"I don’t know anyone who wants the things below the surface of their psyches to be revealed publicly. Surprise! Around horses, it all comes to the surface." Buck Brannaman
Horse trainer Warwick Schiller talks often about the importance of taking the time to empty your horse's worry cup, no matter what other items are on your agenda.
Even if you're just out on a simple trail ride, something often seemingly little happens, such as a squirrel makes a lot of noise exiting the hedge beside the path. Your horse sidesteps, and you can either say "Cut it out," and kick him on or you can be empathetic and let him stop, look around and see two very important things: one, there are no tigers; and two, even if there were it wouldn't matter because he has a true and trusting partner on his back: You. He lets out a big exhale and proceeds calmly.
The days when I am in a hurry, either on the clock of a too-full day or just trying to catch up with other riders, I don't always give Sportie a chance to stop and empty his worry cup. So to add to the noisy squirrel, around another corner a heron suddenly erupts out of his hiding spot, and around another corner, a deer rustles in the trees... and Sportie can take no more. His worry cup is too full and he is intent to get back to the barn to safety, with or without me.
Sportie and I have gotten into the habit of dumping out our worries simultaneously. Last Saturday he and I worked on emptying our worry cups that were overflowing - his full of crouching tigers, hidden dragons since he had lost sight of his herd, mine full from a friend's poor health, my son's car troubles, my daughter losing her bid on her dream house, my house renovation costs. Each time I noticed Sportie's head get high on alert about the many potential Tigers in the hedge, and I would also notice my jaw clenching, we would stop. He turned his head to take in his surroundings and his gaze rested on me, mine on him. We both slowly blinked and we both released a sigh of relief. I had a true and trusting partner under my saddle.
And that's how we end every ride now. Then after untacking, he runs off to his friends in the pasture and I walk to the van to drive home to my family. We are both lighter than air with worry cups completely on empty.