We all know that riding horses can be full of fears, bad timing, lack of strength or skill and miscommunication. Hazards of riding a 1000 pound animal are a plenty! And when these negative issues outweigh the positive feelings of companionship, partnership, athleticism and good timing, then one can easily wonder if riding is worth it.
Today I watched my student make that all-important shift from being a passenger and victim to the horse’s decisions to becoming the Captain of the team. It was one of the best things I have witnessed for a long time. Being a victim makes a rider feel powerless and always a day late to the party. Any horse can learn that they are in charge of the party when that happens, and suddenly the opinionated animal is pretty much dancing however they want to over everyone’s toes.
I have felt like my teenager student has been emotionally crushed by the realization that her unicorn is not fulfilling her dreams. She has been hurt by the idea that the mare might not like her as much as she loves her and the partnership is failing. While she has not said that in so many words, there is the crushing loss of hopes and dreams when she has had stops, rears and lack of control that have been witnessed publically in a competition.
But, today I watched a fairly quick turnaround in my student. She had to reach rock bottom before she found her own voice in the relationship. She is no longer a victim to the horse’s whims and decisions. She has conquered her fear to change the horse’s mind and be stronger and have better timing to do so. She is now the Captain of the team and she is not putting up with any more crap from the mare.
And guess what…… the horse is 100% OK with that; in fact she is not just OK, she is thrilled with the switch of power structure. She is happier and willing to do what is asked of her now because she has a leader she can rely on.
Horse trainers are who we are because we innately know how to mold and dictate to the horse what we want to convey with good timing and clarity. Trainers are not messy or have grey areas of communication. We are a black and white bunch that are very direct, because that is fair and just for a horse. It’s much harder for an adult amateur or a junior to figure out how to be tough as nails and get the job done.
It’s scary to break out of an old relationship and create a new one, and I couldn’t be more proud of my girl for doing it. She is about to go off to college and I can’t imagine a more empowering, black and white message for a young woman to carry with her on her next adventure.