Sunday, March 13, 2011

Becoming Brave

Riders are brave people, and not just for climbing on top of an animal that can easily weight 10 times what a human tips the scale at, has a mind of its own and is (potentially) afraid of everything. Riders are brave because the very things that are intuitively the correct means of saving one's ass must be abandoned for the things that are intuitively the last thing one would expect to do and stay alive.

For example; when we humans are on something that is moving and we get scared, we tend to hunch forward and crouch making ourselves smaller and closer to the moving object. If we're straddling something, we grab it with our legs and try to anchor our hands on something solid.

Do that on a horse and you're taking the short way to the ground. Guaranteed.

Therefore, we school ourselves to sit tall, push our chests out, lengthen our legs without gripping, and not drag on the reins like they were our last hope.

Then, as if that weren't enough, we have to learn that when a horse seems out of control we must make him respond to our driving aids. In other words, we must kick him forward. To own a horse's mind, one must own his butt.

None of this is stuff makes much sense, initially. We must listen to instructors and trust in their knowledge and experience. And we must swallow down what we desperately want to do and replace it with something we are sure will kill us. It takes and equal measure of guts and a deep faith that someone else has already figured out how to do this to make ourselves even try.

And don't think this happens over night. There are setback and frustrations when the "right" thing doesn't seem to come close to working. Through all the mistakes, however, we make progress.

Much of what we face in life is the same way. We must gather our courage, have faith in someone else's knowledge, and try and fail repeatedly in order to make progress.

What "horse" are you trying to ride? What knee-jerk "truths" have you found to be exactly the opposite of what you need? What leap of faith have you made in trusting someone else's knowledge?


  1. You did it again, Susan. You looked into my heart and spoke what I needed to hear. Thank you. What? You say it wasn't MY heart you were looking at? Nonsense. Of course it was.

  2. That is the highest compliment I could ever receive, Fran. Thank you. I credit my horses. They have a way of exposing basic truths about us all.

  3. Hi Susan -- I just randomly happened across your blog and am so glad I did. I love it! Anyway, your latest subscriber just wanted to say hey. :)

  4. Hi Beth! I'm so happy to have you "happen by" and delighted you enjoy the blog. It's great to have you here!

  5. Hi Susan,

    So true, about these beautiful animals. You want to get small and hang onto their neck for dear life, but you can't. 'Sit tall, tighten your buttocks, gather him in' my instructor would yell from the sidelines. I don't ride anymore, but I do write mysteries. I'll definitely check out your books, I think I'd enjoy them. Thanks, and nice meeting you.

    Nancy Lauzon, author of the Chick Dick Mysteries and former amateur rider!

  6. Susan,
    Happened upon you on Caroline Clemmon's blog. She's a good friend and has been my romance writing critique partner for many years. The photo of you with the beautiful horse caught my attention. Before I started writing, I was an equine artist, starting when I was in grade school. I've worked in oil as well as pencil and charcoal. White horses are my favorite subjects. Since I've been writing western romance, my art has taken second place. I really enjoyed your post above. Very inspiring. I used to ride for pleasure on the weekends with some school friends. My love for horses must be in my genes, even though I've never had the opportunity to have my own horses. Good to find your blog!

  7. Hi Jeanmarie -- so glad you happened by! I think you are right about horses being in one's genetic makeup. Once the passion is there, it's there forever, regardless of the direction your life goes!

    I'll pass your compliment along to Eddie. He's as friendly as he looks and will likely consider you his newest best friend!

  8. Love your insights. Isn't it amazing what we learn from our animals?

  9. so i'm sitting on snowball for the first time ever. it's my fourth or fifth lesson and the saintly mare who's been politely ignoring my ever shifting weight has carried one too many kids around that day and is enjoying a well-deserved moment with her hay. so it's me and snowball walking out to see some lady i've never met out in the center ring when all of a sudden there's the unmistakable sound of hoofbeats. not light little hoof-falls coming from a well-behaved, walking horse calmly making it from one side of the school to another-- hoofbeats. as in we're in a western movie and the bad guy's getting away. galloping hoofbeats coming from the trail outside the school. so snowball's ears pop right out of his head and, of his many choices-- shall i rear? shall i run? shall i buck?-- he picks buck.
    my mind goes blank.
    all of a sudden this lady i've never met and her friend who's hanging out with her for no reason start shouting "sink deep into the saddle" "sit up straight" and "relax", "breathe deep"

    they are insistent.

    they are also loud, which batters at my mind, because i'm thinking sound is how we got into this mess. also, it is hard to relax when people are shouting at you. but i release my mind. i sink deep into the saddle. i breathe deeply and calmly. i sit up straight.

    "kick him"

    i push him forward and get a not-unreasonable trot.

    a little more coaching and we coast to a stop. the ladies are shouting at the galloping man to knock it off. i am looking at the big brown eye sneaking a peek at me over his own shoulder and slowly petting his mane. good boy, good boy. you're okay, big boy. you're okay.

  10. Love it! Had to laugh. So many of us have been there, and you came out of it a wiser rider. Hope you're still riding!