We talk a lot about heart horses, and everyone of mine has a deep place in my heart--therefore, I refer to them all as heart horses. But there is another element, and it is whether we have their whole hearts bent towards us, too. And that is an entirely different level of horsemanship--unity, togetherness, partnership, willingness, trust, love, try--what I've come to think of as the "it factor." Whatever you want to label it, we know it when we see it, we know it when we feel it.
It doesn't come easy. In fact, it is often earned after a long period of illness when we are required to spend a lot of one on one time with our horse, and they are at their most vulnerable and alone.
Epona is a good example. When she was at her weakest, I could sit down in her stall, lay her head on my lap, and rub each of her legs all the way down to the sweet little hooves. It was imprinting on steroids. But it came at a cost--the possibility of losing her, too.
When Cowboy broke his P3, the prognosis was poor for a full recovery, since it had been misdiagnosed for so long. The veterinary college near us recommended conservative treatment from a farrier. Our farrier came to the rescue and said, I'll work on his hoof, you work on this--and he pointed to his heart and his brain. Cowboy would have to be confined to a 12x12 stall for nine months. It was up to me to keep his head and heart together. Though we'd been riding and working together for five years before his injury, the time we had together then, again, not knowing what the outcome would be, is what gave us the it factor.
I had only worked with Tweed on the ground during Epona's illness because my mind was consumed with saving Epona's life, and I didn't feel I could devote the attention and energy to riding a three year old Tumbleweed. Riding him requires all of my attention. I felt it wouldn't be safe, or productive, to jump in the saddle half-heartedly.
Last week after we got the good news about Epona, I walked into the barn the next morning with the weight of the world off my shoulders. I was able to see my other horses again--feel them again--and I knew it was time to obsess about my own horse--my future partner--sweet T.
And that is when all of the above started to gel in my mind. I want it with Tumbleweed, but without the sickness or injury. I want the it factor. How do I get it?
1. Lots of time.
2. Lots of love.
3. Lots of encouragement.
Yesterday, I took him to our local equestrian park. I packed a lunch. We spent the whole day together. I will go back tonight and pack dinner. I will go back tomorrow and pack another lunch. And the same Friday. I will obsess about how to get past roadblocks in our training. I will obsess about how to love him and encourage him better. I will spend as much as time as he will allow tracing his body with my hands and learning him and he me.
I will not stop until I get to it, without having it take bad luck getting us to it.
I want his heart. I know what that feels like, I know it is possible with him and he wants to give it to me, and I will settle for nothing less.