Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Only Way to Learn

The second in an occasional series of ramblings about the unexpected things I learned from horses.

From the upcoming movie BUCK (about Buck Buchanan)

"All your horses are a mirror to your soul; and sometimes, you might not like what you see in the mirror. You can't hold it against him for how his life has been. Maybe there are some things for you to learn about you; and, maybe the horse is going to be the only damn way you're gonna learn it."

It's frightening how true this is for me in my journey with horses. I remember a moment, a dark one on my horse journey, where I wondered if I would be like a blogger I'd read. A woman blogger (who is no longer blogging, and hasn't for a few years) had clearly decided not to ride any more. She never said it, but her posts went from confronting her fears to brushing and grooming - and never, ever riding.

I saw myself there, not sure if I was going to make it across the chasm where fear silently grabbed at my throat. I could see the other side of the chasm, but there was no bridge to get there. I could see the other side, a place where people were riding with a certain level of confidence, not of ignorance (I'm young and immortal!) not years of experience (Off to Rolex!), but who somehow made it. They had once been on this side where I stood and yet managed to leap across.

It was terribly wide and the bottom so distant, I couldn't bear to think of the fall. Again and again I rode up to the chasm, on two different horses. Again and again I backed away, burying my face in my hands. I simply could not jump.

The horses I was with told me this. That until I could jump, leap into the air, I simply could not provide what they needed.

I had to face something I never wanted to speak out loud. Leadership isn't getting a horse to do inside turns in a round pen. It isn't having them stop behind you when you stop walking. It isn't having them lift their hooves as requested.

Those are actions. They can grow out of leadership, be learned through leadership, but they can also be tricks.

Leadership is locked inside us. It's not an action. It's not a stance. It's not rote behavior. It's some strange combination of energy, attitude, and soul that is only unmistakable when you finally feel it.

But no one really wants to tell you that it's not all these physical things, these things you can fake, especially when you are on the fear side of the chasm. Because then you'll know how impossibly big the leap is. Because it has to be REAL.

And on that cliff you know exactly how far from REAL you are. The danger is that you'll realize this, shudder, unhook your lead rope and walk away. Forever.

For so many reasons, we want everyone to jump, to land safely on the other side.

Getting through my fear, leaping my chasm and becoming this person, what I think of as a more fully realized version of myself, has been one of the most important things I've accomplished in my life. Everything else spills out from this, and I face every challenge before me slightly differently because of this place I am with my horses.

But you know what's funny? I don't even know why I jumped. Why I didn't just groom and brush my lovely horses, and be satisfied with that.

But I do know I am on the other side.


Anonymous said...

Glad you made it over - there will be other chasms to leap, but perhaps they'll be not as wide or deep now. I think for many of us, it's a matter of time and miles, and the depth of effort and attention put in - there's a lot of investing before there's any pay off.

Dan and Betty Cooksey said...

Interesting perspective Breathe. When I was in the Navy we talked about 'command presence.' It's not something that can be taught. Some people had it and others never did. It included such things as confidence, grounding, calmness under stress, vision of what can be, etc.


Wolfie said...

Wonderful post. Congratulations on making it to the other side!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I am in awe of your writing. So well done. It takes a lot of work to write that well, and I appreciate coming across posts like this. Your journey is inspiring.

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

Beautifully said!

Maia said...

Absolutely gorgeous writing. I predict great things coming your way.

aurora said...

What a great post! I can relate. Glad you are on the other side. I am still trying to get there.

I believe much like art, 10% percent is natural and 90% percent is learned and practiced. There are those that are gifted with things that can't be taught, you either have it or you don't.

Funder said...

I wish I could write like this!

I know that I didn't think I'd ever stop being afraid. I just kept plugging away at it, even though I was so scared I cried almost every day, and eventually I quit being afraid.

Maery Rose said...

This is a wonderfully written post on the part horses play in our lives. My confidence with horses has had it's ups and downs but I learn so much from the demands a horse puts on me. I can't be indecisive. I have to be clear, concise, focused, completely in the moment. Hesitation or unclear signals can undo so much progress. I'm so glad I have had them as teachers.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Written very eloquently. Thanks for sharing your journey and thoughts.


Jan said...

Breathe, I'm sorry that I'm a little late in reading this post, but what a wonderful thing you have shared here! I agree with you that there are some small, internal, emotional/mental facets of horses and riding that profoundly affect people, but are rarely spoken of. I have experienced some of these shifts in perspective that are really very significant, but are way in the back of our minds. Your writing on it and sharing your thoughts is wonderful, personal and very valuable. Thank you.