I could have written this blog post a dozen times over the last twenty or so years of my riding life.
I am bad at letting go. It can be a great quality – it makes me a good historian – but it can also be a bad quality.
I’m sure you can guess the horse-related circumstances in which it’s a very bad quality.
In my lessons lately, I’ve been working very hard on releasing.
See, Tris is just as stubborn as I am. Maybe even more so. He wants what he wants. He meets resistance and doubles down.
Previous trainers had me bending or flexing him all the time. Every second. The whole ride. He was not to be ridden straight; that would exacerbate his already stuck tendencies.
Like many before me and many after me, I developed the bad habit of hanging on the inside rein. Especially the left. I could get some softness right, but never left.
A lot of people talk about horses as a partnership. A true sense of that has always evaded me with Tristan. I adore him, and I have no doubt that he trusts and relies on me, but more often our rides are an uneasy conversation. It’s not easy – emotionally or physically.
I need to let go. I need to offer him up things – the inside rein, a chance to carry the rhythm, my pursuit of the perfect trot at the end of a lesson. I need to trust him to take it from me and hold up his half of the bargain.
He hasn’t always. I know we are never supposed to blame horses for anything, but I don’t think I can overstate how strong Tristan’s personality is. I have only just now been his human for as long as he has lived unable to trust humans. He didn’t see any need to take his half.
But he’s getting there. I’m getting there. I’ve been giving away the inside rein in big, exaggerated loops. I’ve been physically lifting my legs off his sides entirely after asking for more. I’ve been choosing to end on that last good transition.
It’s hard. It does not come naturally. I still suck at it, and am still exponentially worse in every area of my life.
But this is why we keep coming back to horses, isn’t it? All the answers are in there, somewhere. It’s an exhausting, painful, financially ruinous, heartbreaking way to find the answers, but they are there.