After nearly two years without so much as smelling a horse, I couldn’t stay away any longer. We had recently moved to a new community, and I was looking to get involved and meet people by volunteering. I finally caved and contacted the local therapeutic riding center. I figured I had skills and knowledge that could be used to help others.
In the past, I had been involved in a couple of other therapeutic riding programs. I always had a dance of conscience when it comes to this work – a dance between healing and harming that I continue today. On the one hand, you have very loving people wanting to do great work in the world. You have individuals who undoubtedly get so much out of the opportunity to ride. There are so many benefits to therapeutic riding.
On the other hand, the horses work very hard and are (at times) considered a tool. It is no secret within the therapeutic riding world that horses break down and burn out all the time. It takes a special horse indeed to do this work. I have questioned whether or not it is fair. Are we crossing the horses’ boundaries in the name of serving people?
At our local program, I felt the horses were being cared for very well and their needs were taken into consideration, so I continued to volunteer. It was fulfilling just to be with them. I started feeding on the weekends to enjoy their company without the haze of uncertainty that I feel about this work. I loved getting a horse fix while giving back to my community.
As time went on, I got more and more involved. I started riding and schooling horses over this past summer. I was back in the saddle for the first time in three years. It felt good. Great, actually. It was like coming home.
It was so sweet that the first blog post on this site started with “I have been riding for the joy of it and loving it. No pressure. No need to have answers. Not out in front of the world. Just enjoying horse breath and my own growth and peace.”
I went on to say that “A friend asked me to start giving her lessons recently. Just one hour in the middle of that arena centered me into a passion that has not been snuffed. I love teaching.”
As I wrote those words, I was contacting local barns to find more teaching opportunities. I was ready to re-enter the horse world. I was feeling confident about being able to help horses and humans in their relationship with one another. And then it hit me… again.
It has been three short weeks, and all those pesky questions have all flooded back in. Can I consciously and compassionately make a career on the backs of others? Do I really believe that our current horse-human dynamic is acceptable? Am I actually at peace in the saddle or just confident in a familiar space? Do we have the right to impose our desires onto a sentient being in the name of fun?
After only a few lessons I had to tell my friend that I could not be her teacher. I knew I could help her train her horse and move forward, but I also knew that I was falling back on methods that do not feel Soulful. That’s not to say that I was reverting to the old school way of doing things, but that I knew I was going to be asking that horse to surrender.
I have made the decision once again not to ride. I already took down the page on this site advertising lessons and clinics. I know that is not the way forward for me. But this time, instead of giving up on the horses, I am going to find a new way forward. I am going to stand up for them and help to lead a peaceful equine revolution. I am going to speak my truth even if it is not well received.
It is no coincidence that the moment that I made this declaration to myself that a potential opportunity presented itself to begin an equine guided education program at a residential treatment facility. This week I take the next step on a journey I began five years ago when I became certified as an equine specialist through EAGALA and PATH.
I have been in relationship with horses for thirty years now, and I am embarking on the very thing that I wanted all along. I am walking into murky waters that will fulfill my heart’s greatest desire. I get to build a program based on relationship rather than riding. Why is it always so scary to grab hold of the very thing that you have always wanted?
This post concludes the looking back series. I felt that I had to tell my story – at least the highlights. I think it is important to honor our past so that we can forgive, let go, and move forward. Today I stand on a precipice ready to jump into a very cloudy and uncertain future. I trust the horses will meet me there and together we will find a new way of being.