Duet: Part 2

rocky2008

 

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” Anais Nin


 

The first time I met our horse Rocky, he and Mark were working together. It was Rocky’s first clinic, and the first time traveling to one, as well as the first time he was so far away from where he was born seven years prior, and then raised. He wasn’t too sure about anything. For three days I watched as Mark worked with him, mostly at the halt and walk to help him feel better about things.

On the fourth day during the lunch break, Rocky, still tied to a hitch rail and saddled, very carefully laid down and took a nap.

Fast forward six months: Rocky and I were working together. I did my best to continue the work Mark had started, now at the walk and trot. We worked several clinics a month for two years. One day he felt so quiet that I asked him if we could canter. He did, and it was so easy and relaxed that I laughed with joy. 

rocky2007

Through the years, dozens of trips back and forth across the country, with Rocky spending time with both Mark and I, we found him to be a confident, willing to work partner. He reached the place where he was softer than I had ever felt in a horse, and many times he was so attuned that I began to notice where I was not clear in my own riding.  Rocky and I were now learning from each other, but I’m quite sure I got the better end of the deal!

rocky2009

I have noticed that in this work (where the principal focus is softness, and helping the horse feel good), there comes a point where they grow past us. We ask them to open, and when they do, they show the depth of themselves which holds more than we ever imagined. This is where horses have inspired us to poetry and books and songs. This is what almost every horse holds the key to, when we show them that they can trust us to unlock. 

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Not every horse does this, or can do this, nor are they required to. Rocky, however, made a choice years ago that what we were asking fit with what he could do. We extended friendship to him, and he has given it back to us in numerous ways, as in the story below.

Mark and I were at home one day, when I let him know I was ready to ride another horse. It had been over a year after my accident by then and I was grateful about my growing confidence. I saddled up Rocky, took a few deep breaths and had a good time that day with my old pal. I asked Rocky for all the things we have done together, except for canter.

That night, I asked Mark if he would keep an eye on me the next day when we cantered, to give me a verbal “all’s well” beforehand. I didn’t have any doubts about Rocky, but rather my own internal system that went a bit haywire before the thought of going faster. I knew that if I heard “you’re ok,” from someone I trust, then I could quiet that worry.

When we rode the next day, as we were trotting by Mark, I said “I’m ready. Can you let me know it’s ok to—“ and before the word “canter” came out of my mouth, Rocky had picked up the soft, slow and rocking gait. I laughed with joy. 

After that, cantering with Rocky was what it always used to be: fun, funny (I like the way he flips his forelock in the air) and as easy as a breath and a thought. We cantered again and again, and each time Rocky put a little more energy into it. It felt like he was asking me questions, and each time my answer was “yes!”

In a way, he was returning what we had, through the years, sought to give him: the feeling of all is well, and you’re ok.

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Photos of Rocky are in chronological order.

Photo 1: Loveland, Colorado 2007
Photo 2: Visalia, CA 2009
Photo 3: Ben Wheeler, TX 2014
Photo 4: Anthony, FL 2015

About the Author

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A lifelong horse woman, learning how to listen to horses.

Categories:

Horsemanship, Horses

26 Comments

This broke my heart open and I can’t stop crying. You trusted him to take care of you, to know you, to meet you at that deepest place of vulnerability, just like he trusted you with same all those years ago. I wanted this with Ben and had this with Buck. And I have this with you.

That moment when you surrendered, when you turned your fear into trust/faith and he met you, held you, and you laughed with joy. That experience is available in every moment when we let go. So, so beautiful, SSL. A gift beyond measure. Thank you.

Sent from my iPhone…

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ELIZA! (((Hugs)))
Thank you, my friend. I think of you often and hope you and Peggy are doing well. I would love to start thinking / planning of a way to get back up there to visit with you all. Xoxo

As a middle aged rider I really like that you speak to an accident you had and building confidence. I’m in that place right now and trying build slowly back up. Your story is a reminder that it’s ok to go slow and to have a trusted human with you. I know that was not nessessarily the point of your blog. But thanks for including those details.

I’m glad that this portion of the blog (gaining confidence after an accident) spoke to you too. I didn’t go into too much detail (there might be more in earlier blogs but I can’t remember. I’m contemplating writing next about recovering from an accident next, thanks to your and many other folks’ feedback) but I hear what you’re saying: it’s a pretty big deal. It requires small, mindful steps forward and careful consideration of each interaction with horses. I hope your own journey is filled with many positive experiences. Thank you for writing and letting me know!

This is lovely. I had been mulling over the idea of whether or not horses are meant to be ridden. I have been tormenting myself over this thought—thinking they don’t have the ability tell us. But, reading your post has shown me it is possible to know how they feel about it, if we take the time to ask and have faith in them. I had an accident 18 months ago–my horse was telling me something wasn’t right with what my instructor was having us do. I should have listened. I have spent the past year listening to my horses on the ground. Maybe they have more to tell me now–I only have to listen. Maybe it is time to get in the saddle again. Thank you!

Thank you so much! I’ve gone back and forth about the whole riding / not riding too. I’ve also run across horses (like Rocky) who seem to do well when ridden and enjoy teaching the human. I’ve also run across horses who feel (and act) as though never being ridden again would be fine with them. They’re a lot like us: some people love horses and don’t need to ride. Some people love horses and riding too. If you stay around horses long enough, I think we all cycle through it. I’m glad to hear you’re honoring where you are and also able to run the question of whether to ride again or not through your heart. I am sorry, though, to hear of your accident – it’s always a tough deal for all involved.

My experience getting back into riding has been to find a very quiet horse, and work my way slowly from ground to saddle to asking the horse to move (meaning, the process can take days, weeks or months). I’ve also done a lot of different healing modalities for myself: EMDR, craniosacral, massage, etc. For me, my accident has transformed into a gateway to better know (and value) myself. I wouldn’t wish accidents (and the aftermath) on anyone – and – once you’ve been through it, it’s best to find a way that works for you, yourself, at your own pace.

I’ve received several comments similar to yours. Thank you again for sharing that with me. I’m thinking the next blog may be about accidents and how to move through them.

Crissi, thank you for wriding this blog, I am just now getting to read it because my computer was having issues and wouldn’t let me open it, but I kept trying and here I am. I cry as I read the blog, I cry because I felt as you were telling my story as I wanted it to be, and it hurt to realize that it is not. I had an accident over 2 yrs ago, it was totally my fault, my horse was telling me, no, he was screaming at me to not ask him to turn that way, but stupid me, I did it anyways, and I paid the price. Reading how you got back on the saddle and let Rocky help, but also to read that you felt unsure of moving faster, that fear that creeps up inside of you, that got twisting fear of what if, I guess a part of it is I am not young anymore and a bad fall could be devastating, but its more than that, it’s the confidence, or lack thereof, I use to ride horses with no fear, I use to let them take me to the magical place were all is great and happy, now, well now I only get to the doorway of that place, and the fear creeps up and I stop, I have try to get on the horse again, but he knows I am not ready, and I know I am not ready, I don’t know how to get past that. I do ride another horse, but also I can’t get past the walk and trot. I love horses, they are my life, and just been with them is wonderful, I just would like to go to that magical place again, were there is no fear, there is no worries, were there is freedom, were your best friend is taking you to and you both are floating in the wind and you can feel alive and filled with joy, were horse and human are one. You mentioned that you are thinking of writing a blog about the accident and how to get past it, I am here asking you to please do it, please tell me how did you get back that confidence, how did you get back on the horse, and did you ever get back on the same horse? Thank you Crissi you are an inspiration to so many.

Thank you, Veronica. I appreciate your honesty and authenticity about where you are, and how you feel. It can indeed be daunting to move through two seemingly separate states: love of the horse, and fear of the horse (or what may happen in relation to the horse). I am formulating the next blog on fear, confidence and how to get back to being able to do what you love. I appreciate your asking too – there are so many of us who either have been through this, or have been going through it for a long time. In the meantime I would suggest that you read Peter Levine’s “Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma,” to further understand the wisdom behind fear. He has a ton of videos on YouTube as well. Take it slowly, do a lot of breathing, and celebrate where you *are* instead of focusing on where you used to be. I’ve done all of this – and many days not so well – and it is often a difficult practice. But just like anything we practice, we get good at it. Thank you so much for writing, and your kind words.

Crissi, thank you for writing this blog, I am just now getting to read it because my computer was having issues and wouldn’t let me open it, but I kept trying and here I am. I cry as I read the blog, I cry because I felt as you were telling my story as I wanted it to be, and it hurt to realize that it is not. I had an accident over 2 yrs ago, it was totally my fault, my horse was telling me, no, he was screaming at me to not ask him to turn that way, but stupid me, I did it anyways, and I paid the price. Reading how you got back on the saddle and let Rocky help, but also to read that you felt unsure of moving faster, that fear that creeps up inside of you, that got twisting fear of what if, I guess a part of it is I am not young anymore and a bad fall could be devastating, but its more than that, it’s the confidence, or lack thereof, I use to ride horses with no fear, I use to let them take me to the magical place were all is great and happy, now, well now I only get to the doorway of that place, and the fear creeps up and I stop, I have try to get on the horse again, but he knows I am not ready, and I know I am not ready, I don’t know how to get past that. I do ride another horse, but also I can’t get past the walk and trot. I love horses, they are my life, and just been with them is wonderful, I just would like to go to that magical place again, were there is no fear, there is no worries, were there is freedom, were your best friend is taking you to and you both are floating in the wind and you can feel alive and filled with joy, were horse and human are one. You mentioned that you are thinking of writing a blog about the accident and how to get past it, I am here asking you to please do it, please tell me how did you get back that confidence, how did you get back on the horse, and did you ever get back on the same horse? Thank you Crissi you are an inspiration to so many. (I am sorry if this posts 2 times, not sure how it works. LOL)

I meant to tell you back when you wrote this post that I shared it with someone who’d had a remarkably similar experience, including the joy she felt when she finally felt able to canter again. She loved the post. I am that cliche, a middle-aged woman returned to riding after a gap of decades (made possible by a change of lifestyle after terrible tragedy) and it has given me a new focus in life. I am leasing the most honest, trustworthy horse in the world and we have even started jumping together. He is the lynchpin: none of it would have been possible without the complete trust I have in him (and now he in me).

Thank you, Andrea, for writing and letting me know! So often (as you know), when we write and send it out into the world, we hope that it does some good. Reaches inside someone and creates a connection. To have you take the time to share this with a friend, and then let me know about it, means the world to me.

You are right: a good horse is indeed the lynchpin to whether or not we love our time in the saddle, or fight fear the whole time. I am SO happy that you have a trustworthy partner and friend – you are both very fortunate!

I just came across this Crissi…all welled up. They are amazing in their knowingness and exchange. Yes…it was his turn to return the gift. Beautiful. Thanks for sharing that story 😉

Thank you, Meg. That’s what happens to me to, *every time* I am around them. Especially the horses I am closest with. Their generosity in the face of what they endure is inspiring.

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