Of course it had to happen. It was only a matter of time before one of my epic struggles with Harry was witnessed by another horse owner on the yard. Except this time we were trying to get from the field to the stable. Well, I was trying to. Harry was not. My well- meaning observer suggested I smack Harry or hit him with the lead rope. He then said that I should come get him when I had got bored of standing there, implying that he would soon have Harry doing as he was told as I was clearly incapable. I tried to defend Harry, explaining that I felt he was anxious, that we would get there, but my witness had moved on, time stretched and busy with horsey business, as people around me always seemed to be.
Now, as I said before, I had already decided I was not going to hit my pony, so my latest technique was to simply stand there, looking ahead to where I wanted to go and making out like I had all the time in the world. I would keep the lead rope taut, but not pull it. Sometimes I would sing. Harry seemed to particularly like A-ha and would quite often begin to walk when I broke into ‘Under the Make-up’. Sometimes he would keep walking, sometimes he would take a few steps and then stop. At this point, things were still fairly new, I hadn’t read about the importance of energy or how it can help to visualize what it is you are trying to achieve. I just knew that anger and hitting felt so wrong. I did not want to have to battle with Harry and the memory of the tug of war on the yard that morning was fresh in my mind, (and aching shoulder). And so, I kept on singing. And the other horsey people either gave me advice, always along the lines of, “You need to show him who’s boss!” or politely looked away, as fellow parents will do when your toddler is having a public meltdown.
I pretended to ignore the spoken or implied judgement of others, but I knew, (and still know!) that I am considered a bit ‘out there’. In truth, I did feel embarrassed and yes, a failure. I saw other people happily leading their horses and wished that I could do the same. (Actually, I rarely see evidence of happiness or gratitude between horse and owner, everything is done so briskly!) In these moments I would forget that Harry and I barely knew each other that he was getting to know his new home and horse companions. I was told he was laughing at me. However I firmly believe that Harry was not doing what he was doing in order to purposely humiliate me or to get one up on me. That kind of thinking is, I think, unique to people. I am not saying Harry didn’t have his reasons, I am sure he did, but I do not think they included a deliberate and sustained plan to make me appear foolish.
One morning on a weekend, I arrived at the yard half dreading the walk from stable to field. I was relieved not to see anybody else around as I walked into Harry’s stable block. We greeted each other and he stood beautifully as I put on his head collar and lead rope. I turned as if to lead him out, took a step and my heart sank as I felt the usual resistance. Harry was not going anywhere.
Now, I had read and heard about the importance of a still mind, so beautifully described by Mark Rashid in ‘The Path of the Horse’. I was alone and I had time. I stood just outside the door, slack lead rope in hand and closed my eyes. I focused on everything I could sense around me. The sounds of the birds, cars passing by on the road outside. What I could feel, my feet inside my boots on the hard ground. I breathed deeply and tried to be honest about what I was feeling inside. My fear of embarrassment and humiliation, my ego I guess. I took another deep breath, eyes still closed.
And something incredible happened.
Harry began to walk out of his stable, with no prompting, no tugging, no singing. My eyes flew open in surprise! I could hardly believe what was happening, and yet, at the same time, I could feel something had changed. Harry and I were walking together, physically yes, of course, but really together! We walked out onto the yard where another horse was by now standing tied, his owner nearby. I glanced over as we walked by, not wanting to be rude, but not wanting to break the spell or the feeling of the moment. “Oh he’s straight down today!” the owner said as we passed by. I smiled and on we went, side by side. Harry never stopped once, we walked close together until we got to his field. I thanked him, kissed him and floated back to the yard on a carpet of incredible energy.
It would be so tempting to end with, ‘and they all lived happily ever after’, but alas, that would be untrue. Something did change that day though and H and I put our worst struggles behind us. I am sure we both felt happier. We were making progress!