“Always remember that striving and struggle precede success, even in the dictionary.” - Sarah Ban Breathnach, Author
Last weekend I returned from a two-week vacation followed by a week of rain, during which period Tara, the horse I ride at the stables, was well cared for but not ridden. We had to get reacquainted, so after the rain stopped, I came out three days in a row to get her used to being back to work.
The first day I could not break her concentration on her friends who were living their best life, grazing in the pasture. She kept acting like she needed to check on her herd, so it was a battle of wills and little circles and bending exercises to keep her attention. It felt like we were starting from scratch, even though I have been riding her for half a year now.
The second day was a little better, but it still felt like more work than play, as she had become fond of doing her own thing instead of my thing for three weeks.
On the third day of starting our “Remember Me?” exercises, I walked Tara through the pasture gate to go tack up. At the same time, another rider emerged from the tree-line where she had been walking her four dogs. As she ducked through the fence to go get her own horse from the pasture, her dogs obediently sat in the shade of the trees to wait. Unfortunately, Tara doesn't see dogs very often. These four usually hung out at the stalls behind the ones where we saddle up.
Just as I finished chaining the gate behind us, I felt a pull on the lead and tightened my grip as Tara half-reared. With a quick glance at what she was staring at so wild-eyed, I saw what to her must have looked like a pack of four wolves studying us. She nervously circled me without taking her eyes off those “wolves,” her sides heaving. For half a second, I considered just putting her back in the pasture and letting her run back to her friends. Was I up for another fight to get her attention and calm her down? What if she succeeded in pulling away from me? What if she kept this nervous tension throughout our ride? Why does everything have to be so hard?
I know why, though I hate to admit it. Because trials are our tests, to show ourselves and those we love what we are capable of. I knew the wolves were harmless dogs, so I was able to hold on and speak soothingly to Tara that we were okay. She eventually calmed down and stopped pulling on the lead by the time we reached the stables. I let her graze a little until her breathing returned to normal, then we got ready to ride.
With a deep breath, I settled into my saddle and felt her settle in underneath me. Despite some loud low-flying planes and a peacock bursting through a hedge, we had a great ride with no spooks. It was as if I had earned huge respect from her, after facing down the wolves and not showing fear. I had proved I was worthy of her trust and showed her that I would keep her safe. Is there any better feeling?