A quote that keeps coming up for me lately is "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear". After doing a little research on the quote, there seems to be some mystery around where it actually comes from, but I think it is a wonderful quote as it relates to our journey of riding.
Over the last several years, I have developed very close relationships with the three horses that I ride every day...Gran Casso (born in 2006 and purchased the same year), Freedance (the first foal I ever bred born in 2008), and Jypsy Rose (a 2009 mare I bred, first foal of Gran Casso). Gran Casso was, in a way, a rock for me when I was going through a tumultuous time in my life. Graduating college, breaking off a long term relationship with my boyfriend, starting my business, developing a new relationship with my now husband and trying to find out who I was as a young adult trying to make her way in the world. Gran Casso, a true old soul, has been a steadfast friend. Never dramatic, always calm and collected, he was a constant for me when my life was anything but.
And then there was Freedance...adorable, tons of personality, incredibly friendly but prone to emotional moments when faced with situations he was uncomfortable with (that part I could relate to!). He was terrified of other horses in the arena (and still is to an extent) and he could really push my buttons! At the time when I was still dealing with my own emotional turmoil that comes with finding your identity, we clashed regularly and our rides felt more like bickering with a sibling or having a debate with two very opinionated, emotional high school students. I certainly could have handled him better back then but I was so riddled with insecurity that anytime I struggled with something, it felt like a reflection on my very soul. I wasn't good enough, I was going to mess him up, I had no idea what I was doing. To say I had no self compassion was an understatement. I spoke to myself in ways I would never dream of speaking to a student. And then a couple years ago, I entered into this journey of personal development. I started changing the ways I spoke to myself. I went from allowing my inner critic to discourage and hurt me to being able to show kindness and understanding to myself when I was struggling. I cannot express enough how much changing my perspective and the way that I speak to myself has changed my riding and has changed my relationship with this horse. Now, like never before I feel like he and I have an amazing partnership. In my time of turmoil, he was a reflection of myself...emotional, prone to worry, quick to get frustrated. And now, I start everyday with him and now he reflects my excitement to work, my love, compassion and understanding. Not only has our relationship changed dramatically but he has progressed in his training and I love riding him more than ever. He has been the truest mirror to my inner being and I am so grateful to have him as my teacher.
And now to Jypsy...a beautiful red mare, feminine but very tough...a total bad ass. I always felt if she were a person she would be a punk rocker with a bright red mohawk and tattoos all over. When she was young she was very nervous, spooky and quite hot and sensitive. Over the years she has mellowed out considerably and at home she can be pretty lazy! She still can get pretty spicy when we go to horse shows which has been a bit of a challenge. I'm still working to be able to harness that tension that I feel when I compete with her. She's really the one teaching me the most about myself right now. She is a kind mare, not prone to your "typical red mare" temper tantrums. She never misbehaves but she can still be incredibly difficult to ride because she really doesn't like to let me in. In dressage, we ask that the horse to give over her body and her mind to the rider and this is an area that Jypsy is teaching me. Have you ever heard the saying, "You tell a gelding, ask a stallion and discuss it with a mare?". This is where we are at! Having daily discussions on why she can trust me with her body and her mind. She is not the type you can force into anything. If you try, she will completely lock her body against you so you must ride her with finesse and quiet confidence. In a way I feel she is reflecting where I am in my journey as a person and because of that for the first time I am really feeling a deeper sense of connection with her.
So, reader, I challenge you to ask what your horse is teaching you about yourself? Are they a mirror to your inner self or do they strike a stark contrast and create balance in your life of unbalance? If you haven't ever thought of your horse as a teacher, perhaps it's time to show up in the classroom and see what the teacher has in store for you. :)