|Picture courtesy of Siri|
Has it only been one year?
This time last year, I met my pardner in crime and buddy in horseland adventure time. At the time, he was a wooly mammoth who couldn’t even walk in a straight line carrying with a rider much less figure out the complex twelve jump courses we weave around now. I would have never thought that he would teach me so much more than I’ve taught him in 12 short months.
The most important lessons he’s taught me are:
Patience - This one’s the biggest lesson and one I’ve been working on my entire life. I’ve learned with Ryon that things won’t happen on my timeframe, even if I try my damndest to make it so. It’s easy to get frustrated when he spooks at the wind and ducks at shadows cast by the arena bleachers that we have to have ridden by hundreds of times. I have waited with him in the blistering Texas heat for fifteen minutes, nervously hovering over a manhole cover before he was convinced that he could put a hoof on it without it wouldn’t collapsing. I’ve spent over half an hour trying to convince him, politely and then more forcefully, to cross a bridge that countless joggers and bikers have traversed over in front of his own eyes. Ryon Standard Time does not go by any clock (although you could set one to his stomach) and my newly found patience has saved me so much further stress and anguish.
Look for and pay attention to small cues - Not everything is going to be obvious (he doesn’t wave big red flags, or any flags at all really) and you have to pay attention to the details. Pinning his ears back in the stall means “it’s too cold to work out Mom and you had better believe I’m going to be a butt when I get out there.” Eyeing me every time I brush his left side means “did you forget, I’m extra ticklish there.” Also, small things snowball into big things and if you can catch the tiny things, good or bad, you can adjust to the subtly, which isn’t underappreciated.
Don’t project - I am, as many are, guilty of anthropomorphizing my pet. I expect him to pick up on my emotions and insecurities and I saddle him (zing) with his very own, not of his choosing I might add. He’s “sad” when I haven’t come out to see him or “mad” when I wear spurs to ride. I have to remind myself constantly that he’s a horse and he’s got his own set of horsey worries (like when is mealtime, how much will I get to eat during mealtime, when is the next mealtime after that, etc.) without me foisting another set of foibles on top of those. I am also guilty of letting a bad day, a cold, exhaustion affect my ride or how I interact with Ryon. Mostly, he just eyes me calmly but I’m sure inside he’s shaking his head and thinking “Oh silly, puny humans, how I pity you. Now give me my food.”
Stop micromanaging - Everything must be perfect according to my rules. As we train on a course, I’ll tweak and twist, trying to get everything just right every step of the way. As a result, I oftentimes get in his way and piss him off (there I go again) when he’s trying to figure things out for himself. My trainer won’t stop reminding me to trust him to do his job and focus on fixing myself. And isn’t that so true about so many things in life.
I’m sure that year two will bring its own set of success and challenges and Ryon’s “voice” will become stronger and clearer. My trainer swears he speaks with a French accent. Thank you all for your encouragement and support throughout it all - Ryon and I both appreciate it greatly.