I haven’t written an update since the beginning of December, when the days were getting shorter and things seemed to be getting murkier on all fronts. My last entry was definitely a “highlights” report. After that, we were riding in the arena and someone opened the gate. Sparty went high and to the right. I tried riding outside a couple of times, and both times I was happy to stay on for 8 seconds. Then there were the tantrums he threw with me on the ground. We had some battles over grazing that left me sweating and shaking.

I was getting very discouraged. Wiser horse people than I assured me that this is the journey. Some forward steps and some the opposite. Our last big battle happened a few weeks after our big rodeo scene in Donnell’s driveway. I took Spartacus out to the big field for a little grazing. He started getting pretty pushy, so I started exerting some authority. His reply involved showing me his full height, his T-Rex Al-Spartyimpression, repeatedly.  That was a do or die (hopefully not really die) moment for us. I had a spot of clarity in the midst of my fear. I said to myself and to him. “I can take this. I am not letting go of this rope. Ever. I don’t care how fast my heart is beating, the agenda is still the same (that’s a Nancyism). You are not eating, you are not charging me, you are not taking my space and we are walking out of this field together like partners…I being the Managing Partner. You may have 1500 lbs. on me, but I have thumbs and understand leverage and I’m not giving up this time.” And that was the eventual outcome, after what felt like a lifetime of deep breaths. I came away from that in tears, but no less determined.

It was a turning point for me, and time has shown that it was a turning point for him too. Since then, there have been no tantrums and no acts of outright defiance. In addition to the Herd and my instructors, one of the new boarders at the barn has been really helpful. Bridget’s wisdom and example have been instrumental in the evolution of my beliefs and attitudes about the horse human relationship. That’s a whole other blog post.

4-5 BlogI really want to take Sparty off the property and go trail riding, maybe by Fall. We’ll see. To that end, we have taken some successful steps in the last couple of weeks. We’ve walked in hand off the property and down the road twice. The route includes encounters with dogs, goats and other horses. Yes! But here’s the big one. We rode outside the arena from the backside to the parking lot and back with perfect ease! I’m not a good enough writer to convey how profound that was.

I tell my students all the time that dancing is not magic. Some people take to it faster, with more grace than others, but everyone who loves it learns it. I’m just trying to apply that to horses (even though horses are a little bit magical). I think it’s working.