I don’t think it takes a genius to notice that Murray is occasionally a little odd. Sometimes he does things that are totally normal for horses his age (green jump judges’ chairs are scary and you can’t make me go near them!!!), a bit weird compared to other horses (I CAN’T POSSIBLY JUMP THOSE TIRES OH WAIT COOKIES?!), and then there are the things that are downright absurd (I’m COMPLETELY LAME FROM YOU TIGHTENING MY GIRTH oh wait I’m fine now).
One of the things I often say to self-soothe (and other people say it too so I don’t feel totally absurd doing so) is that I would be bored with an easier horse. And then the other night at happy hour one of my much more experienced friends challenged me. “Would you really be bored,” she asked “if you were moving up the levels?”
And the totally honest answer is no. Of course not.
If I were steadily moving up the levels on a horse that was pretty straightforward and not challenging my choices to tack him up daily? Yeah. Probably would not be that bored. Would I learn a lot from this hypothetical schoolmaster? You betcha. I’d probably be learning all kinds of wonderful things. I’d be learning about sitting the trot and jumping combinations at 3’3″. I’d be learning about half pass and jogs and vet boxes and ice boots. I’d be jumping the white on black and steeling my courage to jump the green numbers.
Only one little thing can ruin my hypothetical career with Mr. Hypothetical Schoolmaster. Money. Let’s ignore the money I never had to buy this unicorn. I don’t have the money to lesson, school, or show at the frequency that would have me making progress — much faster than I am now — with Mr. Hypothetical Schoolmaster. I am the limiting factor here. I don’t have the experience or mental game to show a Novice or above right now. Mr. Hypothetical Schoolmaster might be able to get me around the course, but what would I be doing up there?
Now, this is not to say that I would not be learning a ton at my current level with Mr. Hypothetical Schoolmaster. Probably I’d develop a super strong lower leg and my position over fences would be flawless. Since Mr. Hypothetical Schoolmaster also loves bareback rides, I’d be a fucking master of the bareback nation. I’d be able to jump holding the reins with one hand and spank my horse with the other — not that I’d ever need to spank Mr. Hypothetical Schoolmaster, probably. I’d be able to jump with the reins between my teeth and my arms outstretched and take a selfie mid-fence. However, some of these behaviors are not the behaviors of someone who isn’t a little bored.
Which brings me back to Princess Sensitive over here, and something my Riding Best Friend (RBF) said to me a little while ago.
In his own asymmetrical and illogical kind of way, Murray is teaching me something that no other horse could. I’ve talked about this before, but he’s teaching me patience and strength. He’s teaching me to be subtle and ask for what I want with a quiet firmness. But Murray is also teaching me how to approach a non-traditional horse. How do you get Princess Sensitive to accept contact and travel around with a relaxed back? Time. Persistence. And the occasional bitchfight. I’m learning when to stick with a strategy and when it’s time to get creative and try something else. I’ve learned how to quit on a good note and when I should push for a little more. I’ve even learned how to recover from pushing too much and get back to a good mental place when I can.
In fact, every horse teaches you something so perfectly that no other horse could. I think back on the horses I’ve ridden and I’ve learned something new from every one of them. Lesson horses taught me to adapt and to not let my perceptions of a horse’s limitations prevent me from the task at hand. Mighty taught me to keep my leg on and ride aggressively. To square my corners and keep the outside shoulder under control. But he also taught me to be brave. Quincy taught me to be strong in a way I didn’t know I could be (shit, I might need some Quincy lessons again soon!). He taught me to ride all the way to a fence, to commit, and to pay attention right up until the last minute.
Isn’t it an interesting thought? Every horse perfectly teaches you something no other horse could.
Just some light thoughts for your Monday morning.