“Don’t trust your horse on a slack rein? Well, he doesn’t trust you with a bit.” ~ Anna Blake
How many times were we reminded to hold on tight as children? Hold on to the rail. Hold on to a parent’s hand. Hold on to the dog’s leash. Hold on to the carousel pony. Hold on tight!
We grow up and gain strength. Tight becomes confining. We continue holding on even when a tight grip chokes the life out of things. We feel safer holding on. Our hands become strong and somehow we think maybe, just maybe, if we hold on more tightly, life will proceed closer to the way we expect it to.
Yesterday I rode my mare on a trail ride through the desert. If you have a moment would you mind doing a little rain dance? Clouds built up yesterday afternoon and I’m hopeful, but last year’s monsoon season was such a bust I wouldn’t mind all the helpful intention we can get! But, let’s get those hooves back on the trail.
Rocky is a bold creature and a well-seasoned trail horse. Two fellow boarders asked us to go along so Rocky could lend their geldings her courage. She likes to lead. As we started out, three fawn-colored bully-looking dogs came charging at us, right off their property. The gate was open. I told them they were good doggos, to remind them of who they are (another tip of my helmet to Anna). I stopped Rocky, who was unfazed by the barking and gallumping, and looked at my fellow riders to make sure they were doing okay. The dogs’ owner called them in and the three turned tail as a unit, maybe slightly disappointed that we weren’t all that impressed by their charge. I called out to them and told them what very good dogs they were as they trotted back to their house. One looked back over his shoulder at us from the other side of the fence, slightly cowed. I think they got in trouble.
We continued on our way. Rocky is a fast walker. Behind her was the beautiful Morgan, Legado, and bringing up the rear was Stewart Little, who is a sturdy and small Gypsy Cob. I had to remind Rocky to help me check on our cohort and to keep her pace leisurely. “Just squeeze the rein a little,” I told myself. I reminded myself to allow my pelvis to be carried along by Rocky’s hind legs. We descended into a little gulch and Rocky broke into a trot. I had only sat deeper and asked her to walk without taking up any contact on the rein. Legado followed suit and his rider needed a moment to calm him. I made extra sure to prepare Rocky to walk carefully through the next few dips we encountered. It took extra asking on my part, and I don’t doubt I held the reins more tightly than she would have preferred, but she did what I asked.
When the trail smoothed out again, I felt a little tug. Rocky had asked for her rein back. I gave it to her. A little voice in my head said, “She pulls on the reins! She refuses to give to the bit! Keep contact!” My hands said, “Give it to her. She asked nicely. Trust that she knows what she is doing.”
Next time I hope to remember to ask consistently for what I want so she doesn’t have to guess, or make her own choice when it’s best that we work together. I’m certain we both like it better that way.