I do like horses
Have I mentioned that? Just in case I did not – I do like horses. I need them as I need air. I can live without riding, but not without horses. I need the soft nose, the brown eyes, their beautiful grace when they move outside on the field. The little sounds of delight when brushing a good spot or when they consider me a good rider. I love that. I love spending time with them.
I am a horse trainer. I am naïve. As long as I am doing this job, I do need to hold on my naivety. That is the only way to survive. I do believe that people are having horses because they like them. And I manage to believe that. Until I enter a public riding arena.
Lately, in the riding arena.
There’s horse running through the arena, scared and with wide open eyes. Bad body language and little horse knowledge put that poor thing in a corner. The owner is fiddling around with a long whip, complaining about a lazy horse that doesn’t want to move.
In another arena I see three riders. All of them post on Instagram how much they love their wonderful horses. Taking a selfie before jumping up. But sitting on a horse obviously does not make happy. None of them is smiling. Faces are red, sweaty, angry. The reins are tight, the noseband tighter. For not falling of, there’s an extra saddle required. Glue on the pants.
Another setting. I happen to be close to my neighbour when riding myself. A scared an unexperienced “want to be” professional rider, trying to break in a youngster. The horse is wrapped like a Christmas package, not having an idea what to do. The rider shouts on him while whipping. I get scared myself.
Once more changing the setting. I see a rider sitting up, and spending the warm up phase typing messages on the phone. The horse walks on autopilot, the wall is leading. On the circle, there is another horse and human on the lunge. Smartphone on. Changing in between Facebook and different phone calls. Afterwards telling on Facebook how wonderful her horse performed today. And don't forget the selfie.
Why do you ride?
Be honest to yourself for a second. Why do you ride?
I am breaking some news here: Riding is a luxury. This beautiful, powerful animal allows us to sit on its back. But you don’t have too. You are allowed to do so. If you do not like horses, do something else. There are nice other spare time activities, most of them even less expensive.
We all have a bad day. We all have darker periods in our lives, when we are not exactly happy, shiny and playful. Of course, that is mirrored in our riding. But there is a huge difference between a bad day and a general attitude.
Are you riding for your ego, or for your horse?
Do you remember? Once upon a time, when life was good when you were only allowed to muck shit and smell some horse? When your day was brighter when a nostril brushed your hand?
Does that still make you happy? Or is it the social experience. The next competition, the next win, the next success? Is it telling your neighbour you
managed another “wild” horse? How good the horse became with your care, when I see a limping horse struggling to stay on its legs?
Are you able and interested in shutting your ego off?
What are your goals?
Do you have some? For me, I always wanted to understand the horse as a whole. I want to learn and to understand how the dream that made me start, the effortless communication in between horse and human, can become reality. It made me curious. It made me curious enough to start a never-ending journey of research and education. One good step makes me curious for more. More good steps make me even more curious. One bad step makes me desperate. I like to understand how the good is repeatable, and the bad is avoidable. I like to understand how my bad days, my lower limits, can get a higher and higher level. How do I influence my horse? How is our connection lightest? I am addicted to that feeling of mutual connection, of the moments of grace where our breathing melts and our thoughts are stirring our bodies in the arena. I feel good when my horse does.
My rider’s life is simple.
A good day of riding is bliss and the world is good. A bad riding day and the world is horrible.
In riding, we’re in a 50% of a team. 50% is the horse. If I am training 10 horses and have a bad training with one – it’s the horse having a bad day, and a trainer not able to catch the horse’s mindset. If I am training 10 and 10 trainings are bad, it was most likely not the horses’ mindset that was difficult.
I know myself since a while.
I know that I am triggered by stress in the riding arena. I know that I cannot always coope with bad energies around me when I am not mentally strong. I know I am not the best version of myself than. Therefore, I usually choose to not train if there is bad company out there. There’re still some days I cannot avoid it. Because my schedule is tight, because I am stupid, because my desire to feel my horse is to big, because I do feel I have to do something or have to obey some orders. Nowadays, I am trying a new strategy. I start with sitting up on my horse, standing in the centre of the circle, closing my eyes and focusing on my breath. I try to blend out the craziness around me and to create a mental bubble around my horse and me. If I am mentally strong enough, it works fantastically, and I can manage to ride nice and fluffy in this craziness. If not, I am staying with my “SAFE” exercises and better quickly get out again.
There is nothing as provocating as relaxation.
It is not always easy to be me. Seeing the pain in equine eyes, hearing the canter of a horse being more Tölt than a three beat. Seeing a horse coming into the arena perfectly clean but
being lame on all legs after 15 minutes of interesting training. I can physically feel the pain in my body, hear the silent pledge.
Living big parts of my life in academies, in protected environments, where education, knowledge and deep love and respect towards equines, surviving in a public arena is kind of challenging for me. I have been trying different strategies to survive in a shared riding arena. I tried to talk to people, I tried to give unwanted advice, judgement and education. I tried to be the advocate of the horse. I tried to ignore.
Sometimes, I got extremely angry by the despair and helplessness I felt in the horse, not being able to protect it. I am a liver type. I cannot always help myself. I was not extremely successful. I promised me to try staying with myself. I barely got as strong reactions as by my meditation exercise.
You cannot rescue all.
There’s nothing stronger than leading by example. Relaxation appears to be extremely provoking. From astonished faces to anger to trying to get me off the horse – I met all different versions.
Isn't the idea sad that after 20 years of riding, you still have not found out that trot is a two beat and walk
a four beat? And you still shout at your horse because you feel unworthy yourself? It is your feeling, and only you are responsible for it. It is your decision to change it. You are free to start
Maybe some riders feel inspired. Maybe some are interested to start their own journey. Start learning today. You will discover how much you do not have an idea of, even after decades of riding. There is no end. But too how quick improvement comes when your heart is open and your interest genuine. If there is just one human to inspire, for that human’s horse the world will change. True connection is mutual. And maybe that is all we can hope for.
Enjoy the journey to your horse.
Thank you for taking time to follow my thoughts. I hope you like it.
Comments, ideas and feedback are welcome underneath.
Feel free to share!