There is not a day that goes by that I am not grateful for having the ability again to be as active as I am. After the years of terrible chronic pain where I was very incapacitated as a result of cancer treatments – and after four surgeries – and finally PT with amazing therapists to help ease that pain – I am not without pain or flares of intense pain – but I am doing life where pain isn’t the first and only thing on my mind. I’m am lucky. I am blessed. I am grateful.
Every time I ride a horse I say a prayer for my safety and also a prayer of thanks for the ability to ride. Beyond riding I’m thankful for the time I can spend with horses just caring for them. There is nothing better for me than smelling a horse each day!
Having a bond with a horse is a privilege. I love dogs and have four of them. But unlike dogs who love you no matter what – horses are more discerning – you have to earn their respect and trust . It is when you gain that respect and trust that an amazing bond occurs.
Sometimes the respect and trust takes time and other times it happens faster. That doesn’t mean you can’t jump on a horses back and ride it. I have been doing that weekly at a local riding school. Under strict Covid guidelines I groom an assigned horse and I saddle him or her up and I can mount up and ride and learn the buttons to push to get the horse to do what I’m asking. I can improve my strength and riding skills and confidence. This is all good. And if I’m lucky I might get the same horse each week and it’s with the repetition that the bond can build. Each horse has a different temperament and personality. It is fun and a challenge to learn a new horse each week.
Having horses on my property requires me to spend time daily with them. This allows me to really experience my horses differing personalities and witness the way they communicate together. It is amazing- and the way they try to communicate with us is a gift. I learn so much about my horses by watching their body language. Ears pricked forward, ears flat back, one ear turned back, the laxity of their back when I am on them, again the ears help us know if the horse is paying attention to us or to something else, they will nod their heads to communicate something. Just yesterday Yukon, our bossy chestnut, tossed his head repeatedly toward the field that he was telling he wanted to graze on- it was the opposite of the one I was offering him- and when he didn’t get his way he trotted off indignantly into the offered field and went to bite and chase my new horse Umay. This is when Yukon is “hangry”. He gets grumpy and more bossy and the horses know to leave him be.
All of this wordless communication is a privledge to be a part of. Horses will play games with us. Knock over their water bucket just after you fill it. Poop in their feed bins. Yes they do this! I think it is deliberate – lol. They will nudge you and sniff you up and down to see if you have a treat on you. My favorite is human nose to horse nose. We each breath in each others breaths. I think there is some spiritual connection in that. And for me it relaxes my being.
To sit among horses and watch them eat hay, graze, mill about each other is comforting for me but also helps me to see how my horses respond to each other. Who is the boss. How the boss acts. How the lower horse is dealing with the bossier one. Sometimes they come up and nuzzle with me. I am part of their world for a time.
We have recently gotten third horse and I will write about her soon. I am in the process of retiring my horse Harley. He’s a 20ish Tennessee Walker and I have shared many pictures of him over the years. He has been an incredible horse. He isn’t a show horse. He’s just my buddy and a pleasure ride for me. He sat -barely ridden- over the years that I dealt with the worst of my pain issues- and when I would get on him bc I so wanted to be on a horse despite how bad I hurt – Harley never acted up. It was as if no time went by between rides. He kept me safe as I sat on his back. He has been my friend.
It has been with a heavy heart I have had to realize that as I have eased back into riding much more often that he has aged. He has gotten less fit and he has developed PPID- which is basically Cushings Disease in horses. This takes a toll on a horse even with medications.
It is a bummer. He and I click so well. But when I ride I have felt his back leg go out a bit. He is stiff. I see how low he keeps his head. He is so willing but I know he is off. I have now enlisted an equine chiropractor and a body work therapist to help him at least be more comfortable in general. If he improves under saddle then that is icing on the cake. If he remains as he is under saddle he is safe for pony rides and my husband could walk him around on him. But I feel as if I have missed out with him. It is again one of the things that from my time dealing with my pain issues. Now I will help him deal with his.
I want to get back years I have missed because of the cancer issues but I can’t so I have to move forward. Lamenting won’t do anything. So forward we move. When I do ride Harley the moment I mount it is like I am in a familiar car. With my new horse I don’t have that familiarity yet. That will take time. We are trust building now. Harley already knows me. He knows which way I want to go almost before I do. It is a dance – a communication between horse and rider- it is what makes little girls fall in love with that big pony.
I am so lucky I have that in my life.
I am a grown girl who still loves ponies.