Three months ago, it was suddenly decided that our 3 year old filly, Bellota, was going to be mine, and I was absolutely thrilled at the idea.
Eventhough I new she was saddle broke, smart, and suprisingly gentle, when I thought about completing her training, which meant taking her out for lots of riding and saddle time, I started to feel a slight tremor of doubt rise within me. Horses have always been an important part of my life but I’ve never experienced riding, or working with such a young horse.
The more I thought about what it would be like to ride a newly broke horse in the rugged mountains at our ranch, the more I decided to encourage my husband Raul, or my son Ricky, to ride her whenever they could. I hoped they would give her the experience she needed to become a solid, finished horse.
The moment we realize life has presented us with a special gift, which usually involves a lesson to be learned, it’s like someone suddenly turns on the light in a dim room, and the way forward is no longer foggy or unclear.
That’s what happened when Raul told me repeatedly, he didn’t have time to ride her, and Ricky was just too busy at school. It then dawned on me, Bellota was really mine, and it was up to me to teach her about courage, self esteem, patience and strength. Many of the same qualities I struggled within myself.
During these past three months, I’ve taken her on long rides in the mountains, and I’ve learned to know her limits as a young developing horse, and I’ve also learned when to push those limits just a little, in order for her to understand what is expected from her. I’ve also pushed my own limits regarding what I thought I could do, and about what I knew.
Doubt is much like fear. It often prevents us from experiencing the very things which are sometimes needed for further growth and understanding. Doubt and fear are close partners with ego. They charge at us when we feel that spark of creative inspiration or an interest in trying something new.
We might hear ourselves thinking, “You don’t know how”, You couldn’t possibly do that.” Your not good enough”, and so on. The scenarios are endless. This is the ego, doing it’s best to keep us subdued and under it’s control, which in turn, keeps us limited, doubtful about ourselves, and our abilities. In a sense, fear wins the game.
I’ve discovered through trial and error, to avoid letting fear, and doubt over run me, I chose to remain fully present in any situation which challenges me either, emotionally, physically or mentally.
Instead of succumbing to ego’s mind control games, I stay centered in my heart, fully focused and in the moment. I become the observer, and step back, outside of my mind, and observe the situation from a neutral point of view. Then I ask myself, what am I supposed to learn from this? Does this fear/doubt I’m feeling have a solid foundation, or is it really just an illusion of my mind?
Last Sunday, I was out with Bellota, high up in the mountains when I decided to dismount and tighten up the cinch. Lately, she’s given me some trouble when mounting. She does a little dance which says, to me, “No”, and I say right back to her, “Oh really?”
After I finished tightening the cinch I started to get back on, when she side stepped away from me. Immediately I felt those evil doers, fear and doubt creeping up behind me. I realized I was alone. Oh no, what if I couldn’t get back on? What if she wouldn’t let me? Ha! I laughed in their faces, and quickly dismissed any more of their nonsense.
I held onto the reins, and focused on the situation while remaining fully present. Instead of getting angry, which is often stemmed from fear, I chose to remain neutral. I looked her square in the eye and told her, “The only way your going home is with me on your back.”
We stood there for a few minutes, carefully eye balling each other, until I sensed she relaxed, and I tried it again. As soon as I put my foot in the stirrup, she tensed up, and I knew it was now or never. I had to be quick about it too.
In about two seconds, I was in the saddle, or on the way there when she took off runing, with a couple of big bucks here and there, just to see if she could throw me off. I held on tight with the reins in my hand the entire time. Once I regained control, and she settled down, I thought to myself, well, how about that? I experienced her rebellion, it wasn’t so bad, and I’m still alive. Okay, so what’s next?
The lesson was not over yet. I swung her around, and took her right back to where we started. After dismounting again, I grabbed the reins and turned her round and round in tight circles on the exact spot, and then tightened the cinch again. She knew I meant business now, I think she sensed a change in my energy towards her, which was not anger, but firmness.
This time she held still. I was able to get on her without any mishap. She behaved well all the way home, and as we came down into our valley, I chose to take her on a slightly difficult downhill trail. She did just fine, and we ended the ride on a good note.
Now I understand, my doubts/fears of not be able to handle her, or teach her anything was an illusion of the ego. Much of what we are fearful of, especially when it comes to our feelings about ourselves or what we assume others may think of us, is usually not even real.
Each time I ride Bellota, we go a little further, we travel over more rocks and difficult terrain, and we venture out together, into the lands of trust, confidence and courage.
My heart soars high above the clouds each time we break through the barrier of understanding, from the stand point of presence, and not fear.
” I later discovered, that to be on a horse is, in fact, to be closer to nature. You become one with the animal; seeing through the horses eyes, hearing sounds through the horse’s ears, and I like looking down to see my feet are hooved.”
_ Jamie Wyeth