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A Buck for Humility

August 24, 2011

Have you ever met that person who knows everything there is to know about a subject - and yet, they've never actually experienced it? Ya, that's me. I've learned that through becoming a parent, but that's not what I'm going to focus on.
Growing up, I wanted a horse. I tried Shel Silverstein's idea, threatening my parents with "I'll die if you don't get me a horse." (It didn't work) I ended up riding and showing other peoples' horses. In retrospect, it wasn't a bad gig. However, I didn't give up on my dream to own a horse.
I studied. I knew the horse's body parts, how to saddle/bridle, showing, grooming - and I won showmanship several years. I stayed on and "gracefully dismounted" when horses spooked. Still, I didn't have my own horse.
Then during my first pregnancy, a family offered to give me a free colt. He broke his leg when he was 5 months and they knew I wanted to use horses in mental health therapy at some point. So, they gave me the now-healed 5-month-old colt. I was excited.
In the first week I had him, he went through a barbed wire fence - twice. We weren't sure he'd ever be rideable due to his early injury, but he sure wasn't helping.
I didn't get to work with him as much as I hoped. I know 8 miles isn't very far to drive - but sometimes it seems like a land far, far away. Timing was horrid, too. After all, I was in my second trimester and winter set in. Then I had my C-section and complications seemed to lay me up all the next summer. Thankfully, my father-in-law did work with him when he could.
More recently, I sent him to a trainer. However, timing was off again. He returned to us just after my second child was born. We put him in the corral and to show us how athletic he was, he jumped the fence. He's jumped several since then, too. And so, he got to "play" for two months.
A week ago, I decided no more excuses - I was going to ride. It was an ordeal getting the saddle and bridle on him. He was jumpy and completely freaked out. We worked and worked. Finally, after hours, he would let me stand in the stirrup. So I gently swung over.
He bucked and took off. I had one rein, but the other slipped away. The person holding him lost hold. I tried to dismount, but every time I got my leg up, he'd buck and I was back in the saddle. We headed straight for the barn and I knew I was coming off. He turned, bucked and I hit the barn with my left side. I know I was on the ground when I looked up to make sure he was getting away from me. I remember seeing his hooves. I must have skidded, too, because I came up with a massive scrape on my back. And my head must have hit the barn because the back of it was bruised.
Did I mention every horse I ever rode had 1000's of dollars worth of training? Some even had 10's of 1000's! Did I mention I had never used a snaffle bit? Did I mention I knew nothing about the reality of riding a young horse? Did I mention I have no patience and pushed the horse's comfort level?
I had the trainer return to help me with my horse. OK, I had the trainer return to help me. Have you seen the movie, Buck? Horses have a way of sensing and reacting to their environment. I've done trainings for my mental health practice which involved horses. I've seen first-hand how a horse can affect people, even people who are "role-playing."
So, on Monday night, I told myself that I was to be a sponge. I was going to soak up everything the trainer said and did. She had me work with the horse, mimicking her moves. Earn the horse's respect, but teach him who is in charge. Remain patient, even though he "should" know better. Stay with him, send him clear signals.
It reminded me how much I can learn about myself through a horse. It reminded me of how I need to respond to others - clear signals, earn respect, remain patient.
Is it always easy - no. It's only the day after my lesson and I've already been frustrated with my daughter. I've sent blurred signals to my husband, who was only trying to help.
However, I'm hoping it doesn't always take my horse bucking me off for me to keep learning my lessons. My body can't handle it!

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