Monday, August 30, 2010

The horse you want vs. the horse you need

I remember when I was telling Alexandra Kurland about Gwen she said that I would learn more from this horse than I could ever imagine, but it wouldn't be easy. Boy is that ever true.

I fell in love with Gwen the first time I saw her. I saw her sweet little face with that kissable nose and fell head over heels. I just had to have her. Of course I had no idea that she would be the most sensitive, excitable, and difficult horse that I have ever handled. I also didn't know that she would be exactly the horse I needed.

Like most people I have issues. I rush through things and pay only lip service to details. I tend to get over-excited and anxious very quickly, often blowing situations out of proportion and making things worse than they would be if I'd just chilled out. I also have a nasty aggressive streak and use a lot more force than I should, especially if I get upset- which, as I just mentioned, happens often. I am also really hard on myself, regular readers may have picked up on that by now.

This is why Gwen is good for me: Every time I let go of my self control and get upset or angry, Gwen flips out. Every time. But if I approach her with a calm and stable demeanor she can be very soft and loving. She's the ultimate 1000 lbs. life coach. Working with her forced me to evaluate not only my training regimen, but also my state of being.

Now she's in a new environment, once again freaked out by the entire world, and I need to do some serious self-examination to figure out the best way to help her without alienating her. I've taken her all the way back to basics. We walk to just out of sight of the other horses and then graze, with some targeting thrown in when she gets nervous. I concentrate on staying calm, breathing, and over all keeping a soft connection through the lead rope. And it's working, she's relaxing and I think she's even starting to enjoy our little treks out of the pasture.

I'd like to throw it out to you now: Was there ever a horse (or other animal) that you felt was in your life to help you grow as a person? That wasn't the horse you wanted but ended up being the horse you needed?


  1. Love this post, Shannon. It was destiny. I think that Gwen came into your life to help you as much as you help her.

    I cannot single out one of my four-legged companions - they have all helped me grow as a person. I truly believe that Gem is the horse for me. We both have attitude, but Gem has brought out a much more gentle and patient side of me. At my age, he will be my only horse. He will never be sold; I am committed to making our relationship work, however long it takes.

  2. Maisie was that for me, and now Dawn is - they've both been life-changing.

  3. Wolfie, you are lucky to have Gem. He's definitely a keeper :)

    I agree with you Kate, every horse that becomes part of our lives is there for a reason.

  4. When I was 13 I went to a summer camp and on my first day rode a TB mare named Touche. Being the tall kid meant I had always had to ride the big hulking slugs and use every ounce of me to push forward all lesson long. Touche was the exact opposite. She was tall enough, but she was QUICK! I had to almost relearn how to ride. I came off her the first day ready to pass out because it had been so much work. I vowed I wouldn't let her beat me and now I enjoy riding the more go than whoa horses. She was a real learning experience that I needed to grow in my riding.

    Every horse has taught me something unique. My current mare has taught me the value of trust, and how hard it is to keep and build trust. She's not the type who trusts easily.