When I first brought Belinda home with me, I knew there was going to be a learning curve.
I’d grown up riding and owning geldings. I loved their goofy nature and I knew how to handle their boyish, immature moments. It seemed nearly everything I knew about horses’ personalities went out the window when I took on a mare.
Luckily, I’ve got a good mannered one. She’s cool and calm 99 percent of the time. But she’s still, in fact, a she, which means every so often likes to remind me that she won’t be duped with a measly carrot as easily as the geldings who came before her had been.
Belinda has taught me a lot about what it means to be a partner. She’s reminded me to be calm in stressful situations. In fact, she’s taught me to stress less, but not to be afraid to try again the next day when at first I don’t succeed. Belinda has taught me that less is more in nearly every situation. And to be kind, above all else.
Here are some of the top takeaways Belinda’s taught me (or reminded me) about life, when horses are present or not:
I’m not in charge. Neither is she. I am always making big plans for me and my horse. Shows I want to go to. Training goals I hope to achieve in the next few months. We don’t hit all the targets, but that’s OK. Life has thrown us some curve balls this year. Lameness set us back and Belinda isn’t very fond of the two-horse trailer I bought just for her. But we’ll get there. It’s all about the give and take.
Accomplishments mean so much more when we’re on the same page. Belinda and I recently trailered out for a lesson with our trainer who lives about 40 minutes away. It was a HUGE accomplishment for us, as we’ve struggled with loading problems for months now. But something happened that day that put it all into perspective. Belinda trusted me, and willingly walked into the trailer. That meant more to me than what we learned in the actual lesson.
Be brave. Always. The first time I hauled Belinda in our new trailer (after many lessons and set backs and squabbles,) I bawled my eyes out. It was enough to scare my fiance, who sat in the passenger seat of the truck as we rumbled down the busy highway with the horse in tow. I was so terrified that I wasn’t doing the right thing for my horse. But my trainer reminded me to be brave. I have to be for her, in moments when she can’t be.
Mutual respect can go a long way. If the trailering issues have taught me anything, it’s that respect is so important. I cringe at the trainers that instill fear in their animals, and use that as a way to force them to do something they’re afraid to do. While I certainly agree it’s important to establish dominance, there’s a balance. I respect my horse and the fear she has for the trailer. It’s up to me to show her there’s no reason to be afraid.
Be thankful. Every day I show up to the barn I ask Belinda to do something. Whether it’s to put a bit in her mouth, or to jump over a line of fences or just to pick up her hoof so I can clean it out, I know I ask her for a lot. I am so thankful for her, and her kind, watchful expression. I love the mornings when I just brush her in her stall, listening to her happily munching her hay. She’s my forever horse, and I couldn’t be more grateful for her company.