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lessons from the horses

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When the horse I’d had on loan to me for 3 years became lame in work early last year and was not responsive to treatment, he was retired from work.  It all happened so quickly, in a matter of months our ridden partnership had come to an end. 

I was so grateful that the lameness only presented when in work, so he was still comfortable in his field and could enjoy a happy retirement. I was also so grateful that our relationship could continue in a non ridden sense, with grooming and just being with him, something we both enjoyed.

It took me quite some time to get used to the fact that our ridden partnership was no more. I realised I was grieving for the end of that aspect of our relationship and the unfulfilled plans I had for us. I missed the connection that comes from a ridden partnership and how I felt when I was riding this truly special boy.

Friends encouraged me to take lessons, but I had no interest. I rode for the connection, the relationship, the partnership with another sentient being. I couldn’t imagine how I could experience that in a half an hour lesson, on a horse I didn’t know.

As time passed, I started to adjust to the change.  A friend who had come off her horse and was ‘out of action’ for a while offered me her horse to ride. I took her up on her kind offer and started to have some lessons on her. I enjoyed the lessons and connecting once again with a horse in this way. A beautiful strong cob mare, she was much more forward than my boy. Whilst we started out well and I embraced her forwardness, a few weeks later I ended up on my bottom in a stubble field, after she shifted up the gears, when I wasn’t expecting it. The experience threw me. She told me afterwards ‘you need help’.  At the time I wasn’t quite sure what she meant, but now I understand!

A month or so later and after a few what I call ‘nudges from the Universe’ I decided that I would start lessons at a local riding school. The school had been recommended to me by two different freelance riding instructors, so I decided I’d give it a try. With the hope of having some fun and improving my competency and confidence for my next riding partner, I booked up some lessons.

I’m so grateful for those nudges and so glad that I booked that first lesson. In the six months I’ve been having lessons there I’ve had the opportunity to ride a number of very special horses. I’ve found that over time I’ve come to understand them and form relationships with each of them, at some level.

Together with my teacher, someone who really understands the horses she has in the school and who ‘speaks my language’, this team have taught me so much. I’ve learnt (and indeed still am learning!) how to be a more balanced rider, how subtle changes in my body can assist the horse and how to adapt to riding different horses.  I’ve come to understand in greater depth the riding partnership and so importantly I have learnt about myself.

I hadn’t been aware of the ‘baggage’ about riding I was carrying when I first arrived at the school. I often liken our ‘baggage’ to computer programmes. It can be there, like a computer programme, running in the background. Not only can it use our energy, it can affect our behaviour and also how others respond to us. Sometimes we’re aware of it, sometimes we aren’t.

Over the initial weeks it became apparent that I had a few ‘programmes’ running! The horses were helping me to see this.  I’ve observed many times in my communication work how animals help us in this way. When we have a ‘programme’ running that we’re not consciously aware of they often bring this information to light for us. Over the years I’ve communicated with birds, cats, dogs and horses that have all shed insight into such aspects for their people. I’ve also found that often horses can bring these aspects up for us most intensely.

Because animals connect with us at a feeling level their ‘read’ of us is based on our energy, not just the words that come out of our mouths. This means they’re aware of our true feelings, even when we try to hide them. It’s why we don’t need to tell them when we’ve had a challenging day, they just know. It’s also why they might seemingly ‘act up’ when we’re in a bad mood, playing out how we are feeling. This is why they can be so good at showing us our ‘programmes’ and even those that we may not be aware of. Each animal is an individual, so some may highlight aspects of our energy that others don’t.

I was aware how the experience with my friend’s mare had knocked my confidence. I was aware of my ‘stuff’ that I’d been working on, prior to the gelding I’d been riding becoming lame. Over the weeks and months that followed, the horses I rode at the school brought different things into focus for me. They helped me to recognise the patterns and issues that weren’t serving me. So much for my simple agenda of fun, confidence and competence, the horses knew what I needed from these lessons.

In my personal experience I’ve sometimes found it difficult letting go of old ‘stuff’. In my work with animals, I’ve come to understand how often they do this more easily than us. My learnings on that subject could be the topic of another blog. Suffice to say for now I’ll just leave it as ‘I think we can learn from them’ in that respect.

I love how the synchronicity of life can work.  Over the last twelve months I’ve been training in personal energy clearing. I came across it in Autumn 2020. Initially I used it as a tool for me and my animal family. I found it a gentle and effective way to rebalance my system and release old patterns and ‘energetic baggage’.

I was so ‘wowed’ by how helpful I found it to be for myself, I decided to train to become certified in it, so I could offer it to both people and animals. My training in this work has been running alongside my lessons with the horses.  Thanks to this synchronicity, many unhelpful ‘programmes’ have cleared over this time. This has helped me to become a more balanced rider in an emotional sense too.

One day, one of the wonderful geldings I’d been riding in the school told me ‘Your mind is so clear’.  I could feel how much easier he was finding the connection with me.  I found it both wonderful and fascinating that that week I had felt a particularly big shift in a clearing session I’d had for myself.

I started to feel in my riding lessons that I was more often finding the level of ‘being present’ that I held in my communication sessions. I’d had the goal of bringing more of the ‘presence’ I felt in my communication sessions into other aspects of my life for some time. As I became more present in my lessons and less caught up in old patterns, the clearer my mind and the clearer the communication with the horses in the lessons.

One day, in a lesson with a thoroughbred gelding we had been working on my body alignment and he had been giving me very helpful feedback through communication and with the responses in his body. Spending time with him afterwards I thanked him for helping me, his response ‘I didn’t help you, you helped yourself’.

Over the following weeks and months in my lessons there were nudges to bring back ‘on line’ parts of my body, to recognise what was happening with aspects of my energy and sometimes to remember to breathe! But behind all that, the consistently repeating question from the horses was ‘Where is your focus?’ and their guidance ‘Step into the present, here with me.’ 

It hasn’t just been the horses at the riding school that have helped me over this time. Whilst I have been looking for my next riding partner, I have learnt something from all the horses I have met.  An experience that touched me deeply was meeting a wonderful thoroughbred, ex racer, gelding. 

The moment I saw him in the field with his field mates I knew which one he was. When I walked up to him and put on his headcollar to bring him in it was like I’d known him all my life.  He had recently arrived in his new home, where he was going to be retrained. From our first meeting we had a deep connection.  

However, a relative novice myself and with him an ex racer (and a pretty outstanding one at that) both the lady retraining him and I weren’t sure if we were going to be right for each other in a ridden sense. The lady retraining him, another wonderful person, who ‘speaks my language’, loves and cares for the horses she works with as if they are her own and always finds the best homes for them.

Over the following months I was able to visit him when I wished to, sometimes just for cuddles and time with him. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to ride him twice. The first time initially I was a bag of nerves. The second time I felt something shift in me. I arrived back home that day feeling like I’d embraced an aspect of my energy that I hadn’t been able to until now.

The love I felt for him was without question, I know we were meant to meet, yet it didn’t feel that at this stage our relationship was to continue in a ridden sense. He’s now in his new home and I wish him so much love and happiness there. I feel so lucky to have had the privilege to meet and learn from him.

Twelve months ago, I was in blissful ignorance of how events were about to unfold. How they did was certainly not the vision I held for the future for me and the horse in my life. However, as I write this, I’m grateful that he’s happy and settled in his well deserved retirement. I have such gratitude for my experiences and for the people and the horses that I’ve met over this time and what I‘ve learnt from them.

I might not have known what I needed when this change came about, but as I’ve so often found in my life and my work, the animals have the answers, if we pause to listen.

For me, this time, these horses knew.

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