"So much wasted time."
David Cassidy's last words as he was dying.
When the nurse told me to “go to my happy place,” she said I told her it would be the horses. (My husband and children gave me a bit of grief about that!) I woke up feeling euphoric, just as the nurse was telling my husband the story. It felt right. It felt like I had truly been with my horses.
I’ve written before about how it feels for me to climb into the saddle—it’s like a swoosh of endorphins flooding my brain. I also have this image of heaven, my herd galloping to meet me when I pass over. It gives me comfort. I love my family with all my heart, but my relationship with the horses is other-worldly. I hope the readers will understand what I mean, and maybe even be able to clarify it more, in the comments section.
Yesterday was the first day I was able to work with my horses—Cowboy, Leah, and Beautiful--since the heart ablation. I didn’t expect it to be any different, but it was. Something had changed in me, a way of communicating. It's as if, when they fixed my heart, they also helped it to feel more vividly the emotions of my horses.
The idea of The Dance became clearer and shifted from a--
We're going to dance!
Would you like to dance?
I had more patience to ask and wait for the give. More patience to see it as a series of dance steps, rather than a whole dance. And, this great understanding that learning the steps to the dance is not wasted time, but rushing the dance or not dancing at all IS wasted time.
Seeing it that way, I was able to get insight into my relationships the three horses I worked with, and I want to share it and ask you to leave a comment explaining how you see your own dances with your horses.
As I tried to take Cowboy's picture, he wanted to come to me. He didn't want to graze. He didn't want to walk back to the herd. He wanted to dance. With me.
We are those long-time dance partners you see on the dance floor, feet shuffling back and forth, back and forth, hands held tight--knowing the rhythm, the steps, the give and take. Imagine the most perfect couple out on the dance floor, the one that just has you mesmerized, and then look over to the side at the ones who aren't that good, but you can tell they've been dancing together for a long time, too. That is us. Cowboy and me. There is still a bit of tension here and there, but we've learned to dance together and we're used to each other.
Cowboy doesn't like the tango. We don't do the tango. We only dance the ones he likes. For the most part, I lead, but there are some steep or rocky sections, where I let Cowboy choose the path, and he always gets us where we need to go. Opening and closing gates--the tap-tap on his side--he scoots over a wee bit. A gentle squeeze--he takes one step--a gentle squeeze--another step. He hears me softly say, "Whoooaaaa," and he stands still enough that I can reach down to the chain and unlatch the gate.
Dancing with Cowboy wasn't always this easy or fun, but it is now. I wish I'd been a more patient partner in the early days, but he has been forgiving. Nowadays, we dance as much as we can to keep his body going in his older age.
It struck me that I'd been stepping on Leah's toes a lot as we've been learning to dance together. She's a gentle soul, takes everything deeply, doesn't want to make missteps--and I need to honor that.
Yesterday, we danced on the ground first. I worked with her at a trot, in circles, all around the arena. We danced over the poles, around the barrels, along the rail. She was a lovely partner.
I wanted a plan in saddle. What dance would be learning? Which steps did we need to learn?
I decided the dance was opening the gate (without actually opening the gate), and the steps would be moving off my leg and learning the gentle--one step forward--stop and rest--one more step forward--stop and rest--side pass, side pass--rest--don't be frightened of me bending over--rest--don't be frightened of the sound of the chain clinking against metal--rest. We could call this the waltz, and our practice a dry run. No music. No putting the steps all together. Just work at learning the subtle shifting, counting--gentle pushing away and pulling in.
If you can't dance well together on the ground, how can you possibly dance well in the saddle?
Bee had a week off, and she was on edge. She wants to learn to dance, but but she thinks she knows the dance already--and constantly attempts to take the lead from me. Her dance is one of self-preservation--I heard a sound, let's get the hell out of here! She is in the early stages of the steps: getting used to the feel of bridle and bit, the tug of a rein, the pressure of a leg, the weight of a rider.
Yesterday, we worked on the ground dance. At first her trot was fast and fearful, but we twirled around the arena in circles until she slowed down and tuned into her dance partner. At that point, she watched the up and down of my left hand as it urged her to continue forward over poles and tires. She felt the tug of my right hand guiding her forward, then into a circle, then forward, then over a pole, then forward, then into a circle--and so on.
We have quite a few steps to learn together, but working with her, and the others, is my happy place. Why rush the dance? Those older couples you see on the dance floor probably didn't look so great when they were first learning. The element of TIME is essential. Forgiveness. Togetherness. And just plain wanting to dance together in the first place.
This is not wasted time.
It's precious time.