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Joe

Kitty Hawk and I were top of our game when I was slapped in the face with reality.  She was diagnosed with navicular and was restricted to flat work.  The news was devastating.  After a lot of tears and mourning the loss,  I learned my first lesson of acceptance and realized that our relationship did not end, it just changed.  She remained in my life for many years after I stopped showing her and we continued to go on trail rides and enjoyed playing on the flat.

Enter Joe, a beautiful 16 hand, dappled gray thoroughbred with a heart of gold. He was willing to do anything that I asked of him and had a huge smile on his face while doing it. He was one of those horses that comes into our  life for a very short time but changes it forever. Joe was my equine teacher in the lessons of  acceptance and humility.

I remember the day I brought Joe home like it was yesterday. This was my first horse that I could actually call my own. I wasn’t leasing him, I owned him. At 13 years old, I was the luckiest girl in the world to have my own horse. To say that I was ecstatic is an understatement.  My confidence was high and knew that we would be successful as a team.

The first month of our relationship together was perfect. We were in perfect sync while getting to know each other. We were having incredible lessons and advancing in ways that I could not have imaged.  I felt like we were made for each another and I was given yet another incredible equine partner. Things couldn’t have been better. The show season was starting soon and I was riding everyday in preparation.  For one of my lessons we decided to trailer Joe to a local equestrian center that had a show jumping and dressage ring as well as a cross-country course. I showed there many times with Kitty Hawk and was very comfortable with the area.

Joe, trailered beautifully to the facility and our warm up was going well.  My instructor, Sue Cassell, set up a jumping course for us and off we went. We have been jumping since the first day I got him so this was no big deal. Jumping the  3.5 foot fences felt like we were cantering over ground polls. Joe jumped with ease and loved every minute of it.  Our first couple fences went well and we continued on with the entire course. The last line was a triple combination with an oxer to complete the course. As we were rounding the turn for the final line I remember thinking, ” This is easy, we got this”.

The first fence was perfect and the second was even better. As were taking off for the oxer, the last fence in the line and of the course, something felt different, but I had no time to react. While in mid-air, Joe bucked and I went flying head first into the ground.  I was unconscious for a moment and had no idea what happened. I remember my mom, my instructor and Joe came over to me in a frenzy. As I was opening my eyes with my mom in a panic, there was this moment when Joe and I locked eyes and knew that he was confused on what had just happened.  He came up to me, nuzzled his nose on my face as if to say, ” I’m sorry”  and I started to cry. I felt a connection between us that I had never felt before. I knew that he did not buck me off intentionally, however I was not exactly sure the reason at the time. This was the beginning of my lesson in humility.

After a couple of days of recovering for the soreness I was back out at the stables ready to ride. I was determined not to let a little fall create fear in me.  As we were warning up, my self-confidence started to improved and my fear began fading away.  Our flat work was evolving nicely and I started to feel synchronicity between us.  After about 40 minutes my confidence was back and I was ready to take on some fences. We did a couple single verticals that went very well, my nerves started to settle and I started to relax.

I set up a double combination,  Joe jumped the first vertical with ease and we were approaching the second at a nice canter. As we took off for the second fence I could tell Joe was uncomfortable and the next thing I knew I was on the ground with a very bruised tail bone and ego.  As I sat there in confusion and pain, Joe walked over to me, nuzzled his nose in my neck and gave me a look of, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it”.  Once again, he bucked me off in mid-air over the fence and I went flying.

Obviously, I was unable to ride for the next couple of weeks due to my bruised tail bone. I spent the next couple of weeks trying to figure out what was going on with him. I worked with him everyday lounging and  free jumping.  After several consults  with our vet we discovered that Joe had arthritis in his back and jumping larger fences was causing him pain. The lessons of acceptance and humility where everywhere I turned, and I quickly realized that I needed to accept the things I can not change and I needed to make decisions that were unselfish. After much contemplation,  Joe, was given to a wonderful little girl and her family, where he was loved, went on trail rides and most likely ate too many carrots. He was a wonderful horse that taught me much more than I could have taught him. I will forever be grateful for my equine teacher in acceptance and humility.

Acceptance

With each successfully experience  our confidence improves , which should further develop our self-acceptance. I find that the most  difficult part of this aspect of our journey is knowing when to accept what we cannot change, and how to change what we can.  If we try to change something that cannot possibly change, it can lead to defeat and scar our self-confidence.  However, we must try to change what we can change or we will not fulfill our capabilities. I believe, as we advance through the stages of our life we seek to balance ourselves through a positive philosophy, knowing when to accept becomes more clearly defined and more easily enforced.

Change is a key element to acceptance. The ability to change is an important part our uniqueness. Each experience, each personal encounter, as well as what we hear and see, changes us. We are not the same person from one day to the next. Each time we come across an obstacle in our life, we need to evaluate the situation, learn from it,  and hopefully make a positive change in our life.

If we accept the circumstances of life and learn to evaluate them, we discover that experiences combined with positive attitude and a philosophy of betterment can turn many experiences into positive assets. The acceptance and “letting go” that I learned in my riding and horse relationships continues to be an asset to my personal and professional life. I believe the interchange of experiences through open-minded evaluation followed by acceptance or change has a powerful influence on all areas of our life.

People are often afraid of change  because change represents the unknown, and this fear contributes to many people’s unwillingness to make a change. Throughout my life, I have witnessed many people in all areas of my life be driven by fear.  They are unable to change the things that they are capable of changing.  In order for us to reach our full potential we need to learn to  face our fears and take a leap into the unknown so we can grow and learn to accept the things we cannot change.

We can learn some much about acceptance through our equine relationships. Your horse accepts you with your uniqueness. He does not judge that you are too fat, too thin, too tall or too short. If you can accept yourself as your horse does, you will discover a new-found love and acceptance for yourself and your horse. We need to accept our horses as they accept us, with all their strengthens and weaknesses.  Without acceptance, it is easy to get caught up in resentments, self-pity and anger. These resentments can begin to govern your life, and the discoloration can prevent you from enjoying the beauty and the awe that are part of every situation.

However, we should not accept a painful or a negative situation without challenging it. Each time an obstacle is presented, you must investigate it thoroughly, understand it, do what you can do to change it, and then accept the things you can not change. I realize that this is much easier say then done, however I believe the result is well worth the tough part of it.

Everyone of us has obstacles to deal with. Often people feel alone or unacceptable because of their problem. Our uniqueness makes us feel alone with our conflict or problem. Unfortunately, our society does not encourage intimate communication. The difficulty of trusting others with our problems or concerns contributes to our loneliness. Loneliness delays our search for acceptance. During my lonely times I always had horses to turn to. Horses continue to be my counselor, best friend and support, however as I grow older I have developed other ways to resolve internal conflict, obstacles and issues in my life. I love to write and journal writing became a huge part of my life and a safe outlet to express myself freely. This in turn helps me release my anxiety, fears and weaknesses without judgment-just like my horses do! I find that sharing and expressing my ideas and feelings, whether with my horse, a person or a pen and paper, helps me relieve the pressure and loneliness of a problem. It can also help me find a solution to the problem that I am facing.

We are unique human beings and our horses our unique creatures. Each individual horse and each individual human has some weakness to deal with. Understanding this helps us accept ourselves and our horses, the more thoroughly we can look at our environment. The more realistic our goals, the more we can accept the joy and beauty that surrounds us.

They say you never get over your first love. This is definitely a true statement when speaking about my first equine love, Kitty Hawk. Half quarter horse half hackney pony, chestnut mare with 4 white socks and a white blaze running down her face, Kitty Hawk was perfect in my eyes. She even had a heart-shaped spot on her muzzle that I was convinced was there just for me. In the 5 years that Kitty Hawk was in my life I learn far more than my diagonals, leads, and how to spot a jump. Kitty Hawk, was and still is my greatest teacher of life.

I was 9 years old when my mom decided to lease, Kitty Hawk. The joy and excitement that I felt during that time is indescribable. I still remember sitting in middle school writing all over my notebooks, “I love Kitty Hawk”. I was so obsessed I even brought her into school for show and tell one year. To say that I was horse crazy is an understatement. This was the start of my horse obsession and the beginning of my quest for spiritual and physical balance in my personal life as well as my life with my equine partners.

At a very early age I realized the healing power of horses. At three years old I was watching people in wheel chairs experience a moment of freedom while they rode their horse, through the therapeutic riding program at the stable were my mom boarded her horse. I knew back then that there was a connection far beyond what the eye can see and when Kitty Hawk came into my life I was able to experience this connection and healing power first hand.

Kitty Hawk and I trained and showed on the hunter circuit and rode on the state and national level through 4-H. We traveled all over the east coast, showing every weekend that we could. Over those 5 years, my relationship with Kitty Hawk developed into a soulful, spiritual one. A relationship that I can only describe as true love, one of the spirit.

Of course, my relationship with Kitty Hawk taught me responsibility, discipline, and a level of dedication that is needed when caring for a horse. More importantly it also taught me things far beyond the care of an animal. Kitty Hawk, became my counselor, my best friend, during a time in my life that was very difficult and painful. She helped me to trust and to be confident in who I was and follow my truth. As we both grew together, both physically and spiritually, I learned about compassion, calmness, acceptance and inner peace through her nature. I believe horses naturally exhibit theses qualities and I believe this is seen in their strength, power, simplicity, and purity.

Kitty Hawk, was the first of many horses that came into my life and was a great teacher. I am thankful to have had the success we shared together and the accepting, trusting and awe-inspiring relationship that can only be described as my first love.