Finding a way back
When you lose a spouse or partner you lose more than just the person, a whole chunk of you goes with them. You lose so much of your own identity, I was no longer a wife and partner, no other half, or plus one. You lose your grip on the present through the destruction of all your habits and routines, they disappear with the relationship. Then you realise all your future plans and dreams are missing too, they don't fit and they won't work anymore, and you're not brave enough to face them alone. All those things you were going to do together one day soon are stolen from you, it's a package deal, all or nothing and when you realise the enormity of the loss it's a real effort to fight back. You have to reinvent yourself and make new plans for a different future and I was fortunate enough to have both the means and support to do this and to make sure the horses remained a big part of that future. This post will focus on all the positives of the last year as I find myself, 3 years on looking forward to more trips and adventures, something I had thought was lost to me. The year started off with trips up to the Quantocks, as I regained my physical energy and mental strength P relaxed, started to trust me again and we enjoyed the hills in the wet and mud that dominated the start of this year. I entered a pleasure ride and with the support of friends to box, travel and keep me company on the ride had a fabulous time and began to feel that maybe I would reach a point where I would regain my independence and freedom.
But first there was still plenty to sort out. Using the Pippsway Clinics as a focus work began in earnest to improve both horse and rider, deal with all those issues that there was never enough time for in my old life as I balanced work and family. First we made the horse more comfortable, changing his bit and allowing him to relax and move forward. He started to listen more and argue less.
Then work began on the rider, for the first time I had a horse who worked well enough in the school for the focus to turn to me and work began on my position and the quality of my riding. A new saddle was needed to put me in balance and I was very happy to return to a treeless saddle, this time a Barefoot which, on giving it a bit of time to mould to me and P, is just amazing to ride in. I was no longer fighting to keep my leg position correct, that in turn allowed me to relax my upper body and release the tension I held in my arms and shoulders and finally everything started to fall into place. When I relaxed my upper body the horse relaxed his (shoulders and neck). With a new seat and leg position I was able to position my pelvis neatly in line with my shoulders and hips. As I tucked my pelvis under my body my horse did the same. Now he could drive himself forward from behind with real energy. The new saddle gave his shoulders room to move and just like that we were away, forward movement, with self carriage and the lightest of contact on the reins. It felt like magic at the time but lets put this into context, this horse is 18 years old, I've owned him since he was 2 and its taken all this time and 3 years of hard work to get to this point.
I still have my moments but all things considered its been a good summer. There was one final hurdle to overcome though. Ian and I were a tight team, I rode the horse, he did everything else, simple really! However, this meant I had never loaded on my own and done very little towing, so plenty more here for me to get anxious about. Anxiety equalled tension and self doubt which created, quite simply, a pony who would walk up the trailer ramp but would not go in, unless there was a second person just kicking around and willing to help. If I was going to take myself up the hills, or off on holiday, this had to change. Back to Pip again. She came to me, suggested that maybe the horse would prefer to load himself rather than be, as he clearly perceived it "pulled up" the ramp by me. Like everything about horses, if you ask the right question and present it in the right way you get the result you want, easily, simply, with no fuss. Mr P walked calmly into the trailer as I asked him to move forward from behind, this gave him space to move into and the belief that he was making the choice. If you're an Arabian horse you like to think you call the shots, they don't take kindly to being told what to do but they're quite happy to be the team player if asked nicely!
And here we are, all loaded and ready to travel, all by myself. This was quite an occasion and it made me feel more positive that I had for a very long time.