Each one has its unique gift given so sweetly and freely to me – And each has its need for improvement so that we can agree.
As I mature, Christmas takes on a whole new meaning to me. Somehow, I have turned the corner where I don’t worry and fret so much about the presents I give or receive. Most of those trinkets are quickly forgotten once the packages are opened and seasons change. It is the gifts that create special memories for me that I treasure. It is the visits, the phone calls and the helping hands that warm my heart this season. Also, it is the memory of Christmas past that I hold dear. One particular one comes to mind. It was Christmas of 1995 which was the last Christmas our family was whole. My mother died February 1st, 1996 and ever since that year, my siblings and I just never find the time or the need to be all together again for the holidays- just not convenient anymore. My mom was the nucleus of “our family” and now we all have developed into our own traditions and our own families have grown. I know that is the way it goes but just can’t help thinking about how it used to be. We had a family picture taken that last whole family Christmas and my mom is wearing her “Christmas sweater”. It is a beautiful black sweater with a big Christmas bow of sequins embellishing it. I have that sweater. It is one of my most treasured possessions. If I walked into a second hand store and saw that sweater on the rack for $1, I wouldn’t be interested, but I wouldn’t trade this one for anything in the world. I keep it in my cedar chest and have never had it cleaned. I want to smell and feel her when I hold it. I even wear it for a few hours some years even though it is long past being in style. That gaudy trinket is my treasure.
I guess thinking like that is exactly why I get a lot of criticism for some of my methods of working with horses. I am not interested in the “proof of the pudding” in the form of ribbons and trophies as proof of my abilities. Those are just useless trinkets down the road unless they are earned from the heart – yours and your horse’s -and then become a true treasure. I would personally take no joy from completing a perfect performance if it meant giving up a partnership with my horse in lieu of a dominating rigorous drilling that my horse hated. Nothing fills up my heart more than walking out to the pasture and my horse freely walking up to greet me. Now, that is a gift I treasure and hold dear and am not willing to trade.
I know from experience what a fine friend she can be..
I always put my beginner riders on Guilty. She is safe, level headed and takes care of her rider. The problem lies in the fact that she is too careful sometimes, resulting in what some people interpret as difficult. She doesn’t move too fast or too much unless she feels it is necessary, she believes that you should be the one calling the shots, or if she isn’t quite comfortable going into a trot with a rider who can’t even make her turn or stop yet correctly. Then I start hearing the grumbles: “She won’t go. She’s lazy. I can’t make her do anything. She’s stubborn”. etc. These comments coming from a youngster who has no idea how to handle a horse much less make these assumptions. It is always the horse’s fault. Today when I heard these comments coming from a camper who is now on her third day of ever riding a horse, it hit home to me how this mindset affects the horse. If this is the kind of labels you put on her, this is what you will get from here on out. She feels that energy and will live up to those expectations because you have a bad attitude. She knows it. It actually reminded me of an incident that I am not too proud of that happened to me when I was growing up. I overheard my mother telling a neighbor how much help my older sister was around the house -( I was the second child and always thought she favored her which didn’t help matters) – When the neighbor commented that it looked like I was a good helper too (I guess she realized I was listening and that my feelings were getting hurt ) my mother spoke up and said, “Oh no, not Bobby. I can’t get her to anything around here. Her next sentence was when she turned to me and said, “Why don’t you finish doing the dishes?”. Being the rebel I was, I got my snotty attitude on and retorted “Because I don’t want to make a liar out of you!” and stormed out the door. Granted, my claim to fame has never been for my love of housework, but I embarrassed my mother in front of her friend. Her friend probably thought I was some kind of demon child from that moment on. The point is, I was going to live up to her expectation of me – not try harder to prove she was wrong about me. If she thought I was not a good helper, then by god, I wasn’t going to be. I am afraid that Guilty and I have that mindset in common. I tried to explain this concept to the little girl and tell her not to assume Guilty won’t do something for you – because she will, gladly, if you expect her to. She told me later that she apologized to Guilty for getting impatient and frustrated with her and for thinking bad things. She said it was funny but she thought Guilty winked at her. About a half hour later Guilty carried her her first trail ride of her life and performed beautifully for her. She was glowing.
A change in Attitudes
I have always said that Guilty is my best teacher.