Thursday, November 15, 2012

Why struggle at all?

The past year has been among the most difficult times Deli and I have ever had together. I won’t say the most difficult, because at least we have a fully-formed trust relationship at this point. Though in some respects having that closer relationship with her has made the past year more difficult, because for every bad situation we have gotten into, I felt crushed by guilt and anxiety for not having made the better choice. Deli deserves the best of everything, and sometimes it’s not within my power to give that. Deli, like most of our domesticated animals, is at the whim of the people around her. I make choices, and if they don’t work out, she’s the one that suffers most.

Last week I moved her again. That makes six moves in one year. Horses are beings that thrive on routine. Deli does well with routine more than most, since she tends towards having an anxious personality all things equal.

Throughout this year, (non-equestrian) friends and family have asked me “why do it? Why put yourself through this?” when they saw how crippled I was by anxiety, unable to sleep as I feverishly searched for that elusive “better barn.” My old injuries re-surfaced from spending too much time in the car – time I did not have – driving back and forth to tend to and comfort my horse. My health has certainly suffered this year. I haven’t been able to focus on school and work like I should have.

It does irritate me that I know that people wouldn’t ask why I “put myself through” the stress if Deli was a human family member. I have to ignore this issue, because my relationship with Deli is far deeper and more important to me than my relationships with many others. I prefer not to anthropomorphize her because she’s actually much more real to me, and more deserving of my love, as just a horse. But she’s also not just a horse. I’ve worked with and ridden lots of horses. They are all individuals, with distinct personalities. I don’t tend to “click” easily with horse personalities in general (of all domesticated animals, my personality seems to mesh with a greater number of cats). Even though I’d say I enjoy horses as a species, it’s the individual bond that interests me and keeps me coming back for more.

It’s the click of everything being in the right place at the right time.

 Many people do not get this concept. I can only tell these people you don’t understand.
I get that “click” with Deli. The connection I have with her, even though it’s not constant, is occasionally the strongest connection I have to any other individual living being.

Attempting to put the feeling into words is difficult. 

It happens sometimes when I have been schooling dressage and everything fits together. My body is in the perfect place in conjunction with her body, and suddenly we are one being. I can feel every fiber of her muscle, tendon, and bone, and I can feel every part of my own body, joined in symphony. You could describe it as an out of body sensation, but the reality is that it feels like, through the connection with her, I become more real, more than I could ever be by myself.

It’s like when you look into the starry Milky Way in the middle of the wilderness and feel the vastness of the universe. But instead of feeling small, you feel like you are part of it all. It’s a kind of joy that I almost never feel – with so much of my life being dedicated to fighting the things I hate, and the things I hate always surrounding me.

And then there are those times where I’m not even riding her. Quiet moments when I feel Deli focus on me with an intensity that seems unique to her. With her intellect being so alien to me, that connection frees me from the burden of my own thoughts. It unburdens me from my humanity, which I so often despise. 

Again –  click.

I remember the first time I galloped with her. She had been under saddle for about six months and we had been going out back in the farm roads to ride around the fields to get her used to life outside the arena. It was a cool spring day, and she was happy and willing to trot out, ears pricked, body firm with calm energy. A long stretch of farm road invited us to canter, and even though her canter cue was still somewhat unrefined, I only had to think it and she stretched forward. The dull thud of her feet on the ground quickened at the same pace as my heartbeat.

I felt the click, our bodies becoming one being, knitting together in a flash of pure feeling. When I thought faster our combined beings responded at the same time. Three beats became four. The ground blurred. Everything but us blurred. Nothing else mattered.

My first ride on Deli - ever.
I was aware I was still a separate being such that I knew I was shifting more weight into the stirrups and off her back. Her mane lashed and stung against my cheeks. My eyes watered in the cool spring air. I could feel the powerful surge of her neck under my hands as she took up the loose reins.
But at the same time I was hyper aware of how she-and-I fit. Mind and body; raw unrestricted feeling. 


And even though it’s not every day I feel that kind of connection. When we are stressed or anxious that feeling draws further away. But with Deli, I can always feel the gravitational pull in the background, tugging us back to pure feeling. Pure existence. Pure connection. I’m not even sure you can call it joy. It’s greater than that. It’s being right. It’s being unburdened. It’s being more powerful than I could imagine being on my own.

And that’s why I would never give up on her, no matter how hard things are. She is the reason for what I am today. She’s my best friend. She’s the person I trust above all others, and she gives me a reason to try and learn to love and trust myself.