Back in the groove

(continued from previous post:  Growing Back the Groove)

I wish there was a secret, and you might too, but we both know there is not.

It all comes down to this.

Do it.

Don’t be afraid to do it alone.

And even if you are afraid, do it anyway.

That, my friends, is how I grew back my groove.

And gained back my confidence.

And got back in the saddle again.

Though of course I wasn’t usually really out.  Just out of sorts.  Imagining myself flying out far too many times.  And now, finally, I feel grounded again.  A firm seat in the saddle. That’s where my butt belongs.

Because it’s not about not being afraid.  Because often I am.  It’s about doing it even when you are afraid.  Yes, just like John Wayne once said.

“Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.”

And remember this, too. Saddling is the easy part.  Riding is where it gets complicated.  So get on and ride, because if you don’t, you won’t, and you’ll end up right where you started.  Standing there on the ground wishing you could go somewhere.

Get on and go.

(Quote borrowed from fellow horsewoman, Jenn Edwards)


So what happened is this.  It started with a love/hate relationship.  And I ended up with the most challenging horse I ever rode. My little Arabian stallion, now gelding, Flying Crow.  For those that care about such things, his registered name is Fadjurz Ideal and I went all the way to the Jack Tone Ranch in California to find him.  What was I thinking?

Was it love at first sight?  Hardly.  He was as afraid of me as I was of him.  For years. Now I can say he’s learned to trust me.  And I’ve learned to trust myself.  For the most part.  I can stay on and get where I need to go.   Pretty well.  No guarantees there won’t be more bumps along the way.

It’s the journey that counts, they say.  I say, it’s the journey that wipes you out some days…

Seven years we’ve been together, Flying Crow and I.  Seven long hard years where if he were a man, we’d be divorced.  And if he were my son, well, I’d seriously consider boarding school.  I’ve wanted to sell him, but how could I?  He’d make a bad name for my training, and for Arabian horses.  He’s, he’s… how do I find ways to describe him, how difficult he’s been (and still is) yet show the crazy deep love I hold fast for him?

Tiring, exhausting, challenging, and the cause of innumerable crying bouts.  And then you look into his warm brown eyes, and all you can do is melt, get back on, and try again.  More patiently this time.  Ask, don’t demand.  Take a deep breath…  Settle in for the long ride.

What he misses in size he makes up in nerves. What takes me three times to show your average horse, took me thirty to teach this guy.  And then, chances are, he’ll still be scared and uncertain.  He’ll spin, spook, bolt and jolt… but eventually, he’ll trust me and go where I need him to go, with his lively little perky stride, which too, I might add, is exhausting after about fifteen minutes of working to keep your butt firmly planted in the bouncing seat. Try that for rides that last two, four, six hours or more.  It has been, he has been difficult.

He is my special child.  He has special needs.  A lot of them. Needs non-stop guidance.  Needs coaxing.  Needs firm direction presented in the softest way, or he’ll get upset and shut down.  And constant attention.  Every minute down the trail.

So he taught me to pay attention, always.  Be present.  Be riding all the time. Hold your seat.  Be ready.  Expect the unexpected.  And handle him lightly because if I over reacted, it wouldn’t be too hard to pull him over on top of me. He’s hyper sensitive.

That said, he’s also sensitive in the lightest of touch.  He misses nothing. (Even when you wish he would.)  And those skinny long legs know how to move.  With the proper guidance and direction, he moves through the trees, up and down slopes, runs across open fields with the grace of a lovely young buck. A beautiful thing to behold.

So for every ride that I make it home in one piece, I am grateful.  Relieved. Tired. And very proud.  I believe he is too.  I can tell by the way he stands there with me after he’s been unsaddled and I brush down his sweaty back, and he’s in no rush to leave me and go back to his herd, but finds a certain peace, finally, standing there in the shade of the tack barn with me.

And as for doing it alone… riding alone.  Well, I do it because I can (no more dudes to take care of), and I have to (horses are my thing, my boys have other interests).  Riding buddies?  Who the heck wants to ride with the crazy mountain mama and the even crazier little Arabian horse?

So, there you go.  No big revelations.  Just time in the saddle.  Sucking up and holding on.  Because that’s the only way I know how to really move on.

Yes, I know I will be hurt again.  I’ll fall off a few more horses, no doubt. That’s horses and that’s life.  There are ups and there are downs. But it’s worth it and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I guess because I can’t, can I?  Just ask my father-in-law, who at 81 fell off a horse just the other day.  And a cliff, I might add, while training that horse.  I can only hope I’m doing the same thirty six years from now.

Right on.

Ride on.

I think I will.

For Kim, who’s got a lot of scary rides ahead of her, but is still able to keep that butt firmly planted and enjoy the ride.

10 thoughts on “Back in the groove

  1. So good to read about your relationship with Crow and what you have learned about him and the other horses. I know they aren’t just big dogs but I did think about my boys as I read this. Because with them, too, I had to learn what they needed from me in training, individually because it is very different training one from the other. One needs a bit more firmness but not too much and the other needs none. I understand when you talk about Crow’s sensitivity. He sounds like the way I would describe Cody, very intense but sensitive at the same time. Good for you for realizing his needs and learning to be patient enough to work with him.

    • I know what you mean, Karen. Their personalities, what we can learn from each, how different each is. Yet the big difference between horses and dogs is just that. BIG. They are larger. They are faster for longer. They can hurt you. (Yes, they can bite, too!) They can buck or take off with you on their back, and you gotta learn to ride it out and teach them “a better way.” The list of injuries riders sustain each year topples over the occasional dog bite. Broken pelvis, collar bones, sprains and bruises… and… dare I say, worse. That said, at the same time, the horse differs from the dog as far removed as predator and prey. The dog hunts; the horse is hunted. And both can learn the difference, and to overcome instinct, with trust and hard work. As Dr. Robert Miller reminds us, the horse is not afraid of predators, only predatory behavior. And my dog can ride with (and even on) relaxed horses, but tell him to move a horse (as you’ve seen) and he means business. Interesting for us, like dogs, to learn the difference between the two. A delicate balance, for that does not mean be soft and sweet all the time and just be friends with your horses. Not if you want to get anywhere safely, that is… They need a firm but fair leader, and that is what the rider must learn to be. Oh, I could go on and on… sorry… just in for a break from working with them now (getting Norman in shape for driving at the ditch) so very much on my mind…

      • “Firm but fair leader”, I really like that! And thank you for sharing your wisdom. I know you’ve done a lot of research on these things (training horses as well as dogs) and it is always interesting reading your take on things. And I like the fact that Gunnar knows when to use his drive and when not to.

        Next time we go for a ride, remind me “Firm but fair”…something horse and dog people always need to remember!

        • To date, my work with horses sure beats my work with dogs. I’ve just been lucky before now and scored good ones. As for Gunnar, he knows when to use his drive, but we haven’t figured out the “how” part yet. But you know, it’s these challenging ones that teach us. As my dog trainer in Washington told me, you don’t learn with the easy ones. I’d guess Cody was the turning point for you.

      • Got to ride just a little this weekend at our church rodeo…no, not IN the rodeo, LOL! Just around the premises. I remembered most of the things you’ve taught me and remembered to be “firm but fair”…she was a great horse used to 5 year olds riding her so I really didn’t have to be very firm at all.

  2. I was just reminiscing about a big old gelding. We used to joke that, if we put his feed behind a tree, he’d bang his head getting to it. (That was a little unfair. he was brighter than that.) But, still, my sort of horse. Solid, simple, noticed things slowly enough that he had time to figure them out and not spook. The only thing that alarmed him was a marching band. So, Gin, I take my hat off to you for the determination and courage to work with a flighty, lively horse. I couldn’t do that.

    It’s a good point that a horse is frightened of predatory behaviour, not necessarily predators. I was reminded of this outside today, accompanied by the cats and dogs ignoring one-another as they did their own peculiar things. But if the dogs see a cat that does flee, off they’ll go in pursuit. It’s the cats’ attitude that maintains equilibrium. (That, and some pups with bloody noses from cat claws a few years ago.)

    Last week I was listening to a colleague who was lieutenant-colonel in charge of a batallion in Iraq. He commented that, under fire, one is faced by three choices: freeze, run or attack. The lattermost, somewhat counter-intuitively, offers the greatest chance of survival. In our context, that’s attacking the problem. Going all-out to fix whatever is wrong. That, I think, is already your philosophy Gin.

Thank you for your interest in Gin's writing.

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