On Halloween afternoon I went out to the barn with every intention to back Winston for the first time, and ride around the sand ring. When I arrived, he was in the barn, nice and clean as I had groomed him and the put his winter coat on the night before and he had not been rolling around in the mud (which is everywhere at this time of year!).
When we went outside and into the mud, the very first thing he did was roll around (horses-haha) and then we let him off lead to walk around for a little while at liberty and stretch his legs. His friends in the barn started to call out, and he replied. I had not seen this side of him before, and it threw me off guard. He began to run around looking for them, with little bucks and rears here and there.
I began to have thoughts and feelings of anxiety. The winds were high, his energy was all over the place, and in this experience, what came up for me loud and clear was “today is not the day.”
Thankfully, Barb was there as she wanted to be present for my first ride. She saw my response to Winston’s energy (the anxiety was palpable) and agreed that neither of us were in the mental space to ride. She decided that perhaps what we could do, is just bring him to the mounting block, and have me stand on it and just lean on him a bit, that seemed like the tiny next step that felt good to both of us.
After leaning into him tentatively for a little while, I leaned my full upper body over his back. He stayed calm and grounded the whole time. After a little while longer, I got the message through his energy and mine, that it was ok to swing my leg over, and sit on his back. I did just that, and then leaned right over onto his neck to thank him for welcoming it.
Barb decided that while backed, and while she was there, perhaps it would be ok to just walk around the mounting block in a small circle, as a very first step to riding. Part of me felt embarrassed, it’s not like I’ve never ridden before, I had taken Rodeo classes just a year ago, riding a different horse each week, with a ton of other horses in the area trotting and loping around too. Doing obstacles and races. This felt different. I welcomed Barb’s support, and while I looked a wee bit like a toddler on a pony ride, letting her lead us around while I sat, engaged and connected to the feeling of this next step to Winston and I’s connection. And I was so grateful for her support and non-judgement.
I went back the following day, and though the circumstances (the blasting wind and his buddies in the barn) were present again, both of us felt renewed and connected, ready to ride. While that day, again, Barb supported us by being next to us and helping me to learn how to use the bit less bridle, Winston and I were working and learning together. When doing a right turn I started to lose my balance and slide off, I caught myself, and Winston stopped with my cues, as if to say “I got you.” What an incredible validation that we are in fact connected and he is a willing equine partner who is actively supporting me through his grounded and attuned presence.