I’ve decided that my current problem is not what I’ve got to do, but how I’m regarding it. Although I’ve been involved with horses for over 20 years – and we might come back and deal with how much that figure upsets me at a later date – I’ve only just begun to immerse myself in the element that is ground work (working horses in-hand, rather than from the saddle). I’ve never worked with a young horse, nor have I tried to communicate with a horse in any way other than traditional methods. Prior to last month, I hadn’t exercised a horse from the ground – I’ve never held a lunge line, or done any other kind of ground work. And why would I? Why is that unusual for someone who hasn’t owned a horse, who has spent the vast majority of their equestrian career rocking up at riding schools, mounting the horse they’re given and spending an hour in the saddle?
It’s not the way I’d choose to do things knowing what I know now, and if I had been given the chance to do things differently, I may have done even without the benefit of hindsight. And yet, I’m sure I’m not alone in approaching this new and completely different skill with the mindset of, “It’s okay, I’ve got this”. My body and my brain have made an assumption: I’ve been around horses for this long, I know how to handle them, this will work seamlessly. The problem is that it isn’t happening like that. And we’re confused. Why isn’t it working? Why aren’t we good at this? All of a sudden, there’s a huge sense of self-doubt.
I’m equal parts frustrated and excited. The frustration comes from the part of me which feels cheated, lied to – I thought I’d been given the tools to cope with any situation I might be thrown into, but I was wrong. Have I been let down? Have I been wasting my time? If I haven’t been getting good at this thing that I love all this time, what on earth have I been playing at? But then the excitement chips in, and points out that this is an opportunity and a necessity. That I need this to move forward, and that yes, it could be embarrassing and humbling. But once it comes together – and it’s okay, it will, because the other stuff did – it will be worth it.
And therein probably lies the key: yes, there’s an enormous curve ahead. It’s steep, and I think I can see the top of the mountain, but the clouds might part again and reveal an even harder climb and I’ll at that point be able to choose whether to go on or give up. But don’t think about that climb, or even the one you’re currently on. Take a moment, suck in a deep breath, and look how far you’ve already come. It’s a long way back now, but there was a time when you literally knew nothing. You didn’t know that a horse typically has four gaits, nevermind how to climb aboard and ask for any of them. You certainly didn’t know that a horse would go sideways if you asked it to.
At the moment, these horses have the measure of me and they’re leading the merriest of dances when I’m on the ground with them. It’s a different story when I’m in the saddle. I’m well aware that I still have a lot to learn in terms of riding. I’m far from the finished article. But despite that, I’m assertive and reasonably confident and even a little bit patient, both with the horse and with myself. Because I’ve already learned those lessons a hundred times over, in order to absorb every minute lesson necessary to develop the skills I already have. And I’ll continue to develop new skills and hone current ones.
My adult ego is finding it very difficult to take the hit of being new to and bad at something at the moment. But it’ll be so pleased when that no longer happens.