Thursday, April 24, 2008

Fear and Trust

There’s been talk about fear floating around the blogosphere. You may have read the brave, honest exchanges of stories and feelings after horse accidents on Nuzzling Muzzles and MiKael’s Mania- Arabian Horses. If not, you should check them out. As you all know, I’ve wrestled with these emotional issues. Most horse owners have, at one point or another.

It’s a humbling experience to be injured by a horse. When Silk reared up and tore all the skin off my right hand seven years ago, it rocked my world. One important lesson I learned was that admitting my vulnerability helped make me strong again. I learned to really listen to my horse. I forced myself to accept what was happening and not make up excuses.

I think what it basically comes down to is trust in yourself and your horse. Trust takes its own sweet time to grow. I was very impatient. I doubted myself and everything I knew about horses. I wanted to sell Silk, but I couldn’t find the right person that I believed would care for her the way that I did. Then, I found a new barn where the owners, Joe and Patricia, really understood what I was feeling and wanted to help me. Inch by inch, I made my way back to feeling safe around my horse -- and I mean with baby steps. Silk also benefited from their kindness and was able to relax and learn to trust me too. A big part of our problem was that we didn’t trust each other from the very beginning, but I wasn’t willing to see that. The solution involved a lot of patience and a lot of hanging out together doing nothing. I discovered that sometimes doing nothing is really the most important thing you can do. Eventually, I could see the change in Silk’s eyes. After eleven years together, our trust now runs deep.

Not all horses and owners are a good match, no matter how much you love the horse. It’s very similar to any human love relationship. I know men who are valued,dear old friends of mine, and I love them, but I’d never marry them. I’ve seen friends of mine who have a really stormy experience with a horse. Then, they sell it to someone else, and the horse becomes a perfect angel. Horses are emotional barometers. They know, even when it’s so deep inside you that you might not even know. The way they express it and how much it takes to get your attention can be dangerous. I learned the hard way about being honest with Silk and myself.

Every day, I take what my horse has taught me and try to apply that awareness, acceptance, forgiveness, patience and kindness to all the other relationships in my life. It’s interesting that the hardest place to do this is when I’m dealing with myself.


Grey Horse Matters said...

Without mutual trust between a horse and his human there is nothing to build on. Even though at times the fear we have may keep us from riding it should never keep us from working on our bonding skills with our horses.

Victoria Cummings said...

You're right, Arlene - and that trust dissipates the fear so you can enjoy riding again.

billie said...

Great post - I always come back now to the idea that everything I do is loud to the horse. Instead of increasing volume, pressure, height, etc. I try to decrease. It always seems to work.

I think being quietly with the horse is probably the way they get to know us best.

It's not flashy or fancy and it doesn't always yield snap results. But my feeling is that in the bigger picture, the results are more solid and the foundation for everything else we want to do.

Thanks for reminding me of this.

Victoria Cummings said...

Billie - Yes, quiet time. They really notice it when you just go out and sit with them while they graze. It's soothing and reassuring and a sign to them that you appreciate their world.

Pony Girl said...

I like this idea, taking it back to a more safe, comfortable place, to build trust: such as just grooming or doing groundwork...or just sitting in the pasture. I am going to take a stool and a book into My Boy's pasture this summer and just read and hang out. I'm curious to see his reaction, if he'll approach me, ignore me, run me over (hee, I hope he won't do that!)

Heidi the Hick said...

Excellent post!

It has taken Phoenix a few months to figure out that he can trust me. When I visited him before he was mine, he was so sweet and gentle, but last summer, when I brought him home, he kind of looked at me sideways. He came from a wonderful home and suddenly one day got thrown into a trailer and went to a whole other place with a different horse to keep him company.

We had a couple of bumps, (literally) but I know what I did wrong. So I backed off. I spent long hours brushing him and fussing over him, whispering, leading, lots of pats.

He looks at me differently now. He looks at me like he trusts me.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I sometimes wonder if I would have grown as a person as quickly as I have if I didn't live with horses. There is so much to learn from them, although sometimes the lessons do involve injury and pain. I love the time I spend just hanging out in the horses' stalls with them in the evening. With bellies full and droopy eyelids we can just enjoy the peace and quiet together. Thanks for recommending my posts.

Ewa said...

I don't know how you do it, but whenever I read your post, it is very touchy and true for me, even if I am not a horse person...
Have you ever thought about writing a book? or maybe I missed something..

Rising Rainbow said...

Victoria, I think you're not alone. From what I can tell many horse people are way more understanding and forgiving of their horses than they are themselves.

I, for one, have learned to give myself more based on what my horses have given me. The fact that these amazing creatures respond to me as they do speaks volumes to who I am as a person. Even though I didn't get that for a good part of my life, I'm grateful that the horses have helped me see it at all. They are good for my spirit in so many ways.