That’s what was going through my head earlier this evening as I squelched up the muddy hill of my horse’s paddock. My hands were already numb, the wind was cutting through to my bones, and the temperature gauge in my car told me it was 7.5 degrees at 5.15 pm. It was Monday, I was tired and if I hadn’t driven so far to get there I would have been tempted to turn around and drive home again.
It’s these moments that I wonder what the hell I’m even doing this for. It’s expensive, it’s time consuming and sometimes I don’t even enjoy it that much.
But then my horse, Buzz, walked up to meet me and reached out his nose to breathe in my face. His eyes were soft, his ears were pricked and that sweet, warm smell that only a horse person could love filled my nostrils, and a smile crept across my face. I knew then, as I know every time, that I ride because to not ride would be like trying not to breathe.
Horse and human is one of the oldest – and most unlikely – partnerships. Predator and prey animal were never meant to work together as a team, and that much was apparent as soon as Buzz and I first came together seven years ago.
It’s been a difficult road for for the two of us. He was young, with very little training, and I was still getting over losing my last horse. We didn’t always get along – in fact, we didn’t even really like each other that much. He was difficult to catch, flighty, opinionated, and not the slightest bit connected to me. He was a constant reminder that I wasn’t quite the horsewoman I’d imagined myself to be.
When he bucked me off one day I decided that was it: I was going to sell him and find a more suitable equine partner. But something stopped me from going through with it. Maybe I didn’t want to give up, or maybe I sensed there was more ahead in our journey. I had him seen by a chiropractor and discovered that his pelvis and all his ribs were out. The poor thing had been quietly putting up with the pain for god knows how long, until he couldn’t stand it anymore.
That was a turning point in our relationship, and with slow, careful training, we started to build a connection. It took a long time for us to trust one another, but once we did, we went ahead in leaps and bounds.
We started dressage training, and now I’m doing things with him that I never would have thought possible five years ago. He’s so tuned into me that sometimes I only have to think something and he’s already doing it. He’s become the horse I always wanted. We’re doing half passes and training for flying changes and I’m loving every minute of it. Sometimes I have to stop and remind myself that I’m living the dream I’ve had since I was a little girl: I’m dancing with my horse, and we’re doing it together, as partners.
Tonight’s ride wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, but it was pretty damn good. It was cold, but it was a beautiful, clear night, still and peaceful.
As I walked back from the paddock to the sound of Buzz’s hooves drumming as he galloped back up the hill to his paddock mates, I looked up into the sky covered with a carpet of stars more dazzling than you’ll ever see down on the plains, and I felt content. I know how lucky I am to have this in my life. The Adelaide Hills are my place of peace, and my horse is my sanity.
I know I’ll be back to do it again in a couple of days.