Just like entrepreneurship, adulthood, injury rehab, art or gardening.. riding and horse-personship is an excellent, humbling journey in non-linear progression.
Re-reading my last post and reflecting on the past few months I can feel old, linear ways of thinking creeping in. Something in recent weeks I have been reminded is a fast way to feel stuck.
If only it were as simple as setting the goal of stepping back into the riding world and achieving all my crazy horse girl dreams!
Working with a horse like Odys is a stark example of steps forwards, pause, perceive things backsliding, then realizing it’s all moving you onwards just in more of a roller coaster style instead of a level, groomed hill.
I left my last post off with the ambition of heading off property for our first time for a jump school. This went as predicted. Low-key, high headed chaos, some trailering dramas, my first fall in about 8 years, Odys reminding me he is a young horse more than once. Amidst all that we managed some really nice rounds around the jump course and all in all survived. Falling off for the first time in a long time (and surviving) was actually a relief. An experience that tends to get built up into intrusive, catastrophic thoughts when left untouched for too long.
In a year now of knowing and partnering with Odys, there are definite trends of fast progress followed by growth spurts and necessary time off or low pressure periods. We will have a major breakthrough, a series of phenomenal rides and be super connected.. and then seemingly out of nowhere a “young horse” thing comes screaming out of the blue, or his body changes and we need to back track a little bit to regroup. None of this has surprised me, however in an industry and society full of linear progression points- sometimes it is easy to get carried away on the thought train of “what am I missing?”.
Odys is also not just any six year old, adolescent phase equine. His earlier years were likely rife with high pressure, no wiggle room expectations. He was bred by an Amish group to become a cart horse. The patterns he’s shown to me would align with old fashioned “breaking” methods that by today’s modern standards to most would classify as abusive. On top of this, he is not a personality that would willingly if ever fit that mold to begin with.
Over the past year I feel that I’ve managed quite successfully to rebuilt his physical body and movement to one of function and confidence. Over that year there were periods where it was clear there was more emotional and energetic “things” to work through too, and as it so often does with human rehab, now that the physical is transformed the door is opening for those more abstract and non-tangible things to emerge for processing.
I’ve become increasingly aware of this. More than once in the past couple months we are hitting emotional territory. Blocking points where the general vibe seems to be dissociative tantrums, feet stomping included, and the assumption that there is no conversation to be had about it.
For those of you reading this thinking “wHaT iS sHe TaLkInG AbOuT? Horses and eMoTiOnS? UnReSoLvEd tRaUmA?!”. I am going there. I was never not a believer that horse’s have, mirror, hold, and repress emotions, experiences and trauma, but this horse specifically has installed that belief firmly in my knowing.
These moments of tantrums I’ve found in our work together the past few months wreak of old beliefs and behaviours. From my experience “things” like this tend to emerge only when one is safe and ready to process them, and objectively speaking I have built a horse physically capable of this new level of release and confidence building.
Lately we are taking a step back to re-integrate both our bodies. For him that means lots of conscious ground work and lunge work. For me that’s stepping back into my own conscious movement and getting more connected to a cross training program. Movement feels GOOD again, and motivating, after a few years of on and off energy issues and imbalances.
I am aware of a tendency of mine to easily slide into burnout patterns, linear only thinking is one of my warning signs. How lucky am I to have a horse so obviously working with some of the same awarenesses, and much more in tune at times than I can be.
Last night I chose to simply spend some time in Odys’s paddock with him. It started with going to give him an apple and ended an hour and him guiding my hands through a few massage points he needed released. I’m not sure if I’ve felt that connected to him in the past, and perhaps that was one of the most true moments of tossing my agenda I’ve permitted in a while. Connection, I’m sensing, happens less on an agenda and more just in the moment.
The curious thing about riding, especially if you view working with horses as a part of it, as a sport and hobby is that it consistently and pointedly ignores the agenda and linear process we all so desperately cling to at times. I’d much rather learn to listen and deepen my own awareness than have the need fore more blatant cues (like injury, illness and burn out) force me to step back.