If you follow me on Instagram, you are well aware that I have a pretty little (big) horse with whom I am utterly in love.
She is a ridiculous animal who manages to pull off a certain amount of elegance in her ridiculousness that I envy. I’ve had her for just over 2 years and have only recently gotten myself into the position to be able to play Pony-Pony with her almost every day. It’s amazing. And I’ll tell you why in this post.
The first thing that people ask you when they find out that you have a horse is “so what do you do with her; do you race, show jump, what’s that thing with the fancy jackets and fancy walking?” No. None of the above. Having a horse is more than participating in competitions where you jump over poles or do that fancy walking (it’s called dressage, by the way, and is actually a form of training that was developed into a competitive sport). It’s like having a really big, really expensive puppy that you can ride and explore with.
It’s a wild animal with the ability to perform at levels of far more intelligence and power than other animals and the ability to bond with humans (and other horses) on an emotional level (which is probably why it’s fairly female-dominated, due to us being the more emotive and nurturing of the sexes… side note).
Here is what this silly big creature has taught me about being a better human:
- Patience. Working with horses takes time. They have their own emotions and their own brains. You can’t rush them into behaving a certain way – you can only do what is right for them, taking into account their own baggage, and wait for that moment when it sticks.
- Dealing with frustration. You can lead a horse to the water, but you can’t make her cross it. Some horses are scared of water and mine happens to be one of those. She is stabled along a river, so we can’t really go anywhere until I figure out a way to get her to go near the river. Sigh. Getting angry doesn’t help. Thinking out of the box does. I’m on it.
- Unconditional love. A horse doesn’t care what you look like or what you’ve done in your past or that you really just want to run away from your desk and learn to surf in the middle of the day. She just doesn’t care. She loves you even if you’ve got a massive volcano pimple on your forehead and are wearing a holy T-shirt that you slept in.
- Leave the ego behind. Being a wild animal, she doesn’t have an ego. She doesn’t care what the male horse next door thinks of her running up and down the fence trying to get to him – she wants his man-bits and is not ashamed to show it! A new mare comes into the yard and she will chase her away if she gets too close – she runs the show there and is not afraid to say so.
- Getting dirty is the most fun. It’s more fun when you get sweaty and dirty. Proven fact.
- Keeping fit is essential. You just need to leave a horse unexercised for a while and see their physique get saggy and their behaviour change for the worst. A grumpy horse is no fun and also dangerous. So is a grumpy human. Exercise is essential to a healthy body and mind.
- Trust. When you’re riding an animal that weighs at least half a ton, you learn to develop a trust relationship. If you don’t trust your horse, you will never be able to do all the fun stuff and will land up just walking her around while sitting on top like a sack of potatoes, waiting to be thrown off. If your horse doesn’t trust you, she will never have the confidence to do the fun stuff either, and you’ll likely be thrown off and land on your pip.
- Honesty. A horse cannot lie. It’s the most honesty you will ever find in this world.
So no, I don’t race her, I don’t jump her over poles in competitions and I don’t make her do ‘fancy walking’ in return for a ribbon. I work with her every day to teach her something new, to teach myself something new, to love and be loved unconditionally in return.