By Jeff Wilson
You’re riding through the woods where the latest rainstorm has brought all the forest’s colors to life. The soft wind plays its music while your saddle creaks along with it, and your horse blows out a contented slobber snort. Your note-to-self, “ Ain’t nobody messin’ with this,” puts you front and center into the best reality TV show goin’.
Finding quietude in the woods is not something new. Robert Frost was on to something when he wrote, “Whose woods these are I think I know…My little horse must think it queer to watch them fill up with snow.” Frost reached out with a penned finger and plucked a heart string so many feel but never say.
Is it coincidence that our body sits so closely to our horse’s heart? That a horse and rider can effortlessly feel like they’re one body? That the horse’s gait is measured in beats. That a silent trail ride can feel like total communion. What’s the bottom line on riding? Every heart secretly longs for that stride in the middle of the great wide open—powerful in strength to ride, and powerless to imagine the heart doing anything other than swelling with contentment.
As I recently presented “The Art of Horsemanship” at the biggest expo on the east coast, my time, like the event, filled with too much busyness. My schedule was sliced so thin it only had one side. Pre-event workload involved the planning, preparing, and packing of the horses going with all their gear. Along with that, we needed practice sessions for the evening performances, and costumes, and choreographed music. Add the endlessly dreary paperwork trail—the liability releases, schedules for speaking, booth rules and regulations (did I mention all the booth materials and props had to be packed too), and speaking topics that have to be readied and considered. Bloomin’ burdocks, those moments completely overran my life and consumed my time. Now, I do enjoy it, but there is a real battle through these man-made woods I create for myself, to keep myself peaceful and centered through all the conversations, the critiques, the problems, while keeping everybody moving forward—not just solving horse problems, but solving people problems…hello, we’re dealing with people; the drama meter is active.
The expos are very exciting, as long as there’s an end to them. The best moment is when I leave the event and drive home.
Home to my woods. In the woods with my horse.
Where is your solace and reward for all that you contend with in a day? I prefer to acknowledge the trees that I ride past as the faces of familiar friends, the brooks and hills along the trail as their cozy living room spaces. I find peace as I ride deep into the heart of the woods. In the heart of the woods, atop my horse, I find a refuge for the heart.
In talkin’ ‘bout the heart, I’m not talking about the organ that pumps blood. I’m talking about a happy heart being the medicine for your life.
The gait of a horse soothes the beating of your own heart.
Why is the world so doggone peaceful from the back of a horse?
Do the neighbors ever catch you whistling or singing on the trail? “Robert, who the heck is killin’ the cat?”
Riding the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man. What is it about the horse that is so good for the inside of us? Some days life holds us down like a cat gettin’ flea dipped—until we can saddle our horse and ride out that is. What is impossible to understand is how we suddenly find ourselves centered. We arrive back at the stable refreshed and at peace with the world. How’d that happen? It’s because our horses require us to let the day’s ‘business’ go in order to ride them. Talk about an unspoken treaty…
Our hearts need to be filled with great things from great people. Instead we encounter those who make us say, “Why are there more horse’s butts than horses?” The season we are in right now commands everyone’s attention. The moment strikes a chord in us; a strong desire to have our hearts lifted up above the grind. We are fortunate that our horses bravely carry us to that place, they connect us with our hearts everyday.
Do you ever talk to your horse? Stop battin’ your eyes like a toad in a hailstorm, of course you do.
My point is that your heart is the ‘Catfish Creek’ of your life, that secret fishin’ hole where you can self-talk. Be kind during both sides of the conversation as you have that heart-to-heart talk with your horse this season.
In truth, the horse can speak to the heart like no other animal can. Ever wonder why the horse is so dramatically useful in therapeutic programs with the oh-so-many-damaged people in the earth? It is because the horse speaks courage—what we all need to hear as we ride forth and conquer the dragons of this life. With one look into your eyes the horse looks into your heart and declares, “You can do it.”
Stories, myths and legends captivate us. They capture us because they bring up the great matters of the heart. There’s always a strong hero in demand, and a beautiful heroine that needs to be rescued—hopefully involving an epic horse scene. Are you ready to ride out for your life’s next great adventure? What’s your heart telling you? I’m telling you to always make sure to be yourself, unless you can be Zorro. Then be Zorro.
I have been training horses for over 30 years and value the western horse lifestyle in my approach to training. Giving clinics and seminars on how to reach your full potential with your horse through the training foundation of Cowboy Dressage makes me happier than a full breeze from a corn-eatin’ horse.
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