From the start Lady Luck presented me with good supportive friends who knew a bit – stepping up from the Sunday morning lesson at the local riding school in town I got to ride ponies for friends, some of whom walked or cycled many miles with me through the countryside. Once I moved into horse ownership my luck doubled as my new neighbours who would become lifelong friends (more like family really) introduced me to their instructor, a lady with a background in racing and hunting with a passion for dressage but probably more importantly who introduced me to the concept of asking myself what the horse would be thinking. Then though my Riding Club days I was always open to learning from whatever instructors were offered though occasionally that learning might have been “what not to want to take away with me” – but it was still learning. I became more selective once competing in affiliated events but a pattern emerged of choosing teachers who I loved to watch ride – how I yearned to match their calm, quiet but effective style over fences – I still do! Anyhow, the competitive streak in me was dampened overnight with my introduction to the world of (Natural) Horsemanship and the challenges that I suddenly discovered so I then turned to a whole new set of coaches. Most, I happily now class as very good friends – an added bonus along the way. The strange – well unexpected - side of the horsemanship learning has been the lessons in life that came hand in hand but I guess that is another subject for another day.
So now here I am – almost 60 as I said earlier – with bucket loads of information at my disposal and plenty more empty buckets waiting to be filled. In the last couple of years, it seems as though pieces are starting to fit. Picture those buckets full of jigsaw pieces thrown up in the air and then once landed jiggling about until they start to slot together and create a picture. With hindsight when I started on the horsemanship journey I recall losing confidence in all that I knew before. It raised so many questions and the answers seemed often to be tantalisingly just out of reach. It would have been so easy to give up and walk away back to that place of comfort I had been in before. I’m not sure why I didn’t give up. I’d never really thought I had a need as such ie a particularly difficult horse. The frustrations were many, still are at times, but maybe it was my horses who convinced me to hang on in there. They always seemed to be relaxed and willing with the changed approach – even though now retired, Juno still hangs over the arena fence if there is a class in progress waiting for a turn, and whatever the challenges of the day I am guaranteed to have plenty to smile about myself - can’t say that was always the case in previous years after turning out at an ungodly hour of the morning, plaiting, travelling, hanging around, maybe collecting a ribbon or 2 but more often with a niggling doubt that I somehow didn’t do my horse justice in some way.
The really good thing now is that I find myself drawing on past learnings as well as new ones and guess what… they are beginning to sit really well together. I find it sad that in social media in particular there are so many fences being built – too much of “Them and Us”, “Right and Wrong”, “Good and Bad” – barriers which close minds and block learning. When I look at some of my instructors over the years and at the many riders I have watched in awe there is a common ingredient in them all – they are all good horseman – they may or may not work with ropes and flags but they have a talent – learned or instinctive – a way of being with horses.
What we all need to remember is something my mentor David Stuart says and that is “Good Horsemanship is Good Horsemanship and should not be thought of as a fad or a style”