Things that never stop me:
Time of Day
Pain in my body
Things that never stop me:
Time of Day
Pain in my body
“High School Horse? What do you mean my horse is a High School horse? Are you saying my emotional state is that of a high schooler?” asked my student as we were processing why her horse was threatening to buck.
“No,” I said. “We are using the words in different ways.”
“You keep saying horses are 3/4 year olds,” she said in confusion.
“Yes, their hardware of their brains is similar to a four year old human, and their heart field is big. Developmentally a four year old is learning social play and cooperative games. They not able to control their emotions. They think symbolically and believe in magic. They communicate by acting things out in their play.
In the dressage world, “high school” means the finest, most sensitive horse capable of learning the highest levels of the horsemanship art. She is the horse that belongs in a museum to represent the ideal form. She is conscious of every movement of every muscle in your body, every movement of your spine and every thought in every breath.
She wants to communicate from this space.”
A friend of mine sparked my interested in the new game Red Dead Redemption. Apparently this is a hot game. Some people I know have purchased a new PlayStation 4 system simply to play the game.
I heard my brother’s roommate had a few hours of play logged so I asked him about it and I established myself as a horse person. I’m not normally a social person. In fact I tend to reserve my thoughts for moments of absolute necessity, so I surprised myself a bit when I spoke.
As I was collecting myself I found myself listening to him describe the tier or levels of horses you can develop through the game. You can start an undeveloped horse, bond with it and train it. At the highest level it will come to when you call from anywhere on the map.
And I said, “Yeah, that makes sense. My horses come to me when I whistle.”
In awe, he said, “I didn’t know they actually do that.”
In a softer voice I said, “I have a herd of horses that come to me when I call.”
There was silence in the room for a moment, and then the conversation turned to what he was going to name his horse.
The horse world is a sub-culture. Like any sub-culture it has it’s own rules, ethics, language, etc. Words mean things, it is like a code for those who are in the know.
Even the word Equestrian means something different than Horse-person or Cowboy/Cowgirl, etc.
There is a difference between an owner, rider, trainer, etc. The industry has roles and specialties like a veterinarian, farrier, coach, trainer, instructor, body worker, breeder, etc.
I made the choice to attend a two year equestrian college immediately out of high school. I was barely 18 years old and had hopes for working in the horse industry as a trainer. I knew I needed more time and experience before I could take on the endeavor. We studied and rode all seats, spending the first year focused on western riding, dressage and hunt seat. The second year we started colts, rode western performance and cross-country. We had management classes, pre-vet classes, nutrition, teaching, etc. Other peers went on to management positions, vet school and other teaching positions. I took a people track and became a mental health counselor. The need for health insurance after I graduated led me to pursue more school, and I pursued other passions while I taught riding lessons, cleaned stalls and exercised horses on the side. I bred my mare twice, bought and sold horses and took up the study of hoof trimming.
Today I have three horses of my own and a small client load of students and horses that I help. I find I spend more time sitting quietly on the back of a horse, leaned over the saddle horn while I help others find their seat than I do on the back of show horses.
I never made it to the show pen. I don’t have ribbons or championships behind my name, but I do know horses. I respect the sportsmanship side of things, but I respect my horses enough to not ask them to do things I know they can’t do, so I don’t show.
I’ve had my own truck and trailer for a brief time, but not for long. The truck was too small and the trailer was old an eventually rusted through. Every extra dollar goes into feeding my animals, which does not leave much left over for a fancy car, new clothes, or trailer repairs. Horse people live in self imposed poverty, we are forever the indentured servant of our four legged friends.
And it is worth it.
It has taken some time to write this post, as it did occur to me as something to do until today.
My good friend and companion of 20 years passed away. For those of you in the horse world you will know what this means. Our journey together is the inspiration for what I do today. Here is her story as I know how to tell it.
MWF Delicja is a 1996 grey mare by A Fire Bey V. She was donated to a program I worked for as a yearling by a big breeding farm. They had a large crop and did to flood the market, so they donated their babies to the program. They sold off the horses, keeping the ones with the calmest temperament. When she came into my life she was identified as the calmest filly of the group. We broke breed stereotypes together and she eared a reputation as a “Quarter Horse in an Arab’s body.”
We showed as a finished reining horse against the quarter horses and did well. We traveled to college, worked at breeding farms, she helped raise countless babies and gave just as may kids their first ride. She was in parades, went to the fair and raised two foals of her own and co-parented an orphan foal. She taught my OTTB’s how to stay calm and centered.
We climbed mountains and chased deer in the desert.
She became my bridleless demo horse, my teaching horse and a finished bridle horse.
Most of all she was my friend, companion and confidant for my teenage and young adult years. I am lucky to have had her in my life for the time we were together and I know my grief will stay with me for a long time as I continue to journey in this world without her.
I have three horses with me right now. Marque, Stormy (aka Kitty) and Jewel. Marque has been with me for some time now. We are riding more and I am expecting more from him atheletically. We ride in a western saddle, all purpose jumping saddle and a dressage saddle. I find I use the western saddle mostly for teaching and introducing new ideas. Then we integrate the ideas with the jumping saddle and deepen our understanding in the dressage saddle.
Today I used the western saddle to help him find his balance at the trot and canter. We worked trot and worked trot-canter transitions.
In our work he improved his transitions, followed my body in a working trot and began to develop impulsion at the trot. He is more supple to the right today. Lateral work to the left seemed to improve his suppleness through his poll and withers. We got one change of direction from right to left that was very well balanced. He wants to fall out behind to the left and left lead canter is very heavy. He preferred his right lead today, but I think it is because we have been schooling it so much lately. He did a flying change from right to left to keep himself balanced while we were working a hill. After he chewed on that thought for a while he was willing to offer his left lead when asked on the flat.
Next ride will continue to develop figure eights, lateral work to the left and canter departs from the walk from both leads.
I have traveled more than most and, when I meet people who travel more than I do I get a short pang of jealousy in my gut. Traveling feels like a privilage not afforded to everyone. I carries an air of wealth and status. In my experience it can be done inexpensively, but often requires enough surplus to put ones working life on hold long enough to vacate our daily life.
I was fortunate to travel abroad when I was young. I lived close enough to the Canadian border in Washington State that a day trip or overnight trip was an easy task. Like traveling out of State, when I leave my place of residence I notice they ways I have grown accustom to the culture of my place. The roads, the laws, the customs, all begin to become a part of me and my daily habits. Simple things like translating from American measurements to international Metric is enough to exercise my mind and get me out of my self. Gallons become Liters and Miles become Kilometers. The time it takes to travel feels faster when it is measured in units I am not accustomed to, and money has a different value when it buys a different unit of measurement.
I am writing this as I sit in a hotel in Brisbane, Australia. I am in Queensland. My circadian rhythms have adjusted to the rhyrhms of nature here. My body is settling into the sensory experience of driving on the left side of the road. Personal space is a little bit closer than in America and men are relaxed and confident.
Yet the biggest shock is the coffee. They say coffee is international. Here is is guarded, hard to access. I did not realize how much I took it for granted in the states. A $2 cup in the states is $4 to $5 here. And everything is espresso. I shocked the barista when I asked what kind they have. The names are the same, but the pours are different. The sensory experience is similar to what I would order in the states, yet something still feels different.
Of all my habits, all my rituals, coffee is the one that takes me out of my routine the most. Finding it, ordering it, the value placed on it, and the sensory experience is what marks my travels more than any other experience I have had abroad so far.