Those that ride horses understand about how transitions work
Halt to walk – walk to trot – trot to walk – trot to canter and so on and so forth. Not every horse can manage smooth transitions, and not every owner can teach their horse how to effect smooth transitions. But we muddle through.
But what about our emotional transitions? Are you aware of how frequently you are in emotional transition with your horse? Transitions are created by change and, with change there is always a beginning, a middle and an end. But, do you realise that all change begins with an end? And it is this ending that usually creates stress and resistance in us.
Human beings spend their lives ‘in motion’ rarely stopping to evaluate why they do what they do, and whether they are truly happy. Normally, it takes a life changing event or trauma to enable us to stop long enough to really see what is happening. There is no one definition for happiness. What is it, what does it look like? What makes us happy? Is it different for everyone and how long does it last? I can’t answer any of those questions because yes, of course, it is indefinable.
One morning, a beautiful warm sunny October morning, I was out in the field poo picking. I stopped and stood next to my old horse Jack. At that time, my horse had been with me for over twenty years, although now it is getting dangerously close to a 30 year milestone. It has been a wonderful journey with him. He has driven me nuts. He has been my best friend, there have been times I wish I had never had him. You know, pretty much a normal relationship. But, this day, as I looked at him, I found myself becoming emotional and I wondered what that was about. Tears rolled down my face as I sobbed with great gulping breaths.
Back in the house, I started to think about all of the transitions I had experienced with Jack. I suddenly realised that somehow, I had failed to acknowledge an ending. At this juncture, I hadn’t ridden Jack for about two years. One day he just said he didn’t want it anymore and I quietly respected his decision. It was no big deal. Or so I thought …
Now, I understood, as tears streamed down my face, that I had this morning suddenly acknowledged my grief at not sharing this experience with my friend any longer. I remembered the mad days of haring across corn fields in the winter, fighting and struggling for control as I careered round a cross country course yelling at him to slow down. I recalled the smell of him, the feel of his strong young body, his shiny, shiny coat and the sound of his hard excited breathing. I remembered how much I had loved being with him and how grateful I had been for having this wonderful, confusing and often frustrating animal in my life. How awesome he had looked, hard and fit and clipped out and how he used to watch me as I walked around the field. Now he is old horse, with a dipped back and a grey face.
That moment, I felt like I was drowning
My life with Jack replayed in every single minute detail. Twenty years of love and life, twenty years of constant change, twenty years of being my best friend and teacher. Twenty years of being with me as other relationships came and went, dogs came and went. How many dogs had he shared my life with? And now… here he is … a grumpy old horse, covered in mud and happy only to eat the grass and get excited about the hunt passing by or his breakfast!
Where did that time go?
When was the LAST time I rode him. I don’t remember there being one particular day when I took off his saddle and said, ‘that’s it, I am not riding him anymore’, it just kind of happened. Now, I feel sad about that.
Maybe I wasn’t yet ready to acknowledge that ending. Maybe I was afraid to face the fact that Jack is an old horse. Maybe …. I just don’t know.
So what is my message to you today?
I guess it is about living in the moment, appreciating what your horse is giving you right now, even if that might not feel like a good thing. One day you will look back on it and wish that you had it again. I am lucky. Jack is still with me. He is thirty five years old this year. I highly doubt he will go through another winter as Cushing’s has got him too and is slowly ravaging his body. I sold his saddle last year and it was like handing over a part of me, it was so hard. He will be my last horse.
But, I live in the moment with Jack every day from now until he decides he needs to move to new pastures. For now I embrace my grief at losing a part of my friend that I hadn’t realised was so important to our relationship. Transitions, every day, without fail, they are there. See them, feel them and embrace them. You never know when the last transition will be, well, the last.
Healing Horses ……