.
The lessons have not been easy; And yet, I learn a brand new one every time I step foot into one of their stalls. Mostly I have learned that I need to be the one in control and to make them WANT to do what I ask, need,and am required to make them do.
I have also learned to try to show no fear or even apprehension. It is amazing how they pick up on that.
My worst experience was with a horse named Moon. Week three of my lesson I was assigned Moon- first time riding him. He was on the small side, seemed rather gentle, beautiful eyes with a pale-almost white- coloring. Since I was totally inept at tacking him a young staff member helped me with his bridle. I then led him out to the training ring and proceeded to mount him. He was very cooperative and quiet. That is up until the lesson actually began.
I am in a class with 4 other riders- all more experienced than myself by 3-6 months. We begin by walking the horses single file around the perimiter of the ring, work our way into a trot and begin our posting trot.(for those of you who do not ride- a posting trot is when you stand up and sit back down in the saddle in conjuction with the horse's rhythm.) This is where my trouble began.
Moon had a mind of his own- not only would he not even trot, he had no intention of staying in single file. Rather than follow the other horses, he chose to constantly cut across the ring, drop his head, or stand completely still while periodically twisting his head back to try to kick my feet out of the stirrups. That horse did not want this rider on his back.
Of course, I realize that most of the problem WAS the rider, not the horse. He just did not know what I wanted him to do. My kicks were weak, my signals were wishywashy and my fear was increasing. At one point my instructor, Ryan, handed me a crop and insisted that I use it to get Moon to move. All this to no avail. We were just not bonding.
In my frustration I asked for, no begged for, another horse. It was not to be. I was to struggle through this hour with this beast. Needless to say, by the time I slid down off of him I could not wait to be rid of him.
The following week- driving to my lesson- the thought occurred to me that Ryan would again assign me Moon. (In general he puts us on different horses each time). And, much to my dismay, there we were again- Moon and I face to face.
Actually, not face to face at first. As soon as I stepped into his stall he takes one look at me and turns his back. He completely turns around and sticks his head into the back corner. So there I am, bridle in hand, facing the wrong end of a horse. All of my efforts in turning him around were to no avail. He was not happy to see me. Once again a staff member helps me get him situated (I think this girl was only about 12, geesh!).
I led Moon back out the ring all the while throwing the nastiest looks that I can muster towards Ryan. He knew I was NOT happy.
Moon and I begin, again, our dance of power. Me, struggling to keep his head up, keep in single file, trot, post, change direction and not fall off- all at the same time, while Moon fights my every move. More frustration on my part. But, 1/2 way through the class something seems to change. My frustration turns to determination and Moon suddenly begins to relent. Am I winning? Is he just teasing me? What?
We end the lesson with a better understanding of each other, I think. I am learning the very hard lesson of becoming the one in control. Being sure of my abilities and not being afraid of trying to take the lead. Life lessons?
I could not stay angry at Ryan for putting me through that. For, If I were him, I would have done EXACTLY the same thing with one of my students. And, he explained that I will have advanced several lessons worth with those 2 lessons- because of all that I had to deal with. And he was right. My confidence is increasing, I can now step into a stall, make a horse stop eating and get the bridle on him with no problem. I am finally the one in control.
The last 2 lessons I have had Valentine. A magnificent horse- an ex racehorse and the largest one in the stable. He's huge. He likes me- he listens! It's wonderful. He knows when I want him to trot, halt, turn, speed up, slow down. And for that he gets carrots and peppermints.
Maybe I'm not so wishywashy after all.
Life lessons indeed.
And here is Moon, standing still for a different rider!
There is nothing wrong with being afraid---but there is nothing more wrong than allowing that to be your master.