Connecting with the Outside of a Horse

Connecting with the Outside of a Horse | SLO Horse News

The tears were spilling down my cheeks as I drove up the road to the barn.  Overwhelming feelings, an offshoot of grief, were plaguing me most of the morning. “I’m going riding,” I told my kids.  Connecting with the outside of a horse to fix my inside was what I needed.

I tied up the laces of my paddock boots while sitting on the porch steps with the sun shining down on my head. Taking keys in hand and slinging my purse over my shoulder I stepped towards the car. I needed to cry and the tears began to flow. Five major losses in less than three years: my mother, my horse, my father, my husband’s grandmother and then my auntie have all contributed to a wheelbarrow of grief. Generally, I gallantly go about life, but sometimes feelings of sadness overwhelm me.

This was one of those days. The fix was the outside of a horse.

A greeting nicker welcomed me as I approached the barn area. It was “Go-Ten”, a darling pony truly worth his weight in gold. He has ignited the riding passion in countless kids-now-grown, and still introduces kids to the experience of riding. We have our own treasured memories of Go-Ten showing in Dressage with my daughter, and patiently standing in a costume class or two with one son, plus taking my other son on his first trail ride with Beverly.

Already my spirits were lifting

Carrera waited while I placed the halter on her and she willingly followed me out to be groomed.  I enjoy the routine of grooming a horse. It’s so ingrained I can do it practically without thinking. Not having to think was the exact medicine needed – just curry, brush and pick-out feet, followed by saddle pad and saddle. The routine is comforting.

Dressing in my new half-chaps, replacing hat with a helmet and gathering the bridle and a crop were the next steps of riding prep. Placing the bridle on Carrera’s head with bit neatly tucked in her mouth was the final step; now we were ready to ride. The tears have stopped.

Riding Brings Back Joy

I hand walk Carrera to the arena − an action I consider part of my warm-up as she gets a chance to stretch under saddle and I also stretch – more tension and bottled up emotion escaping my mind and body. I’m starting to smile now. Joy is returning.

Connecting with the Outside of a Horse | SLO Horse News

Once mounted, I go about my routine. I start out walking and paying attention to the arena looking for anything out of the ordinary. My mind is beginning to focus on the task at hand pushing all other thoughts clearly away. A few deep breaths in and out and I’m feeling more like myself again. I’m relaxed and happy.

We continue, Carrera and I, she my willing partner. We go about our training session. I continue to focus on the task at hand, communicating with her to find balance and harmony. Carrera is obedient and responsive. It is a good session.

Connecting with the Outside of a Horse | SLO Horse News

Carrera unknowingly provides a place where I can simply be in the moment, focusing on her, enjoying our connection, feeling the sun on my face with a slight breeze in my hair. We communicate – this beautiful, sensitive creature and I – she responds to my aids and correction as I ride and train her. I’m really smiling now and all that pent-up emotion, sadness and grief is gone.

The Outside of a Horse

Riding truly is therapy. Winston Churchill is cited for saying, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”

Yes indeed. Horses are one of God’s provisions in my life to refocus, freshen, refill and refine me. I am truly thankful for such a provision. Thank you to my dear friend Beverly who lends me her horse Carrera, and for her faithful friendship.

Photo Credit: Leah Jantzen

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Former Pony Clubber, Eventer and Dressage rider who balanced training and showing with getting a college degree (from Cal Poly SLO), becoming a wife and raising a family.

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