It’s been six weeks of ground work only (with the exception of 3 low pressure rides in the last couple weeks) for Odys and I.
It has been a fascinating unwinding for him. To see him begin to open up his movement and body, build significant connection to his hind end and as a result of those things begin to find a new level of relaxation. He’s gone from a bit *extra* in the tack stall to happy to relax into patience. His presence has somehow gotten bigger, as has his expression.
For me it has been a mix of inspiring, reassuring and at times disconcerting throughout this ongoing process. Inspiring and reassuring because there has been frequent moments of really feeling a positive connection and relationship building moments. Moments where he looks to me for guidance and also guides me towards what he needs in terms of support.
Disconcerting, because at times true connection can feel heavy, angry, conflicting and scary.
Spending time with him last night was one of those more disconcerting moments. To an outside eye this may not align with the image. On the ground he was his new usual relaxed, willing self. I had intended a short ride if there seemed to be acceptance from him and once I got on I was astounded at the different horse I was on top of.
I’m used to this horse shifting about every six weeks. Over the past year of working with him that’s been the general norm. This was one of those times. Perhaps the first time I’ve had full contact with the new strength and physical connection beginning to arrive in his body.
It can be unsettling in a way to get on a horse you work so closely with and have to completely reassess your part in a partnership physically and otherwise, so frequently.
Throughout our ride yesterday I routinely felt like emotions were high for Odys. This was one of the things that led us to a dedicated period on groundwork and unlayer work. Nevertheless he stayed in contact with me, even if the vibes he was throwing were at times quite intense.
I felt quite conflicted during and after our ride. On one hand it felt as though I was perhaps pushing him farther than he was wanting/ready to go, even if objectively my ask was quite low. I felt disconnected and even at fault for his emotions (this perhaps foreshadows my own emotional history).
On another hand it could be philosophized that the things I was feeling coming from Odys were proof that our connection is becoming stronger. There’s a safety in him showing me his inner world in a way that didn’t exist before. Before things would be fine until they weren’t, and I was blindsided by a tantrum from him. Now I can get a sense of his feelings, and even though they aren’t always pleasant they are at least being communicated in a way I can tap into consistently.
Relationships have a way of testing that understanding of connection. Truly being connected doesn’t mean sunshine and butterflies, all the time. It actually means holding space for the conflicts, “negative” emotions and turmoil that inevitably exists in all of us and within a relationship.
Perhaps my sense of being an instigator was wrongly placed where a sense of ally-ship should have been. In stepping away from strict agendas and expectations I find sometimes when I do set intentions or hope for outcomes I now sometimes feel guilty for expecting anything other than what was. Chalking that up to adjustment pains for now.
In many ways I think it’s safe to say that my ego around riding, specifically riding Odys, is having to re-identify itself. I can get on other horses and feel confident and settled into “who I know myself to be” in the saddle. Odys shakes all that up. It’s confidence shaking and likely a definite sign of growth that will lead us somewhere at some point. Honestly, lately, it feels like early stage dating where theres a constant, low grade anxiety around “do they like me, do they not?”. I did venture into this with the intention of building a rock solid relationship with this horse.. I suppose I’m getting what I wished for (while simultaneously bringing out both of our traumas to heal in the process.).
As with many past experiences I am choosing to move forwards with faith, even when I experience doubt or anxiety. As I always tell my clients “if things are changing, we’re on a path forwards”. Relationship building also means practicing vulnerability, which isn’t always comfortable to either party at first. I think this is the stage we are working with currently.