So, despite my promise to write about the myriad books I’ve read about horses, and natural horsemanship, and the esoterica of the mythology of the horse, etc, I haven’t, but believe me when I say that I’ve read a lot. I read before I rode. I read before I do just about anything, to be honest. So I’ve been through your Monty Roberts, your Linda Kohanov, your Chris Irwin, your Linda Tellington-Jones. I’ve absorbed the teachings, and would have been trying them out, all this time, but hey, no horse, and it’s unfair to schoolies to give them a little bit of something without consistency. I’ve ridden a variety of horses over the past two and a half years — I think the count may be up to fourteen? Fifteen? — and I haven’t encountered the kind of horse I’ve been reading about, the kind that is sensitive to me, as rider and as person, and who will demonstrate, to me, in a holistic, yet non-nonsense, and if I’m being truthful, creepily prescient way, how I need to grow.
I’ve never met that horse, until now, and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
I didn’t get Jack at Festina Lente yesterday. I knew I wouldn’t, not once I saw Morris in the holding pen. I just knew. An absolutely gigantic skewbald cobby giant, he raised his head as I crossed to him, and we looked at each other. 18hh, with a chest the approximate width of a Hyundai, he sniffed my nose. I blew back. He rubbed his eye on my shoulder. Okay. This could work.
And it did, if by ‘work’ you’re thinking total exposure of one’s faults and drawbacks, as opposed to a bunch of trots and canters about the place. There was an equine assisted learning class going on in the short end of the indoor, and the two horses in there came over to check out the one horse in here, and one of the horse over there, feeling threatened by my big guy, lunged, and so Morris spooked, and I didn’t fall off, but that’s all it takes, sometimes, isn’t it?
So we’re both a little spooky, now, his head is straight up, and I’m pushing with my seat, except it’s not so good that I’m pushing with my seat, and that freaks him out more, and the first trot is fast enough — and me still trying to acclimate to the bitless bridle — to make me fall in on myself, to immediately want to get down, to have lost my nerve.
So we walk, a lot, we have one trot of about ten paces at the very end that isn’t complete shite, and I want Jack back, but I’m not getting him back. It’s me and Morris, and I just want to pack it in, thanks but no thanks… but then what? I want to not learn how to ride properly? I’m sure I can keep to the legions of people who manage to ride, but never manage to transcend the kick-and-jerk school of equestrianship, but I don’t want to be that person. Dammit.
I talk with the instructor, and apparently the pushing with the seat thing is what got us off on such a bad foot. My seat, along with my hands, needs to be quiet. I have to shout at Rebel — I need to whisper to Morris. As I nodded and took this in, she looked at me and said, ‘You work too hard.’
I reckon that people have probably spend thousands on years of therapy, and never gotten as clear, concise, and true diagnosis as that. Yes. I work too hard, try too hard, have to be perfect, can’t fail. Well, shit. I was going to say ‘I thought I’ve knocked that on the head’, but I know I haven’t. And it’s not something that is so readily apparent — unless you’re riding a horse that kicks such a quality into the spotlight.
I’ll be chewing over that one for a while. And as much as I’d prefer to run and hide and quit and go try to find something new to be perfect at, I’ll be back on Morris in a fortnight, and maybe, just maybe, I won’t work so hard.