Sometimes, what I find that I need the most courage for in my work with horses (and my little brown dog!) is to take that road less traveled, and listen to either what my horse or my intuition is telling me and honor it. I had an instance of that during our last cowboy dressage clinic. Fortunately, the instances are getting less and less tumultuous, and “that” feeling creeps up on me less and less. More on “that” feeling in just a bit.
Sunday was a very exciting day. Petey’s new saddle had finally come while we were at the clinic on Saturday, and I could hardly wait to try it on the big brown horse to make sure it fit. I set the saddle on the arena wall, and went to get Petey.
Petey did not get the memo that we were excited to try his new clothes on. He didn’t seem at all enthusiastic to come into the arena. He did seem a little tired, and that made a lot of sense after the big day we had the day before. I contained my energy, and we headed to the arena at the pace that was comfortable for Petey. I led him over to where the saddle was, and picked up the pads to toss on his back.
It was as if we had gone back in time a couple of months. Petey moved off when I went to lay the pads on his back, and stood with his nose tipped slightly away from me. I took a deep breath, put the saddle pads aside, and slowed down to match my horse. We took some time to move around the arena until he was checking in with me instead of looking the other way. Not only did I have to put getting Petey dressed on hold, I chose to stay behind in the arena, while everyone else in the clinic headed to the outdoor arena. I chose my horse over my agenda, and that of the clinic.
One of the best immediate rewards for my decision to stay behind was to watch that Petey was not rattled at all when all of the other horses left the arena. He was with me, and, apparently, that was just fine with him. This did surprise me just a little, and made me even more comfortable with my decision to off road just a bit to meet the needs of my horse.
This is where I can describe “that” feeling a little more. “That” feeling is the one that comes from the voices. The voices can be the rest of the horse world that thinks you just have to make your horse do things because you’ve given the order. I don’t want to appear incompetent, and sometimes those voices still catch me off guard. (If you haven’t heard my story of Anny and the tarp, I’d be happy to share this instance of choosing my horse. I think I’ve told that one to just about everyone.)”That” feeling is one of not being good enough, or not doing things in the approved manner.
In this instance with Petey, there was also the added internal pressure of not following the flow of the clinic and/or missing out. Even though the cowboy dressage clinics are made up of some of the kindest people who are in it for the good of the horse, when my mind gets critical, it doesn’t acknowledge much that is actual. Most of it is purely fiction. Fiction that causes me a lot of self-doubt, which can be some of the scariest stuff ever. I am getting better at choosing my horse in these situations, and not succumbing to the nagging critical voices I can bump into. Fortunately, the rewards are well worth it, and it gets easier and easier. I wish for us all that we can join together to combat those critical voices. Our horses will definitely thank us!