Monday, August 10, 2015

Bonding With A New Horse: Beginning the Journey

My heart horse is Cowboy, sweet, charming, neurotic Cowboy, my 20 year old Paint.  But you may not know this little tidbit--Cowboy was originally my husband's horse.  My husband chose him, tried him out, purchased him and brought him home.  By the end of the second week he was with us, he was MY horse and he has been ever since.  For the life of me, I can't remember how that switch occurred, but it did, and swiftly.



Somewhat recently, a couple of my good friends lost their heart-horses.  And, this week, each of them found a new partner.  Their searches were not easy.  Saying goodbye to their old friends, and choosing a new one to start a journey with, was not easy.

People outside of the horse world probably don't understand the depth of a horse-human relationship.  For one, it takes deep bonding, the kind of bonding that makes you want to run out to the barn every day and work through ground manners, communication, saddling, bridling, care-taking, and even risk-taking.  (Not to mention the amount of money you spend on purchasing, boarding, training and vet care.) 

But all that is the easy part.  The rest is year after year of learning each other's ways and falling in love through trail rides in winter, spring, summer and fall.  A horse can live over 30 years.  That's practically half of a human's life-time.  That's a lot of life and love between horse and human. 

When you lose your heart horse, you lose a major part of yourself because your identity is intertwined with your horse.  You've intertwined it, and those around you, who know you, have intertwined it. 

My journey with Cowboy has been filled with the things that make a dense and complex relationship--fear of loss of the relationship, exultation at miraculous health outcomes, days where we don't get along, days where we are perfectly in sync.  I am intertwined with him.

I got to watch one of my friends with her new horse yesterday--which is why I wanted to write about this today.  Seeing it unfold--a new horse, unsure of his surroundings, unsure of the human in front of him, but willing to trust--wanting to trust.  And, the human, still intertwined with the one she lost, but willing to trust--wanting to trust.  No two horses are alike.  What will their story be?  I can't wait to see it unfold. 

Cowboy was a horse with trust issues.  I spent the first months of our relationship building his trust in me and mine in him.  Sometimes I did that well, and other times, not so well, but it worked.  Something in him pulled me to him and it never subsided. 

The beginning of the journey is a fragile time in some ways, but there is so much to be gained...if it works out.  The "golden" horses, we call them, because we wouldn't trade them for all the gold in the world. 

I'm curious, if you have time, how did you bond with your heart-horses?  What was that special thing that sparked your journey together?

9 comments:

  1. This post really spoke to me. It was devastating to lose Steele and starting over with Carmen was a totally new experience- trying to lose the baggage of losing one horse and wanting to start anew. Also for her, she had had many owners and has been hard to reach. However, we've come a long way and, while we have a distance to go yet, we are on the right path. She's helping to heal my heart.

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    1. Teresa, I am so deeply sorry you lost Steele. Your post about that day is so raw and full of love for him. I'm glad you decided to start over again with Carmen.

      http://journeywithadancinghorse.blogspot.com/2014/12/its-all-over.html

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  2. I couldn't agree more. It takes time to find that good horse when searching for a new one. It could be a huge risk. It took me about four months after selling Fox. Just recently I found this 16.3 hand 12-year-old TB gelding and for the first time since selling Fox, I found a horse that clicked with me. Hopefully he'll be here next week. He is a gentle giant despite his size. This is Alexa.

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    1. Sounds like he's a good one, Alexa. Do you ever get updates on Fox. I loved that boy, too.

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  3. Time & COMMITMENT. Commitment to make it through the, sometimes tough, transitional time - some people give up so soon. It can break your heart to have someone take a horse & then give up on them after barely having them home.

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    1. True. It does take time to build that special relationship. Lots of it.

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  4. Well, I'll try to be brief. I had a mare(Flex) through my teenaged years. She taught be everything, and it was always hard-earned knowlege, but she was fun and would never have hurt me. When Flex was old, hubby surprised me with Kadie, a scrawny Appy mare with a heart of gold. 7 years old and never rode. She'd had lots of groundwork though, and one day I just hopped on her and we started going. Never looked back and I rode her for 14-15 years and she was the "best little mountain pony ever". Truth. She just never did anything wrong and we had a blast. We had another mare, bred both of them in 2 consecutive years and got our geldings, Ladde and Harley. We started them, and for the most part, it went very well, but it was just like starting all over again, and they had big shoes to fill. Years later, we're still riding Ladde, but he's my hubby's main rider. Harley and I were like bread and butter right from the beginning. I always felt so comfortable on him. But...4-5 years into our relationship, things started changing. Slowly at first, and so subtle that I had no clue as to the cause. Long story, short he was going blind. I had to retire Harley because it was no longer safe to ride him in the mountains, and it was lots of work trying to be my eyes and also his. That is where Eagle came in...saw a pic of him looking straight into the camera on a rescue site one day, and there was just something in that gaze that drew me in. I lurked online and followed him for over a year before making a telephone call. Found out he had been abused, neglected and nearly starved. His previous owner wanted to sell him for cat meat at the safari in Winston, but they had more than they could handle. A rescue was called and a gal picked him up that same day because his owner said he'd shoot him otherwise. After trimming his feet and fattening him up some, he went to Mustangs to the Rescue in Bend, which is the site I saw him in. We arranged to meet at an adoption event at the Brasada Ranch and out of a sea of bays, I spotted him after hours of being there searching. He gave me that same look, very direct gaze and I actually started crying. Crazy, I know, but I was in love with him and just had to have him. It took me just over 3 years of gentling, building a relationship and learning trust between us before I knew he was ready to start under saddle. I started searching for some help, found Rachel and I think you know the story pretty much to date. We have just one more obstacle to overcome and then we're officially off! I'm praying our first trail ride goes well...

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    1. Wow, if that's not a love story!! You should write a book about it when you get further into your adventure with Eagle. That is just FATE!!! I'm so excited for your ride this weekend. I'm sure it will go great!!!

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Please feel welcome to join our discussion--tell us about your own thoughts and experiences.