Author Anne Lamott says that “Expectations are resentments under construction.”
Working with horses, we know that resentments are wasted energy but that doesn’t keep them from trying to take root in our hearts when we feel our expectations aren’t being met.
I used to walk to get Tara from the pasture with a mental checklist of what we were going to accomplish together. The days when I tried to stick absolutely to that list would often end with me feeling disappointed in myself, Tara or both. I tried to be a more “go with the flow” kind of rider but it's a struggle for my control-freak personality.
Brenda was helping me work with Tara this past weekend on keeping her straight before going into serpentine turns and she could tell I was getting frustrated. She called me over to patiently go over the basics that I often struggle with – shoulders back, reins shortened, and have I taken a good deep breath lately? As I nodded, readjusted and breathed, Tara glanced down at the ground then without warning performed her horse-quake version of a spook.
“What was that?” I asked, trying to keep my seat.
Brenda looked over at a poor mole carcass that had unfortunately gotten flattened by some horse’s stray hoof. As she grabbed a stick and removed it from the arena, she said offhandedly:
“Wow, Tara hasn’t spooked like that in quite a while has she? She must be learning she can feel safe with you.”
“You’re right!” I hadn’t even noticed what a welcome improvement that was.
“It’s been a few weeks, actually. Well thank-you, Tara!”
I patted her neck fondly. Riding Tara for this past year and a half has been such a two-step forward, one-step back journey that I often lose sight of where we had been and where we are now. Progress is progress and I need to appreciate right where we are instead of just anxiously grasping for the next step on the ladder.
I’ve been working and playing with horses for twenty years now, and although I’ve never had a bad day at the barn, the best days are when I take their cue and live in the present.