I felt nervous as I led the big pretty Buckskin horse from his paddock to the stall where Bert Lambert the “sedation free” dentist would work his dental magic. I knew that if anyone could see a horse clearly and put it into words – it would be Bert.
The big pretty Buckskin had been my attempt at finding a good riding partner. My own mare, who I adored but was honestly never a great trail riding horse, was in her retirement now and I was looking for a new partner. A more agreeable partner. I had also decided that in 2014 it was time to alter my relationship with horses from mostly caring for them to spending allot more time riding and enjoying life with them.
When I had started the search I was clear in my mind about what kind of horse I was looking for. I wanted a sound, good minded, well mannered, well seasoned, kind and fun trail horse. I did not want another rescue, rehab project or horse who didn’t like being out on the trail alone. It seemed so simple when I started my search but as life goes and as deep rooted issues often control our perceptions & actions, it was anything but simple.
I have long been attracted to the fiery, big, bold and somewhat difficult horses. When I was younger and fearless this was not a problem it was an honest attraction and an honest relationship. I loved the horses that most others shied away from. As I aged my love and attraction for those fiery horses didn’t leave but my patience and ability to enjoy their antics was no longer present.
It can be allot like the human partners we choose. All too often we are attracted to exactly what will eventually drive us a little crazy and leave us feeling as though something is missing. In human partnerships I understand this well. In equine partnerships I understand this but the transition from what I was attracted too to what I wanted was a bit more challenging.
In the middle of 2014 I began scouring horse sale ads, made numerous phone calls, spoke with many owners and looked at more than a few horses. Nothing was really jumping out at me.
Towards the end of the year I saw a horse for sale on a trusted trainer/friends website. He was a big pretty Buckskin. We spoke and the horse sounded great. He sounded like exactly what I was looking for.
It was all so easy. I knew the trainer, I trusted her, I knew that her own horses were well behaved and she didn’t put up with too much silliness when it came to work time. So I thought any horse coming from her direction would be perfect for me. What I hadn’t really thought about was that this was not her horse. This was a horse she was helping out and what ran thru my mind more than a few times in the weeks before he arrived was that this whole thing felt “funny”. I conveniently ignored that “funny” feeling. The big pretty Buckskin horse fit my old attraction pattern but I wasn’t fully aware of that yet.
Not long before the horse arrived at my ranch the trainer let me know that he was a bit thin and a bit off because he had been unhappy doing his previous work which was a lesson horse. I immediately started to unconsciously dumb down my list of “what I want in a horse”. I reminded myself that I do rehab so what’s a little time getting him back in shape. I told myself that I’ve waited this long to have fun on the trail so what’s a little more time dealing with him being a bit off. Then the trainer added that the horse had been rather spoiled by his original owner as a foal and adolescent horse – one of my personal pet peeves when it comes to horses. I was doing allot of talking myself into this being the right horse for me even though word by word this horse was getting farther away from what I said I wanted. Of course it’s easy now to say I should have declined to take him but there was a bigger part of me that needed to revisit having a dysfunctional equine partnership and work thru the feelings and underlying energy that surround that issue.
The big pretty Buckskin arrived mid November 2014. I got right to work doing what I know well. Getting his diet in order, making appointments with the chiropractor and the massage therapist. Giving him adequate exercise to rebuild muscle. What I didn’t get to do was ride – the one thing I said I most wanted.
I am always fascinated by the human beings ability, my ability to say one thing that they really truly mean and yet do and settle for another. For me ignoring what I said I really wanted was driven by the underlying energy with in my own personal make up that said I must work really hard for anything I want. Some how if I pay this due of working really really hard then I will at some point deserve the payout.
So here I was again, doing exactly all the things I said I didn’t want to do. The big pretty buckskin was nothing but work. There was very little joy involved in our relationship. I knew to get him to a place of even being able to ride him, we were looking at months of rehab and after all that who knew if he was even capable of doing what I wanted.
By mid December it was quite clear to me that the big pretty buckskin was my “old programming”. I felt my old pattern of work, work, work and it was really painful this time. Once I knew he wasn’t what I wanted I then became faced with what would come up for me if I decided to stop “working really hard”. What I found in that space was the pain of giving up, the guilt of giving up, the feeling of having been wrong and of letting someone down, ugh, it was kind of a mess under there. So I held onto the horse a little longer, a few more weeks, while I began to process the mess I was unearthing. I had unfinished personal internal business to be dealt with before I could let go of the old programming and have what I really wanted.
At the end of December after a really awful appointment with the equine chiropractor where the big pretty horse was just non stop difficult I made a decision and emailed the former care giver to say I had made a mistake. He wasn’t the right horse for me. I sent the email off and with in seconds I was overcome with such intense grief, pain and the fear that I really felt I might have acted to quickly. That maybe I had given up on something potentially great. So I emailed her right back and told her what I had just experienced and I wanted to try a little longer. Oh my what a deep rooted issue I had.
He stayed with me one more month. During that month I became more and more sure that this was just all wrong and that the grief, pain and fear I had felt when I told his former caregiver that I wanted to send him back was all about me and my grief, pain and fear over so many situations in my life that had created my need to give, fix and set aside my own needs and desires for the needs and desires of others. It was such a messy web of feelings. So complicated yet so simple.
On that morning of my final decision in January of 2015 I led the big pretty buckskin over to meet Bert, the dentist, who was here to work on our horses. As we walked up Bert said “well that’s a pretty horse”. I smiled on the outside and cringed on the inside. Not a congruent behavior for me at all but I felt what was about to come and could only react.
Bert took the pretty horse and led him into the stall. As he began to look him over Bert said this horse is off. I acknowledged his observation. Over the next few minutes the pretty horse was difficult, fussy and seriously ill behaved. At one point the pretty horse decided he would use his head to smack Bert since none of the pretty horses other diversion techniques were working. Bert avoided the hit, settled the horse and then stopped and just looked at me. He said “why would you want a horse like this?” “Don’t you want to have fun? Horses are supposed to be enjoyable, there’s nothing enjoyable about this horse” “He’ll hurt you some day and he won’t think twice about it”
His words pummeled me. The words opened up a wound so long closed off that I felt like I might die standing right there as he spoke to me. The words were all true. They were all words I’d been saying too myself but to hear those words from his mouth made the difference that I needed to take my next step. I gathered up the pretty horse and walked him back to his paddock. As I put the horse away, I also put away my need to prove anything to myself about this horse or our relationship – I finally felt that I had nothing to prove, nothing that I owed, nothing that I needed to fix beyond my own choices and behavior. A feeling of neutrality about the whole situation washed over me. I could finally exhale and let go.
That night after all the horses had been put away and work was finished. I headed into the house and emailed the former caregiver. I said I’d decided it just wasn’t going to work out for the pretty horse and myself. He would need to go home. Arrangements were made and I felt nothing but relief this time. No second guessing, no guilt, no anger, no frustration, no grief and no pain just the feeling that I had finally, after all these years stepped over a void that had been long elusive. Those layers of pain were replaced with an honest and more current energy of I tried, I learned, I’ve made a decision and I want something different.
After the pretty Buckskin went home I continued my search for the right horse. This time no short cuts and no compromises. I was prepared for the search to take as long as it took. Ironically or perfectly not long after the big pretty Buckskin left my ranch a friend offered me her former trail riding horse, Rose. Rose was no longer up to the 20 mile rides my friend did but for the kind of riding I enjoyed – Rose was perfect.
This time around it was a different kind of easy. Everything about the horse felt right in my body. There was no dumbing down of what I wanted, no altering of hopes or needs. I have easily had more fun with Rose this past year than I have had collectively in the last 10 years. With out going thru the experience with the big pretty buckskin and letting go my need to fix & work rather than enjoy I know I would not have been able to have the experience I am now having with Rose.