I grew up on a farm in Australia, and I actually wasn’t particularly interested in dressage. A lady who used to give me lessons when I was little said that she knew I would eventually take up some form of equestrian sport because of the empathy I had with animals.
There was a time when I was little when I had a magpie (gobble docks), a kangaroo (millie), two dogs, a cat, and my shetland pony Jimbo.
The kids at school would be arguing over Hanson’s latest hit, and I would wait all day to get home and jump on my horse and ride out the back on my farm; alone but never lonely.
Today is my grandfather’s birthday. I adored my father, but it’s possible that my grandfather was the man I admired the most. He had the same empathy for animals as I do, and even more so for the people around him.
He saw the good in everything and everybody. I never heard him say a single unkind word about anyone, and the way he loved my grandmother was something truly beautiful.
I sometimes forget why I ride. It’s because of the relationship I have with my horse, and when I forget I might overlook when the relationship is no longer good for me. I miss being able to ride out on my farm, on a horse that I know would never hurt me, and just enjoy the freedom that comes with that feeling.
Somehow, I learnt to associate animals with freedom. They were always just as they were, no pretence, or bullshit, always happy to see you, and always the same.
If you don’t have freedom in relationships with people, it’s often time to question if it’s right. So if you no longer feel freedom in the relationship with your horse, isn’t it time to do the same? If you no longer enjoy it because you are afraid, or you don’t trust him, is it time to get more help, or find an alternative? I’m starting with the getting more help, but I’m already waiting on alternatives.
Horse riders face these issues quite often but rarely talk about it because they feel like it’s uncommon, or ridiculous. I know many riders who have accepted they just weren’t right for a horse and that horse has gone to a different rider, one which suited him better. Does that make them a failure, or a strong enough person to recognise that they just weren’t the right fit.
Right now I don’t have the answer, and the last few months and even weeks I go back and forth. As horse riders we are often perfectionists and we don’t like to give up on something we have worked hard for.
I would never recommend giving up, but like everything in life it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important…health, happiness, friends, family. My grandfather never lost sight of what matters the most, and I know what advice he would give me today.