When I first began to work with horses in a more understanding, aware, and spiritual way, I had to take a good look at my goals. So many of us are hauling ourselves out to the barn out of obligation to ‘work’ on something, or achieve a pie-in-the-sky goal. So many times we lose our motivation because the end seems so far away I was guilty of this for a long time. The fact is, my horse picked up on my discontentment, and although he was patient with me and unfailingly optimistic, there were things that he could never give me. It was like when children run away from their parents when it’s time to go home from a play date …are they running away just to be belligerent, or are they running away from the discomfort they feel at home?
I’m sure most people have similar experiences with the evolution of their horsemanship journey; childhood is all about fun and games, then adulthood shows up to crash the party. Everything becomes about accomplishment and “gettin’ it done”. Life becomes more about teaching the horse, and less about enjoying the journey you’re both on.
My horse, Epic, had endured with me for about five years before I finally changed my attitude. It was amazing to see our relationship change when I finally remembered what horses meant to me! Sessions became shorter, more joyful, and honestly more effective. Worry and sadness were banished from our relationship. ‘Stress’ and ‘work’ were two words we didn’t use. Everything just got better. Horsemanship had regained its magic.
A quote that really touched me in this time, and reminded me to set aside egotistical goals for a happier, more relaxed training program, is as follows:
“Forget your pride (what have you to be proud of?) and your anger (who has done you wrong?)” – The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
In more straightforward terms: Forget your pride (what have you to lose?) and your impatience (what have you to control?) The horse is here, with no expectations, no goals, no prior commitments, and no competition. He is not here for you to control, own, and exploit. So what are you striving for? What are you worrying about? You are two free living beings, ultimately choosing and learning to get along and work together. Pride and anger (or ego and stress) have no place in your relationship.
The same year I gained this revelation and began acting on it, Epic had to be suddenly put down, due to an accident.
I thought I would die of grief. It happened exactly when we had reached our goal …after giving up trying to reach it, we had finally gotten there! It seemed totally unfair; like the moment a hard-drive gets destroyed and all of its contents are lost forever.
But I guess the point is proven in the pudding – goals have the power to fixate and distract us from what truly matters. We can become so focused on a the goal that we miss all the wonderful time in between – all the memories and bonds that were built along the way.
When Epic passed away, I was devastated partly because I felt like all my work had been wasted. It was an egotistical reason, but it was an easy excuse because people on the outside understand goal-oriented thinking. Nobody sympathizes with that person who gets so distraught over an animal dying simply because they lost a loving relationship.
The truth is, I miss Epic, not because of all the work I put into him, but because he taught me what really matters in a relationship. It’s not about the goal; because who knows when that goal will become meaningless or deterred? We don’t know what the future holds, or how long we’ll have the gifts we’ve been given. Epic’s death taught me to pause and bask in the relationships I have. I wish I’d done more of that. The pictures you see above were the last pictures taken of us before the nightmare started. It was one of those perfect evenings that I just felt compelled to be a part of. It’s a memory that I made with him and will never forget.
Your horse wants more of these moments. Your horse wants you to become childlike again. If this was the last day you were ever going to have with him, what would you two do together? In the end, your goals won’t matter. In the end, it will be the journey that you remember.
This post was edited February 2018