Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Putting the Horse Before the Cart

It’s hard to say exactly what is drawing me to the art of carriage driving, but it has been an obsession of mine for the past year or so. I thought that perhaps it was because I have just always liked things old-fashioned, but I think now that it has more to do with the idea that horses pulling carts seems to be the perfect combination of  human ingenuity and equine power, and therefore the opportunity for a perfect partnership.

I finally bought my pony a cart a few weeks ago, and like in everything else we have done together, she was eager, helpful, and striving to please. She took to it like a horse to grass. In my learning about driving, it is clear that there is always a conversation about whether a driving horse is born or made. It takes a special personality, for sure, as well as a solid amount of training and trust to produce a good driving horse. 

Though I have had the bee in my bonnet for about a year to train my horse to pull a cart, I have been spending the last four years or so working on building a strong partnership, and developing a helpful, handy horse. Everything I have asked Lucy to do, she has stepped up to willingly and bravely, from performing in front of hundreds of people waving a big floppy flag, to carrying disabled riders, to spinning barrels, to pulling this cart. Now, these things all have a varying level of difficulty, and vary in their place on the learning curve. Though Lucy has hitched to the cart like a champ, the ins and outs of driving are still proving to be a learning experience. But one thing I know, is that we know how to learn now.

I have been faced recently with several opportunities to challenge myself in encountering the “rest of” the horse world. These might be people who don’t see things like I do, who have different ideas about training and horsemanship. If you don’t know anything about horse people, you probably don’t realize that they can be a force to be reckoned with. There are lots of opinions, lots of talk, and lots of egos. It’s easy to get wrapped up, chewed up and spit out when trying to find your way through the horse world.

One thing that I have learned in my horsemanship is that it is important to stick to your principles. These are the core beliefs that drive your behavior. They are not the ancillary tidbits such as whether or not I use blinders on my horse, rather they are the motivation behind why I do or do not, like in wanting to have open communication and trust with my horse. Principles are the things that will let you know whether a particular idea or person will work for you, so as to not be led blindly into who knows where.

I have been lucky in my horsemanship program that understanding your principles was a thing that was brought to the forefront and caused thought and effort. Oftentimes we don't think about our principles until we have done something to offend them. Of course there are always the times that even though we proclaim them, we offend them anyway. To me it all seems part of the process of confirming and solidifying what you will allow to guide you.

I have had the opportunity at this point in my journey to have been round and round about my principles a few times already. And I will continue to do so, especially as I move into new areas such as driving, as an opportunity to put my principles first and allow them to guide me in the right way. Before I even thought about buying a cart, I made sure that my horse was ready, knowing that if we did not tread carefully into this discipline that it would certainly lead to harm. I tried to prepare her in as many ways as I could, and find a knowledgeable person to help teach us. When it was time to put her to the cart, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was ready. Now that we are hitched, I have the opportunity to continue to be guided by my principles and concrete them into my behavior, knowing that with this delicate process, my principles will help me keep my horse first.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What was it that you said?

The following post is some words that I found in the back of a drawer today, which I wrote during a creative writing moment in the middle of the woods a few years ago. Funny that it kind of reflected a lot of things that I felt about today.

I keep hearing voices. Noises big and small, here and there. Some are human, some are beast, or fowl. Some are divine, and some are equine. Some are present, some are past. Some are sweet, caring, honest. Some are strong- fierce, even.

I hear some voices and some words that I understand. I make some meaning out of most of them. My brain works a mile a minute to make sense of them. Some voices are annoying, crackling nonsense. Are they really trying to communicate? Some voices seem to never stop. They go on and on, saying the same thing over and over. But there are some voices that I love, I hang on to every word they say. There are some that are resonating with me on the same frequency, and I like that. Like putting my head between the bowls, sometimes the sound went in one ear and out the other. Sometimes the vibrations met in my brain and changed something.

There are voices that I don’t understand. I may like them the best. Sounds of all kinds merging together, creating a music, or a chaotic chorus- but it doesn’t matter. It means something, and because I don’t understand it, it makes it all the more enchanting. Maybe it’s because no-one understands it. Communications without words, without thoughts or intentions or meanings.

When so many things have so much to say, it’s hard to know what to listen to. But I do know, most of the time. My voice tells me what I need and don’t, what to take and leave. And I can hear my voice in others, the good, the bad, the ugly. Like all noise is a huge echo, bouncing back and forth and back and forth.

I can’t always say what I want or what I mean. But maybe it doesn't matter, it’s already been said. Maybe I can find the silence in the sounds, meaning in the chaotic chorus, peace in the nonsense, wisdom in the pauses.

What was it that you said?