A Spicy Year

Most amateurs only have one horse, and when things aren't going well with that one horse, it feels like you are a failure. Because of that feeling, it's easy to get too close to your training. I did it with both Runkle and Indy. When I had issues with them, I would get closer. I'd examine every aspect of it with a magnifying glass, picking and prying at the strands of the thread that was my training. For lack of a better word, I had no chill.


When Spicy came home, I promised myself I needed to make things different. But like most well intended declarations, it was a promise I couldn't really keep. You don't wake up one day, having never run a step in  your life, and run a marathon. First you buy some sneakers that don't fit properly, you read way too many things, and you run an awful mile where you're sweating so bad it's stinging your eyes. You're red and puffy and sore and the farthest thing from a marathon runner. It's easy to get discouraged.


I can't count the number of times Spicy left me discouraged; it has to be in the hundreds. In my constant push for 'the future' and 'what's next', I'll admit he has frustrated me as all hell. He has tried every ounce of my patience,  made me question my riding, my tack, my barn, my trailer, and all the choices inbetween. It has been a truly unnerving experience owning him. Spicy has pushed me more than any other horse I've ever worked with, and I've been doing this my whole life.

Holy shit, has it taught me a lot.

It's completely upended my perception on how I communicate with horses. Spicy has taught me how to get the results I want in such a way that the horse also wants them. It aligns our goals and keeps him feeling as safe and comfortable as possible, so he's able to communicate with me and learn what I'd like without fear, confusion, or anger. Now that I know I can't unsee it... I think about the mistakes I made with not just Runkle and Indy but many horses in my past. I also see the times I accidentally got it right without meaning to.


I see it in the people I know, who share videos or write or talk about their struggles with riding. Once you've been slapped in the face with your own horse's lack of confidence in you, you begin to see it everywhere. As I've addressed Spicy's lack of confidence, I back up to see the larger picture instead of leaning in and picking things apart. It's helped me to make connections with behaviors and our work, which in turn leads me to make better decisions for him.

For a horse who can't speak to me, he has a way of communicating his feelings as crystal clearly as if he talked. Even when what he says annoys me, like he refuses to be caught for whatever reason, I know he's trying to let me know something. Definitely not saying I don't want to beat him when he spends twenty minutes running from me, but I appreciate the fact that he tells me things are bothering him in a safe, consistent way.


I find I am constantly reminding myself to pause instead of looking forward. When you flick through social media, there are always people with blue ribbons hanging on their horse's bridle with captions like "Can't wait to see what's next!" I was the same, and even before social media was the validation I never knew I needed I was constantly pushing for next. Since the first time I sat on a horse I have been taking weekly or more lessons, showing, competing, and pushing for more.

But with Spicy, in the breath I ask myself to take before I start on the hamster wheel of 'what's next', I make sure I am enjoying this moment, that I have now. Not the ones that have passed or the ones that could be. Spicy's redefinition of my success has allowed me to be a better horsewoman and enjoy horses more peacefully. It's also made both of us happier. Finding emotional balance and peace is a heavy burden to put on a horse, but it's one he's handled with a lot of grace.  I'm grateful to him for that, and it's not something I'll ever stop owing him for.


Happy one year, nugget. I'm looking forward to another one of letting you help me live in the moment.

Comments

  1. Replies
    1. spicy says thanks, he's pretty happy with how things have gone for him :P

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  2. Replies
    1. thank you!!! for all the shit that's gone down in the past three years I'm pretty excited to make it to an anniversary with him...

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  3. Happy one year! I've really enjoyed reading about how you've worked through everything with him, and I'm so glad you've gotten your own type of reward from it, even if it wasn't what you might have thought you wanted in the first place. He's such a cool horse!

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    1. Thank you so much for coming along with us. He's definitely not what I expected or thought I wanted, but turns out it was what I needed.

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  4. Happy Horse-iversary! So glad you're on this journey together and you're growing together too. It's funny how our goals and thoughts on "what's next" change as we grow up and older.

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    1. yeah you get old, you learn things apparently. And I thought my hair was just going to turn grey...

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  5. Replies
    1. Spicy says: thank you for the U7 tip or I would not be here I would probably be dog food.

      I MEAN WHAT??

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  6. Happy year! You've handled and approached things with Spicy in such an impressive way.

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    1. Thank you so much :D It's so nice to get that kind of feedback, especially from people whose horsemanship I really admire

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  7. happy 1 year with Sir Spicy ;) so happy so many things are going well for you these days <3

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    1. he's a good'un... and I'm crossing fingers that the trailer situation settles in soon so I can do some stuff with you this fall!!

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  8. happy one year Spice-aversary!!

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    1. I'm amazed he made it one year keeping his face intact because every time I see him I want to GNAW HIS MUZZLE OFF.

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