I have been an enthusiastic horse lover for the greater part of my life. Since I was 6, I have been going to lessons, and pretty much spent all possible time at stables. Before long I got my parents to buy me my own horse. She ended up being one of the most important friends of my youth. Then, after 10 years together, her journey came to an end. Afterwards I resulted into renting a couple of horses, until that, too came to an end, as I moved to Belgium.
After the move, life happened. I was busy exploring my new home country and quite some of its surroundings. Then came work, and an utter lack of time, plus I wasn’t exactly thrilled to go and search for a place where there wouldn’t be a massive language barrier. And also, from owning and renting horses, it is kind of a big step backwards to return to a riding school. So, life went on, for almost 4 years, with no horses.
This spring we moved, closer to work, which meant a lot more free time. Additional free time was the key to light the spark again. Somewhere in the summer I started to search for stables in the area and contacted a few.
A couple of days later I got a reply from one of those stables. Welcoming me to a workshop, where I could get an idea of the functioning of the stable and the of the philosophy they follow. I was through the roof!
So, on a warm Sunday morning in August, I found myself sitting in a circle with ladies of all ages, talking about the feeding of a horse; in Dutch. I tried to follow, googled the names of plants and body parts of horses they were mentioning, taking in the smell of sand, hay and horses. There was a welcoming atmosphere, everybody seemed to have the same goal in mind; how to have a healthy, happy horse.
The horses had plenty of space to roam around, which is not always the case in Belgium, where some stables don’t let the horses out at all, so I was happy. The herd seemed harmonious and well cared for. The well being of the animals was clearly the first priority there. Without too much doubting I enlisted myself for weekly lessons. This has been going on for about one and a half months. Now I have also started to rent a horse once a week. Centered riding is the way of riding here. Everything is to do with breathing and balance. I am excited about this, since I think this will be a great way for me to get back into riding and become better in it.
Every lesson before we even get on to the horse, the teacher busies us with ground work. Which I find also a very smart approach. If you think about teaching a person to ride, without teaching them how to be with a horse, read it and handle it, you are cutting quite some corners short, eventually asking for trouble. By working on the ground first, you get the first contact with the animal on the eye-level. You see its mood and the way it moves easier. And everybody gets a little warm up.
The lessons advance slowly, focusing much more on the thinking side of the whole thing, rather than getting through complicated exercises. So we learn to lead the horse, learn to balance our own energy so, that horse follows and listens. We search for the movement of the horse, while on horse back and try to follow it and see and feel, how your seat affects the horses movement and mood. It all is very slow, the riding skills are really being built from the bottom up, block by block.
I have been happy to notice that this break from horses has done some good for me. I am a fairly reactive and nervous person by nature. I used to have a horse that was the same. Which was not necessarily a good combination if you wanted to stay on top of the situation. But we both had fun, which back then was the most important thing!
Now during this break I think I have matured. I am less hasty. I am not only reacting, but am able to stop and asses the situations before doing anything. I find myself enjoying the moments when I can just watch and see how the horses interact with each other and try and learn from that and interpret it to my own actions with them. I am learning loads more now, than what I was capable of, or willing to, before!
The horse I am renting, she is lovely and ridiculously pretty palomino. She most definitely is not the smartest of the bunch, though some things she learns quickly, others she takes ages to figure out. Plus she is completely new to this way of working. But she is sweet, and trusting and I am very much looking forward to learning together with her.
This is a completely new start for me, to be with horses and to ride. There is a serious bunch of things to learn and find out, of the sport and of myself. I am so very happy I finally got to find a stable to continue my dear hobby. Once again I have a place to forget all the stress of work and just be present and have a horse to develop with!