Week 5: Riding
Okay, this isn’t a new-as-is-never-been-done-before activity. It has, though, been a while (like, 7+ years) since I’ve received sustained instruction and training on horseback. And even in the past week of riding again, I've noticed a bubbling within of a different way of being with these magnificent creatures.
Let me back up: in December, I moved back to California to reorganize myself, begin new projects, and look for a job I resonated with. For one week, while her car was in the shop, I dropped my mom off at work. She works near a big equestrian center, and for those five days I heard the lessons, and, through the trees and ivy, saw glimpses of riders with their horses,
I really wanted to ride with instruction, to be around horses again. Not having a stable source of income, I felt too under-resourced to pay for lessons, but still a soul-level yearning to be with them.
In late January, my former trainer posted on Facebook saying that she needed a rider to help her train two green horses 3-5 mornings per week. (Not literally green, inexperienced.) I didn't see her post until three days after she wrote it, and several others had replied suggesting other riders. I'm also rusty, but I commented anyways.
So it worked out.
It's important for me to say that I don't consider myself 'lucky' for receiving this opportunity — although grateful and fortunate for sure. If you know that you are called to something, for some reason, that seems unattainable, please know that by remaining open to creative solutions and not shutting out the possibility, it can happen in a way you were not expecting. In a way not within your power of arranging, and perhaps not according to your intended timing. It's not luck, but holding on to a higher vision.
One of the horses I ride is a half-Arabian riding pony from Germany, Johnny, and the other is a Selle Français named Sando, whose name I thought was Sandal in December. Like a shoe.
What personalities! Johnny is focused, serious, eager to please, and also tends towards anxiety and tension. He doesn't like any objects moving towards him, including horses. Sando is a giant teddy bear and also very distracted. His human equivalent would be a toddler with a very short attention span.
They are both gentle and especially sweet in their natures, and Johnny is especially interested in yummies. In their own individual ways, they have already both captivated my heart. Riding them is also challenging — again, in their own individual ways. Johnny is a vacation to ride compared to Sando, who I need to hold the focus for, but I also want to learn how to relax with Johnny. I can tend to be a nervous rider.
When a horse is tense, it isn't easy for me to relax, even though that's what often will calm the horse down. I can see how learning to relax first — before the horse I'm riding does — can be a skill in uncertain life circumstances as well as in riding.
The essence of what this post is about is a new relationship with riding that I have noticed emerge within me. I was always interested in riding as a means of being in relationship with a horse, for I have always loved being in the presence of these animals first and foremost, but in elementary through high school the elements of showmanship and competition were a more integral part of my riding.
Now, my interest is really in developing relationship with another living entity. In my somatic energy course, Body Into Being, we have been exploring finding 'sweet spot' in a relational field. In the course's exercises, we practice with another human, but I am beginning to see riding as essentially an act of finding sweet spot with an equine. It is not that tension and conflict are not supposed to manifest in sweet spot, but rather that they are met, acknowledged in full expression, and worked through.
The first row is Sando, the second is Johnny:
I want to end by sharing another dimension of my return to riding. My horse in high school, Solomon, died on this ranch in November 2008. I haven't spent any time on there since I graduated, so to return after nearly a decade brings back memories of him. Especially of his attitude and his fondness for not working!
On the same spot that he transitioned from his life is now a stand-alone stall that houses a rescue miniature horse named Cupcake. It's sweet for me to see that every day, especially with little Cupcake grazing inside.
Sando's stall is also Solomon's old stall, and it's interesting to begin a new relationship with a horse that shares that space.
Solomon's passing was the first in my life that felt right to me — although his departure wasn't exactly anticipated, I was with him and a beautiful peace washed over me in the moments, minutes, and hours after he left his body. Being in the same place isn't hard, although I do miss him, and it brings a sense of completion for me. I wrote the Wash U college application essay about my relationship with him and his passing, and I still feel his presence in my life.
So to be here with Johnny and Sando allows for both beginnings and remembrances — beginnings for these new relationships to develop and flourish, and a subtle sense of remembering, in every aspect, my sassy-pants of a horse.
Here is me and Barney, my first horse love, in a show around 1999, and Solomon in October 2007. We had a Halloween barn party and so he was 'King Solomon' (#CleverClever) and allowed me to put a crown on him for some reason.