I have been riding horses for well over 25 years now. I like to think of myself as being a fairly competent horse(wo)man, both on horseback and on the ground. But once in a while, I work with a horse and it is as if I’ve forgotten everything I’ve ever known. It is as if I’m a total beginner again because nothing that I’ve done with other horses seem to convey the message. It makes me feel helpless and out of control. Although it is true that if you are willing to keep learning, horses will always have something to teach you, there is a bigger message here: This has more to do with the self-imposed isolation I create when I feel life is getting out of my control. I get so focused on the things that need to get done, or be achieved, that I forget to stop and take in any feedback, but just forge my way forward to where I think I should be whether it’s working or not. And this is not only true when working with horses, this is true for many things and situations in life – the horses just force me to pay attention.
I did not expect my life to be the way it is; married, two children, two dogs, living in the suburbs. I never really thought about what life would or should be. And even if I did, I am firmly against making too many plans to begin with as life will always find a way to mess them up for you. I don’t take very well to my plans being changed on short notice and when I’m asked to make a quick decision my first reaction will almost always be negative; simply because I have not had the time to process the idea. I am told this is a symptom of being deeply anxious. Seems strange to me then, that I should be fatally attracted to a species of animal that requires an amount of flexibility bordering on being bubblegum, not to mention the amount of mental adaptability that being around horses requires.
I love horses. I live horses. You would think therefore that after 25 years, I would have learnt this lesson of being flexible and be an expert in it. I am not. It still seems to be the one thing I forget how to do and be when I get frantic. I don’t handle being out of control very well. Things need to be organised, planned and in their places. However, I really don’t get frazzled that easily anymore. But instead of throwing things and screaming, raging against that which I cannot change or control, these days, I manage to take a step back and watch things unfold. Granted, it is not a more effective strategy as nothing continues to get achieved.
At least it seems to do less damage, as I recently learned: Clutching to 10 kilograms of hysterically screaming, writhing child with ear pain on a descending aeroplane leaves one feeling utterly out of control. And there is nothing to do, except to wait it out and hope it doesn’t put everyone else in the plane off having children. Forever. What couldn’t have been more than 15 minutes felt like hours as I clung ever harder to the stiff, thrashing little body and being forced to listen to those (once premature) lungs working very efficiently as punctuating, piercing screams rent the air. I don’t know that there was anything I could do except for nothing, so in that situation, at least, nothing was the right thing.
Sitting on a horse, however, nothing is almost always the wrong thing. It just makes you feel stupid and seem ineffective. So I have managed to swing the balance away from overreacting to no reaction. The challenge now, is to swing the pendulum back somewhat and find the balance.