One of the happiest and yet saddest times of my year are the times that horses leave our care and tutelage. Happiest, because, most of the time, it means that the horse and I have reached enough of the owner’s goals that the owner can ride safely to do what they enjoy. Saddest, because, it also means that a piece of us is leaving. The bond that we develop with each horse requires us to give of ourselves in a very personal and special way. In return, most of the horses give a big piece of themselves back to us as trust and confidence.
I often wonder what the horse is thinking and feeling when they first arrive. If they are anything like me when I’m thrown into a new situation, they’re unsure, a little anxious, and looking for a friendly face. The wonderful thing about most horses is how highly adaptable they are. We see horses in all kinds of living and working situations and, unless they are starving or being abused, most seem to adapt to where they live and how they are handled pretty well. It’s the horses that adapt less easily that we seem to see most often. A big part of our job is to get the horse to become more secure in who they are so they can deal with change in a more appropriate way. Getting the owner to recognize the unique characteristics of their horse and make some changes in their behavior to reinforce the horses’ new-found confidence is the other part.
Because we see our job this way, Amy and I strongly recommend that the owners be as much a part of the “training” process as possible. We believe in preparing for the transition in all phases of our lives. Proper preparation makes the transition simple and easy. Preparing properly may mean that we start the process of transitioning the horse back home the first day he arrives. Having the owner be a part of the discovery of who her horse is, and can become, is a good part of that preparation. Preparing both horse and owner for the next transition seems to give them both the confidence needed to make that transition smoother.
I don’t look at horses going home as another success for our business. Instead, I hope that a happy horse going home to a happy owner is more about each of them learning how to give to the other in a way that inspires confidence and trust. Amy and I are such a small part of horses’ and peoples’ lives when compared to the sum of what they are and what they experience. But, if we can leave them with something good to work with and build upon, that little piece that we give to each one can grow into something really special. We sincerely hope it’s that way for you!