So this time last year I was still on a high after finding out I had a place at Buck's first UK clinic. 2015 yielded a myriad of experiences, both good and bad, in both my horsemanship and private life. The funny thing about life is that even though we like to compartmentalise feelings, thoughts and experiences in our head, real life weaves them all in a rich and sometimes dark tapestry. It's not until we stand back and reflect on the sum of years worth that we can completely appreciate our experiences. How they shaped us and changed us. How they solidified parts of our being and how they made us question ourselves to the core. Sometimes this happens on a small scale, but it is no less important or significant. Sometimes it happens on a scale so large, it blind sides you until you come out the other side still smokin'! That was my 2015, and the biggest thing I learned (and that Buck helped teach me) is my horsemanship and who I am is not separate. I may divide up things in my head in order to organise my life and 'chunks' of what my feeble brain can cope with, but who I am is who my horse sees. It doesn't matter what discipline you ride, what colour you are, what you had for breakfast... your horse knows who you are. Now let me clarify something here, I don't mean what skills you have with your tools, timing etc (we're all works in progress) I also don't mean your horse thinks, 'oh well she had a bad day, I'll cut her some slack'. No. What I am referring to is your horse knows your intention, he knows down to the core of you who you are. The species has had to be a very good judge in order to survive. Sometimes seeing yourself through your horses eyes is a bitter pill to swallow. Sometimes, your horse reflects back a potential version of you that you did not realise was there.... that is what both my horses have done to me this year, and I was oblivious.
First the mighty Tuff. Through the fog of grief and despair he was nothing short of a true partner at the clinic. I have wax lyrical about him in many a previous blog. I assumed it was because of his good nature and being a pretty well broke horse that he stuck through it all with me, but on reflection I'm not convinced that is the case. He can be very insecure and he needs you at times to step up when he becomes unsure... there was none of this at Aintree. He was the very best version of himself and was willing me to meet him there. Sounds batty I know, but he did. I had fallen apart and he had stayed true, for me, he expected more from me. Because, and I don't say this lightly, if he had fallen apart I would have crumbled and possibly never recovered. My horse knows me, he knows the heart and soul of me I he knew I needed him to fill in for me and push me through it. It's taken until now for me to realise that, and had it been in isolation I would have pessimistically brushed it off.... until Maite decided to make her feelings known.
Maite is a very confident mare and I have struggled internally as to whether I am good enough to own her. Would she be better with someone more skilled, patient, more time etc. This has been quite a battle for me. This constant battle and feeling of not being good enough has marred my progress with her, and my building a relationship with her. So, before I had my operation I was working her on the ground and bumping her up to the mounting block (as this needs some work). She wasn't saddled as I had no intention of riding her that day, but I went through the motions of leaning over her, running my arm on her off side etc. Now, even on a mounting block I am neither tall nor agile enough to bounce on to her back, but I was making enough commotion as if I was planning to mount to the point when Maite just turned her head and looked at me. What she did next I decided no one would believe me if I told them... she then proceeded to slide her left fore forward, dropped her shoulder and looked at me again. It was an invitation to get on with the expression of 'here you go, you getting on or what?' That day changed our relationship. We worked together right up until my operation, and then 14 weeks after my surgery I had a little ride, and I picked her up right where I left her at the end of the Summer.
Both my horses set the bar at where they see me, and expect me to be. I have to meet them there. It's not about me trusting them, it is all about me trusting myself, and this is a theme that runs through the entire fabric of my life. Who I am is most definitely who I brought to the barn and my horses are helping me work through that and fulfil in my riding where I need to be. As an instructor said to me once, 'Kate you have all the theory and knowledge up there, you just need to filter it down into your arms and legs'.
My hurdles with my horsemanship have never been about my horses, they've been about me trusting myself all along. What Tuff did was not let me project my emotions onto him. That grief fuelled self destruct feeling that threatened to end my participation in the clinic. What Buck did was point it out to me. When I approached him and said I can't do this, my horse feels disconnected, Buck had a look at him and said, 'Well he looks alright to me'. He was, he was fine, it was me...but I'm pretty sure Tuff and Buck knew that and they expected more.
So, my lovelies, my only resolution for 2016 is to BELIEVE. Believe that despite all the bad, there is ultimately the good and our horses guide the way.
I wish you all a happy and healthy 2016 and I hope to see you on the Road to Buck.
See you on the flip side xx