I confess. I’m an avid reader, a self-help junkie, and a bit of a pack rat. And sometimes I turn my self-help fervency on my horses, Trace and Rio. So as I poured over Lynn Palm’s November 2014 Quarter Horse Journal article, “How To Read Your Horse, Part 1.” (Yes, the word “read” gets me every time!) something struck me. Here I was, spending a sunny afternoon conjuring up images of my beloved four-hoofed friends instead taking advantage of the real-life horse experience I could have if I just got out of my chair and put on my boots! Paint me obvious, but why do we take on anxiety about things in our lives that bring us pleasure — and ultimately, the very improvement we’re seeking?
The truth about enjoying our life with horses is that once we master the basics of equine care ― the feeding, the grooming, the occasional doctoring ― we move into the arena of riding. And yes, this quest for mastery holds much to learn, and that learning tends to propel us toward the joy we seek in our riding. A lesson I keep learning here is that every time I resist pulling on my boots in favor of “book learning”, it’s usually because what I’m needing to learn most about myself is something my horse is about to teach me. Horses, it turns out, are the ultimate self-help resource.
When I rode Trace for the first time, it was the first time I had been on any horse in 20 years. What I remember most about that ride is that I actually laughed out loud from the sheer joy of it. It was the epitome of the “lightbulb moment” I had read about in too many self-help tomes to count. In this single instant of clarity I remembered what pure joy looked and felt like — and I realized what was missing in my life. (Later, it also taught me that the rush of joy is not necessarily the best moment to make a horse purchasing decision, but that’s another story for another time.) In what turned out for me to be the tip of the self-help yikes-burg, the lightbulb came on — prompted by the pages of my favorite books, yet only realized once I put on my boots.