The first time you find these thoughts in your mind can be gut-wrenching.
“Is this ever going to work?” Maybe I should find her another home? Maybe I should sell her?”
You think of all the hopes you had, all the visions of galloping together across open fields, of long trail rides, of fulfilling those childhood dreams…
But then it doesn’t go as planned.
Your horse turns out to be more sensitive or reactive than you have the skills to handle. Perhaps they have a soundness issue that you realize may never be resolved. Or they just don’t have the physical ability to excel in the activities you love.
The doubts come on strong – “Does this mean I am a failure? Am I giving up too soon?”
There has to be something else to try, something else I can do… some way to make it work…
In a recent workshop I participated in for facilitating Equine Assisted Learning, I heard a speaker, Kris Gonzalez, talk honestly about when relationships don’t go as planned and it made me think of when our relationship with our horse does not turn out as we had hoped.
There was a specific quote I wrote down that ended up being my biggest takeaway from the workshop. The quote went like this: “Mourn the relationship you wanted so that you can be fully present in the relationship you have.”
We can acknowledge we had wanted, had expected, something different with our horse. Something that didn’t happen, and that coming up short can be painful.
Perhaps you had dreamed of long trail rides through the mountains or fields by your home, or of finally jumping in the 1.00 meter class, or of just being able to ride every day without first needing to jog your horse to see if he is sound.
But that does not mean there is not value and beauty in what we have and in what we can still create. Every moment presents a new opportunity, but if we are still dwelling in what could have been, we will be unable to recognize that moment, and it’s potential will be lost.
When we can accept the loss of what we had been expecting, we can appreciate our horse for who they are, and open ourselves to what comes next.
This may be a decision to find your horse a new home, and that decision could well be what is best for both of you.
The truth is that regardless of whether you choose to part ways with your horse or work in a different direction, hanging on to old expectations can poison that transition. Instead, letting go, accepting what could have been but wasn’t, and fully embracing the challenge and opportunity in front of us allows us to take full advantage of what is possible.
In some cases, this may mean going out each day accepting of the horse in front of you – knowing that some days you will be able to work on a lot and other days you may be able to do very little.
It may mean realizing an opportunity to work more on relationship than performance, or to recognize something new you need to learn, a different skill you need to build.
If finding your horse a new home is the decision you make, take heart in that not every relationship with a horse turns out as we would like, focus on what you learned with this horse and how you can set them up for a good fit in their next home.
Ask questions of the potential buyers, finding out where and how they plan to care for your horse and what their goals and expectations are to be sure the new home and new owners will be a good match.
In an article I posted last week, I talked about how awareness is so important for safety, and part of awareness is accepting the risk we are taking on.
I believe that one reason riding and working with horses is so challenging is because of the inherent physical risk that is present when climbing on the back of a large being with thoughts and emotions all its own.
What is often left out of discussions of safety is that we each have different perceptions of and tolerance for risk. Some people thrive being outside their comfort zone and others prefer to be well inside, just brushing up against the edges.
These two topics are connected, because we each have a different threshold for the risk we are willing to take, and how much we are willing to work at something. I think we should strive to better know ourselves, rather than looking around at what others are doing.
Regardless of what the next step is for you and your horse, mourn what you had wanted, and had expected, and then be present in what is.
Have goals and expectations, but perhaps allow your plans to be changed, there is a fine line between going after what we want and becoming so focused on what we think should be that we lose all the possibility around us.