My horse likes to go fast. I like it. She’s an adventure to ride. I remember when I first rode her, her trainer told me that if I bought her, other horses would be boring to me. Boy was he right. My father told me to choose a horse with a fast walk and a slow canter. I chose a horse with a running walk and a full speed gallop. Not much in between. Not only that, she looks every which way. She zigzags down the road. Sometimes she speeds up for no apparent reason, or more often, stops.
Since owning her, I have learned that the key to this horse is to actually slow her down. She’s an anxious horse. She’s hot-blooded, spirited, wild, whatever you want to call her, going fast is in her nature.
I’ve found that letting her go actually increases her anxiety. It doesn’t free her, or release her energy, it doesn’t even wear her out. It just feeds the nerves that are already pounding inside her.
What works a lot better is to hold her back. I make her walk. I keep my hands just tight enough on the reins so she can feel me there. She knows I’m guiding her and it creates a partnership that builds confidence and trust.
So while riding her today, I resisted my urge to run and held her back. In doing so, I decided I was very similar to my horse. I don’t know where I’m going but I’m in a huge rush to get there. Even more absurd is the fact that I’m in a bigger rush to get back. And so is she.
This all strikes me as very strange. After a lifetime of riding horses in circles in gated arenas, where I’m going is not the first thing that comes to mind when I’m on a horse. I’ve been trained to think about my hands, my body, the horse’s feet and how they’re placed. I pay close attention to speed and balance, Where I’m going has always been irrelevant. Either I’m going one way, or another. It’s the riding that matters. It’s all about the relationship between horse and rider.
Besides, to simplify the situation even further, I realized that I’m still going in a circle whether there’s a gate around me or not. At the end of the ride, we always have to head home. It doesn’t really matter if we climb mountains, gallop through the sand, or trot along the suburban road, the fact is, eventually we’ll be heading back from where we came.
So where we go seems irrevelant. And it hit me today that my life is just the same. I’ve been told over and over to slow down and enjoy the ride but I still forget somehow and continually get caught up in the irrelevant detail of where I’m going.
It’s easy to see why. Life, like the trail, is full of distractions. While arena riding might be deep meditation in a monastery, trail riding is a prayer on a crowded subway. You have to find the quiet moment amidst the distractions. You have to be in tune with yourself, your horse and the surroundings. You see the fire truck blaring and prepare for the inevitable, but the real danger comes from the threats you don’t see.
So I reminded myself, and Velvet, that there was no reason to rush. We were riding along very slowly. I was holding her back and she was putting up with it. Suddenly she stopped. She just wouldn’t budge. No amount of prodding, kicking or clucking would move her forward. So I turned her around. We waltzed backwards beautifully until I decided this all must be a silly misunderstanding. She must’ve thought she was glued to the ground but now that she’s unfrozen we can turn around and continue on our way. Wrong. When we turned around she froze again. I was so desperate to get going I chose the phone-a-friend option and got Andi on the line. She told me to respect the horse. Maybe there was something up ahead I couldn’t see. Take another trail.
Velvet pranced about. She led the way as she likes to do and was truly affronted when she stopped to look around and the other two passed her. She forged ahead at a lightning gait and gained the lead with attitude. I couldn’t keep her at their pace. Her walk was like a sprinter keeping back with Grandma. It was awkward and broken. Plus, I could sense they were afraid of her.
At the watering trough I told them it was time for me to head back at my own speed. They said there was no way their horses could keep up with us anyway.
I laughed all the way home thinking about my misconceptions of life and living. It’s funny that my idea of slow was someone else’s turbo.
Maybe NASCAR isn’t as crazy as it seems…