Don’t get me wrong…I absolutely ADORE my dogs. They’re sweet and fuzzy, and SO stinkin’ cute and I LOVE coming home to their little wagging tails every evening! But there’s just something different about the relationship we have with our horses. It’s hard to explain really, but I’ll try anyway!
What it basically boils down to, with me, is that I view my mare almost like she’s another human being. Now I know to non-horsey people, that just sounds plain silly. Horses probably seem more like any other pet to a lot of people, but to me and those who understand like I do, they are so much more. And this goes beyond the simple “yeah, because you can RIDE them” difference.
There’s just something to be said about an animal who is literally 10 times your weight, but who will trust you and soar over a purposefully-scary fence, or perform intricate and difficult moves just based on the way you shift your weight in the saddle or press against her side with your leg. When you think about it, she doesn’t HAVE to listen. I could claim that I MAKE my mare listen, but I won’t because in reality, if she really and truly didn’t want to, she could have me on the ground in 1 second flat. She chooses not to.
It all comes down to respect and leadership…and I won’t get into the nitty gritty details there, but just to know that she COULD really purposefully harm me if she wished to, but chooses not to, is amazing to me.
And the road to trust is mutual respect as well. Of course I assert myself as the leader. Of course I ask that she be respectful and polite. But I don’t disrespect her either. If she makes a mistake, we correct it simply and learn from it.
I made the mistake once of really overreacting when she refused a scary fence and I ended up coming off. She was PETRIFIED of that fence (you’ll be glad to know we’ve gotten over it since then at least!) but I was having a TERRIBLE stressful day already, and I took it out on her. She didn’t do it to be mean, she was really frightened. In fact, based on my stress and nerves that day, I was probably the REASON she felt so on edge and did it in the first place!
But I punished her as if she had done it on purpose. Needless to say, I FELT HORRIBLE later on. I ended up in her stall apologizing to her and crying on her shoulder when the barn was empty and the only judge and jury that remained were her fellow barnmates.
I honestly felt very guilty. She is very sensitive and although stoic, I knew I had hurt her feelings and the respect between us had been compromised that day. Luckily, horses can be very forgiving…forgiveness…something we should ALL strive to practice more of.
The good news is that this one isolated event didn’t deter what has become a bond between us that not even the strongest man would be able to break!
But I don’t see her as a pet. I see her as a partner. We go places together, we conquer our fears as a team. With my dogs, I am their protector, their provider. I am those things to my mare as well, but that isn’t all that defines us.
I feel amazingly blessed that she lets me climb onto her back, that she willingly marches forward whether in the ring, or out on the cross country course. That she goes against her own good judgment to drop down into the water when she has no idea of its depth.
Simply put, horses and the bonds we build with them are just amazing. To have a horse in your life is a blessing, and I thank God every day that I am lucky enough to know what it feels like, and to have had the hole in my heart be filled by this kind of love.
Read all my blog posts here