Life Lessons from A Horse Trainer

May 16, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Posted in Horses, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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An excerpt from a recent conversation with my Dad (insert heavy Massachusetts accent):

“Hi Honey, how ah your hosses?”

“They’re good, Dad, I’m headed to the barn now for a riding lesson.”

“LESSON?! Don’t you know how to ride by now? What was I paying for all those yea-ahs?”

“Yes, Dad, I know how to ride. It’s just that with horses, you never really stop learning. You can always be better – there’s always something more to know or a new method to try. Kind of like life.”

“Huh. I thought you were going to outgrow this hoss thing anyway.”

That got me to thinking about how riding really can be like life. I’ve been working with this great trainer here in Maine – Chris Lombard – and some of the things we’re focusing on translate directly to the rest of my life. A few choice lessons from my recent schooling sessions:

1)      Breathe.

2)      Keep a deep seat.

3)      Feel the motion and go with it.

4)      Keep your eyes up and looking forward to where you are going; don’t look down.

5)      Stay alert for the scary stuff, but don’t let it ruin your ride.

6)      When you sense that things are about to go wrong or get scary, sit deep and relax. Let go of the reins so nobody gets banged in the mouth.

7)      Build partnerships based on mutual trust and understanding.

8)      Keep your hands, voice and demeanor soft, unless you’re about to get kicked.

9)      Appreciate and work with each other’s personalities and quirks.

10)   A little understanding goes a long way.

11)   Treats make everyone smile.

12)   Some of us are in it for the fun, some for the competition, and some for the incessant gathering of knowledge – but we all have to slog through the mud at times to get there.poleWalker

And the most important life/riding lesson of all: keep your HEELS DOWN, or you might get dragged!

xo

Sweet Honey Pony

April 10, 2013 at 11:35 am | Posted in Honey Pony, Horses, Kids | 7 Comments
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Well, this is a post I didn’t want to have to write so soon.

Our beloved pony, Honey, finally succumbed to the laminitis caused by the Cushing’s Disease, Lyme2011-07-27_16-17-23_828 Disease, and year and a half of neglect she had suffered. My goal when I adopted her was to give her the best retirement I possibly could and to ease any pain she had along the way. We did everything we could for her, but in the end her hoof and joint issues got the best of her and we simply couldn’t ask her to go on.

As every pet owner knows, this is the most difficult aspect of owning (do we really “own” them?) an animal. We almost always outlive them. And it leaves us with this awful responsibility and choice that we must make for our four-legged babies.

Honey was one of those really special ponies you don’t come across too often. Not only was she cute (never met a pony who wasn’t), she was incredibly sweet and willing (met a lot of ponies who weren’t). Oh, she had her moments… a warm summer day when she didn’t really feel like going for a walk and would plant her feet in the ground and let you tug on her head as if she were a 50-ton rock and you were an ant. But if you were patient and gentle and gave her time to think about it, she’d always decide to come with you.

She loved children and would get the sweetest look in her eye when they came around. Every single one of them seemed to fall in love with her, and the girls especially would spend hours braiding her super-thick mane and tail. If I had given them glitter and pink hair dye that pony would have been covered in it.

Roundpen StandingI loved how Honey would throw her scruffy-maned little head up at the sound of my voice or sight of me coming around the corner and shriek that sweet little pony whinny. I guess she had me pegged – carrots and scritches coming up.

So when she didn’t want to get up to eat anymore (although she would take her meal lying down if you put it in front of her) and I had to make the decision to let her go, it really was heart-wrenching. A friend who was trying to comfort me gave me some advice:

“What was Honey’s place in your life?” my friend asked,
“What doors did she open in your heart?
Think about why you two were brought together.”

I had never thought about losing an animal in this light before. Sometimes we think about why certain people come in and out of our lives, but seldom do we think about animals in those terms. Aren’t they just as important to us? Don’t they touch our hearts in the same way?

I thought about it… and I think Honey was brought into my life to remind me what it’s like to love unconditionally in difficult circumstances. Honey was sweet, but she wasn’t an easy pony to keep. She had numerous health issues and needed to be managed very carefully on a day-to-day basis. We were constantly checking and changing her supplement/vitamin/medication intake trying to find just the right balance. She had to be kept off grass and away from regular hay, and sometimes she would have mysterious stomach issues. I’d hoped she could be used as a regular mount for my children – especially Brady, who seemed to be much more grounded and relaxed when riding her. But that only proved to be possible for the first summer she was home. After that she was never consistently sound enough for regular riding. And of course I couldn’t ride her. I’ve always been the type that loves my horses but kind of wants to rush through all the custodial care and get to the riding. The only thing I could do with Honey was take care of her and love her. And somehow, she made this easy. She taught me a lot about patience, kindness and how to deal with chronic pain (I have a bit of that myself). She showed me that sometimes just being present is enough. And that a darling, damaged little body can hold a whole lot of love.

Honey 1So when it came time to let Honey go, I knelt in the thick bed of shavings next to her and put my forehead on hers. I thanked her for all she had done for me and my boys, and I told her the next place she would be going would be free of pain, free of limitations and free of fear. I know she heard me. I’m pretty sure she understood.

You touched everyone you met, little Honey-bear, and we will miss you very much. We’re all thankful for the gifts you gave us and the time we had with you. There will never be another one like you.

xo

P.S. We have now found a way to immortalize Honey by telling her story in a series of children’s books. Go to www.HoneyPonyBooks.com or check out Honey’s FaceBook page.

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