Facebook reminded me that yesterday marked 1 year since bringing Doofus home. Its been one heck of a year full of ups, downs, sideways, doubts and moments of redemption. Typical when talking about a year with horses.
I had had Gem for so long that most of our time together was predictable. We were so in sync by the end of our partnership that I could think something and, as long as she agreed with the something I was thinking, she would do it.
Bringing in a new horse was…well…new to me. I sorta expected to pick right up where I had been with Gem only a whole lot farther because I chose a much better trained and more advanced horse. Ha! HAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHA. Everyone done laughing yet??? Me neither.
Flash forward to today and we are both much changed. I’m not where I expected nor wanted to be at this point, but I think I am where I need to be with him right now given the rest of my life. Today I want to celebrate the changes in myself that have occurred thanks to the Big Orange Butthead over the last 365 days.
Let’s start with fear. With Gem there was always, no matter if it was riding down the same trail I’d been down a million times or riding at home in the arena, a steel ball in my stomach. She was never bad in the way of bolting, bucking, rearing shenanigans, but that mare could twist her body in a way that would make a contortionist envious. She was athletic enough to do it at the last second too which made fully trusting her pretty hard.
Now H’Appy isn’t a perfect saint. He has his opinions and has a naughty streak in him that Gem lacked. He isn’t afraid to pop those front feet off the ground in protest of real work. Yet, looking back now I can’t recall the last time I felt that steel ball in my stomach. I don’t 100% trust him yet, but I am also not fearful when I ride and am more apt to be aggressive with him in getting my way than I ever was before.
Which leads me into my style of riding. Gem taught me to be defensive. See above regarding her contortionist ways and add on the fact that she held a grudge like no other. I tended to be a bit passive with her in order to not escalate things. With H’Appy, I am learning how to apply pressure fairly and consistently and how to demand that we do the thing now and not when he decides to comply. It isn’t always pretty and my timing isn’t always perfect, but it is getting better and better all the time. The mere fact that I am willing to dig in a force the issue when I have already asked nicely a time or two is a big, big step for me. In the past I’d sorta wimp out and decide to do something else instead. Now, when I want a 20 m circle over there I do it even if it takes 3 times to get it done.
I’m also starting to really hone in and focus on my own riding. With Gem, it was often times a task of mere survival and compromising certain things (like leg on which she never learned to tolerate) to get through. With H’Appy, while some days he comes out a piss ant for no reason, I still can calm him down within 10-15 minutes of working and then start focusing on my hands, my elbows, where my legs on, am I breathing, can I soften?
Last, I’m finally in a place where I feel adventurous again. My youth was spent exploring the country side on horse back riding over mountains, swimming across rivers, and galloping through fields. No place and no task was met with a no from me. With Gem I learned to pick what activities would suit us and was more than happy to attend certain events, like a xc school, and watch from the sidelines or focus on tasks on our own. It was ok at the time, but now I’m finding that with H’Appy even though I’m not quite sure how he will react in certain situations. I want to do the things and figure them out as we go. This may change as I start taking him out and figure out his behavior but for now I have the urge to do all the things and see where we land once again.
Overall, even with all the blips and speed bumps we have encountered this past year, I’m really excited to see the changes I’ve made to my riding and my mental space while riding. It has been a fun ride, most of the time, and I feel ready to jump back into lessons and get this party started for real!