Riding Horses…

Earlier this week,  I visited some friends who have a ranch in Nevada.  Being a city/suburban kid, the only time I got close to farm animals was on school field trips. There were some  ranches around the area I lived growing up, but all I would do is run by them and see the animals from a distance.

While my friend was showing me his horses, he threw out  the obvious question,

“do you want to ride?”

 Well, obvious to him. It was literally the last thing on my mind, if it entered my mind at all. Of course, I know people ride horses, and I have some close friends who have ridden competitively, but for me, I was a complete newbie (aside from the one very short ride when I was about 13).

I didn’t feel like I could say no. It’s like an invitation to dinner when you are already in the person’s house: saying no is almost an insult to their cooking. He was sharing something that was special to him, and I have learned through various cultural experiences that it is very important to be appreciative when people want to share.

Al and Carolyn began prepping the horses – brushing them down, putting the saddles on (which was a fascinating process in itself), then finally setting the bit and reins. The horses were ready, and so was I, or so I thought. I climbed up on the horse, and tried to keep my game face on, but truthfully I was freaking out. My issue? This thing under me was starting to move on its own, and I couldn’t control it.

They gave me the briefest of instructions, and as I resisted asking all of the “what if’s” going through my head, we were off. We rode up the mountain, and I reacted to every attempt my horse made to run. I wanted to enjoy myself through the ride, but I was too afraid that if I allowed my horse to do anything, there’s no telling where I would end up. I had all of those Hollywood reels running through my brain of horses that got spooked and the poor rider clutching for dear life as the horse ran at full tilt.  I broke my death grip on the saddle, and my associated fear long enough to notice that my friends were about as free as they could be – letting the horses do what they wanted, riding without hands, just having fun. I wanted to be that free.

Something happened to me on the second half of the ride. I began to trust my horse. I’m not sure why – maybe I figured I had no choice, or maybe because I realized that the horse was actually working with me. On one occasion I watched as she went away from the trail, and thought she was trying to just go off on her own, but realized that she was just trying to walk on a smoother surface. I relaxed my grip on the rein, and in one sense, gave myself over to the horse. She found her footing aside the path, and followed my friends’ horses down the hill. I looked up, breathed a sigh of relief, and gazed at the beauty of the valley below me. I was finally having fun on the ride.

Giving up control is such a hard thing for me. I like knowing what I am doing, where I am going, and how I am getting there. One of the downsides of this, though, is that I can be so focused on my destination that I miss the journey. There are times, for sure when we have to execute, implement and get things done. There are others, though, when it is appropriate to take the passenger seat, and let someone else drive. Or, in the case of my horsey ride, share the control. This is new for me, as I have always considered myself the “get it done person”. However, I have been blessed with some great people around me. Family, friends, coworkers, even a horse or two. All with great things to contribute, all there to share this journey with me.

I remember something one of the church mothers told me a long time ago. “Don’t ever turn down a gift”. Now, for the life of me, I don’t remember doing it, but she did, and wasn’t going to let me make that same mistake twice. The gift doesn’t have to be monetary, or anything like that. With my ride, the gift was relaxing and enjoying it while my horse did the work.

Next time I go, I’ve been told we will let the horses run… ok, yeah, I’m a bit scared, but not as much as I was before. I figure they (the horses and my friends) know what they are doing, so I can focus on the fun part. I’m actually looking forward to it.

12 Replies to “Riding Horses…”

  1. Our neighbors down the street have mustangs. They’re so pretty! I think I’ve only seen one being ridden once. They’re always just out in the pasture. I bet they’re happy, though. 🙂

    Wish I could have joined you. I love horses! 😀

  2. Beautifully done — love the way you tied the fear of riding to fear of not being in control. I can relate so well. Love the advice: “Don’t ever turn down a gift.” I was just given the same advice recently, and I have trouble with that one, too. Thanks for a great post!

    p.s. rode horses all through my childhood but not recently, and your post made me want to go riding again!! 🙂

  3. I love that what you shared here, and I am so glad you allowed yourself the experience. I am in love with horses. My daughter trains horses, and has 3 of her own. Speaking of trusting your horse reminded me of an experience my daughter had while riding with a friend out in the desert. Suddenly, their horses grew edgy, and my daughter couldn’t figure out what was going on with them to create such unease. Then she noticed the air had grown still, and also rabbits and coyotes were making an appearance all around them, making their way in one direction. She looked to the horizon and saw a storm in the distance, but didn’t think it was anything to worry about, yet as the minutes ticked by, she realized the storm was moving much faster than she thought, and the closer it got, the more agitated her horse became. Being out in the desert, away from any cover, she began to fear if she and her friend would be okay. Then she decided to give her horse its rein, aware that horses know instinctively the way to safety…the horses ran fast, and she realized her horse was leading her to a small building erected out in the middle of nowhere. She and her friend had just climbed down, and they and the horses stood against the wall, when the most wicked storm passed over them. It was a tornado, which is unusual in the here, and she said the lightning and wind were intense. They witnessed a bolt of lightning strike and shatter an old telephone pole not far from where they stood. If not for trusting her horse to get them to safety, she knows they wouldn’t have been okay. Sorry this is long, lol, just had to share it for some reason :).

    Yes, it is a challenge to open ourselves to receive, but a wise woman once said to me that when we receive we are also giving, because we all love that feeling of giving, and hope our gift will be received well. When someone receives what we give, it is truly a gift returned in how we feel gladness we brought a smile to someone, or helped them feel better. When we receive we are giving back by recognizing and accepting what the giver gave. And, we miss out on so many adventures and experiences by not accepting!

    Below is a link to a beautiful short video about horses made by a poet. I hope you like it :).

      1. Haha, amazing how that happens :-). thanks for the insights too. I am awestruck when I hear of the instincts, and near clairvoyance of animals, especially when they are in protect mode.

  4. Wow, K. I totally love that you let go. That you trusted the horse, relinquished control… at least a little. What a huge thing. And you wrote about it beautifully. I’ve got such a big smile on my face.

  5. Brother mine,

    I love the comments here, which obviously point to you and the calibre of man you are because you’ve drawn close and give voice to careful, wonderful people of good character. And many thanks to C. Fassett, for the beautiful video! I loved that so many aspects of the human/horse relationship were incorporated, not just racing and jumping, but also dressage and (oh, my) the Tennessee walking horses! The only thing missing (that I could see) was cutting. 🙂

    My love of horses stretches almost as far back as my memory. My first animal love was a cat, and felines are still my favorite, but horses and dogs were second, for I loved them equally. I’ve quite a few memories of riding and interacting with them, each one profound. I’ve also said if I were required to clean up poop for a living and was give a choice of whose it was, I would opt for horses as the smell is least offensive.

    And, as others have stated, there’s a beauty and obvious correlation between trusting and releasing control. Much to ponder; much to love!

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