Meet Your Partner
The morning came early as the sun began peeking out from behind the mountains, coloring the ranch in beautiful pastel shades. I awoke to the melodious songs of the birds and the trickle of the spring water making it’s way into the pond. As I emerged from the tent, I inhaled the sweet, crisp air with a grateful heart. For over six years, my heart has longed for the peaceful serenity of the countryside and this weekend, I was able to once again revel in its beauty. Last week we decided to take a leap of faith and make the move to Springville, confident that God will continue to guide and direct us, even though we do not have all of the answers. As I stood looking at the reflections of the pond, I realized that all of my worries had washed away… there were no traces of stress, no anxieties that weighed upon my heart. Instead, there was only peace; complete confidence that in two short days, we would be making a move that would better our lives in so many ways.
Once I had finished my morning routine of making my bed, brushing my teeth, and pulling my hair back in a ponytail, I made my way to the barn and couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into a delicious, home-made scone. We all chatted excitedly, each of us silently wondering who we would be paired up with, some even fishing for hints to see how the decision was made to pair who up with who. I was feeling very confident that I would get to work with Beanie and I couldn’t wait to start our first Horsemanship session. When we had finished breakfast, we were told to meet at Davio’s corral, another Mustang who was recently rescued from the hands of a kill buyer at the very last second. On my way down to the corral, I suddenly felt conflicted and started thinking that I would really love to work with little Perseus, to get to have that experience once again. It was so difficult for me to keep quiet, to stay patient, and to silently hold out hope that I would get paired up with Perseus.
Chris entered into Davio’s corral and refreshed everyone on the basics of getting the horse’s attention and respect, approaching him, and finally haltering him with a rope halter. She said our first assignment was to spend an hour with our new partner and learn about him as much as we possibly could. Is he friendly? Is he curious? After the hour, we were to halter our horse and meet as a group in the arena. Chris began naming the off the pairs. Tammy with Panama, Nadia with Rocky, Hazel with G, Lisa with Biggie, Debbie with Beanie, and finally… Danie with Perseus. My heart nearly exploded from the sheer joy and I couldn’t wait to spend my time with my new little partner. Full of vim and vigor, I eagerly walked over to Perseus’ corral with a bounce in my step. Our first task was getting our horse’s attention and approval (with turning his head towards us) before entering the corral. When I got to the gate I was expecting to see a horse just as excited as me! Instead… he was watching the others make their way towards their horses. After making a few clicking sounds and walking along the fence, I finally got his look of approval.
I entered his corral and started making my way towards him… but only got a nice view of his hindquarters. When I met him yesterday, he had kept his distance and I chalked it up to just being on guard of all of the new commotion around the ranch. Since I was now inside his home, I figured that he would see that this was a little different than coming to his door to say hello. Thoroughly confused that this horse was more interested in what was going on outside of the corral, and being slightly insecure myself, I quickly jumped to the conclusion that this little horse simply had no interest in being my friend. I spent some time walking around the corral trying to get his attention, to peak his curiosity in me more than the others. As time went on, he started to pay more attention to me… but then he remembered that his food was on the other side of the corral and made his way over to eat. Obviously, I was not a threat to him since horses take care of their needs in order… the first two being (1) safety and (2) food. It also made me laugh because Eternity was so in love with food that this was not a first for me.
I decided to lay claim to his food, pushing him away with my energy and then bending down to rustle the hay. NOW, I had his full attention. Ears forward, eyes bright, blinking, and thinking. After a minute or so, I decided I would try to approach him. At first, he started to lean away… so I slowed and stood there, hand outstretched to him in invitation. But he remained standing his ground. A few minutes went by before he decided he was still hungry and that since I was clearly finished with the hay, it was his turn. Back to the feed bin I went and we repeated the same step. Finally, Perseus allowed me to stroke his neck.
At one point, he began to pull away. Now, although I clearly understand that it is not physically possible to hold hundreds of pounds of wild horse, I wrapped my arms around his neck, calmly tried to soothe his fear with my voice, and softly put pressure on his neck toward me. To my surprise, he stayed with me and didn’t move away! It was at that moment I learned two things about Perseus. The first was that he was insecure… and although he would flinch in reaction to certain movements or sounds, the second trait I learned about Perseus is that he would also stand his ground (or at least not attempt to flee the scene all together) to see if what he perceived as a threat really was such. Soon thereafter, I heard the call that an hour had passed and that we all should make our way toward the arena. I couldn’t believe so much time had passed so quickly. But the best thing I learned about my new partner within that hour… he is truly special.
We made our way to the arena and all stood in a circle around Chris. One by one, she asked each of us what it was that we learned about our horses. Then she asked us if any of the traits we learned about our horses, did we see in ourselves. I knew right away what my answer was and so I raised my hand. I shared with the group that I struggle with insecurity and anxiety, undue worry… and yet I never flee, although that’s my first impulse, but instead I wait to see if there’s really any danger or if it’s something that I can work through. I’ve never stopped to think about it in regards to myself, but it was something that I could be proud of in my horse.
We wrapped up the first session with a group picture of each of us with our new partners, put our horses back in their corrals, and headed up to the barn for lunch. As I was gushing about Perseus and his incredible progress, Jill looked at me from across the table and asked if I would ever consider adopting him. My heart became heavy and I had explained to her that Alex and I decided that when we were ready to adopt, we were planning to adopt 3 or 4 year-old horses so that we could begin starting them under saddle when we were ready. I had played the waiting game before with Eternity for nearly three years and while I would never trade it for the world, this time I felt I was ready for an older horse. If only Perseus was slightly older… maybe things would be different. Jill nodded her head in understanding and we all returned to talking about the ways in which we were already changing after the first session with our horses. On this journey, we had already learned a whole lot about ourselves that we never gave time to think about or never gave ourselves credit for, perhaps not feeling worthy of the recognition. For each of us, that moment we shared was just the first step to the healing of our souls.
This post is part of a series from my experience of attending the Glamp, Pamp and Revamp retreat at The Medicine Horse Project in Caliente, CA.