The clinic was a pleasant experience for myself and Riley and for our relationship. I learned things there that I would not have learned with any other horse, the most significant of which was recognizing the malingering emotions that I was experiencing within, which I most eloquently can only refer to as “grr.”
The particular activity which brought this home to me was a simple one; ride your horse on a circle around some “incentive”, i.e. food. When the horse follows your focus, allow them a bite. I imagine the addition of food was supposed to make the activity easier, but between Riley and I, it only provoked another fight. By the time I was breaking a sweat in the argument and rein wrestling, I began to recognize my embarrassment. Here I was, a supposed enlightened horseman, fighting with my horse about riding a circle. And I was angry, and frustrated.
They say that “wherever you go, there you are.” Riley hadn’t been the only one that was irritating me. I knew that I was feeling frustrated in my work, and that generally my temper was short. I had been snippy with Lucy too, expecting far more than I deserved. As I began to take the lesson to heart, I recognized that this “grr” was affecting every relationship in my life. I was feeling dis-empowered. And when I didn’t know what to do, I would be frustrated, and then angry.
Horses do a magnificent job of mirroring us. A mirror’s purpose is for checking out how you are doing. As Riley and I went through the clinic, I consistently found that if I was focused, she would be with me. If I was distracted, then she would lose it. I recognized too, the impact that my attitude and demeanor had on the people around me. Apart from horses, the next best way to find out who you are being is from an adolescent therapy client. Needless to say, I had been getting a lot of feedback.
There was a picture presented during this clinic that seemed to inspire all that I wanted to have in my relationship with Riley. It was a drawing of a cowboy and his horse bravely leaping over rocks and crevices in seeming retreat from some savages. But it hardly appeared like a retreat. It was like they were suspended in a moment of pure partnership, half in flight, half in fight. They were looking in opposite directions, yet their focus was the same. I realize in reflection that this was an image of a happy unit of measurement. The horse was that man’s mirror and what he was seeing was gold.
Riley gives me opportunities every day to check who I am being. My favorite game with her now is the smile game. If she comes to me with a particularly grumpy look on her face, I will take it as an opportunity to check my demeanor, and smile widely with my face and my heart until I see her do the same. It seems somewhat harder with people. But it really can work just as well if you can recognize yourself in the mirror.
|A bad mirror|