All the Pretty Horses

*Sigh* Yes, be jealous. Be very jealous. I got to spend some time with God’s great creatures this weekend.
My friend who let me photograph her horses last month, had mentioned at the time that when the almond orchards go into bloom they would make for some beautiful photographs with the horses. For the last week the almond orchards have been busting out their gorgeous blooms and because she had been so kind in letting me take photos of her horses, I mentioned to my friend that I was up for taking more photos if she was. We settled on Sunday around 2:00 and said, “We’ll get you up on one of the horses this time.”
When I was 9 or 10, my uncle and aunt had a 28 year old horse named Arrow. He was beautiful, but my parents taught us to be careful around him because we weren’t really trained with horses. One day my uncle and aunt saddled him up and all of the cousins were given a chance to ride him. My child memory still suggests he was taller than a house, and I remember being nervous riding him, not sure how he’d react and that uncertainty was a bit scary. So when my friend said I would be riding a horse that weekend I responded, “I’m so excited I’m gonna pee my pants!” but my heart said, “Yeah, thats not gonna happen.”
Sunday rolls around and I drove out to her ranch. As soon as I got there she and her husband asked, “Are you ready to ride today?” I stuttered and fumbled and said I’d be just as happy brushing them and doing anything they needed help with around the ranch – which was absolutely true. My friend had invited me out two times before to ride and each time I was just content to brush them out and take their pictures. I really couldn’t be happier doing just and only that. Feeling their breath tickle my arms, awing at the fact I could simply pat their rumps if they were trying to scooch too close and they would immediately respond, running my fingers over their soft lean bodies and getting dirt underneath my fingernails. There is no better rejuvenating thing in the world.
So I’m brushing, and leading them over to get saddled up, and leading them into the round arena, and grabbing a step stool and then, my friend turns to me and tells me to walk up the steps and I stopped. This was happening. Oh geez, this was happening. My legs started to shake and my arms felt weak. I turned to her and told her that horses sensed fear and I was terrified and this was probably not a good thing for me to be doing (how arrogant am I!). She smiled so kindly and with what seemed like limitless patience, my friend instructed me to put my foot in the stirrup, grab the horses’ main or the horn of the saddle and pull myself up. Nuh ugh. This was not gonna happen. I again tried to reason with her, that this was not smart for me to be doing. She said simply, “Creek is the best teacher. He’s not afraid because you’re afraid. He knows you’re new, he knows you’re scared, and you’ve gotta trust that he’s going to take care of you.” I put my foot in the stirrup, got ready to swing my right light over and for the first time in my life, I embarrassingly enough froze. I’ve never been so afraid that I’ve actually frozen in place before. I’m not afraid of animals. I love them. But I was afraid to trust my safety completely to an animal and in my mind, I just couldn’t do it. I stepped down and stuttered and told my friend, “This isn’t gonna happen, not today. I’m so sorry, I’m just too afraid.” She smiled and simply said, “Ok.” I felt no judgements from her, just understanding and patience. And in a fraction of an instant, I realized she was the greatest teacher I’d ever met, and that I was going to ride this horse today.
All the while blabbering like an incoherent idiot that I was going to try it once more, I grabbed the saddle, swung my leg over clumsily and boom, I was on a horse.
It wasn’t as far up as I’d imagined.
It was scary, but not as scary as I’d imagined.
He was a good boy.
I continued to blabber about literally everything I was feeling and experiencing until finally I smiled down at my friend and said, “I’m sorry, I’ll stop talking now.” She laughed and said it was alright. She began to instruct me on how it was going to feel. In detail she told me what to expect. She first taught me how to stop and it was like she knew that as soon as I learned how to communicate to Creek that I needed him to stop, it was like all my fears dissipated. She continued to outline that he was going to test my boundaries and I needed to be consistent, that Creek would try to walk up to her, but I needed to tell him what I wanted him to do. Finally she said, “You’re going at a really good pace for a beginner, especially for someone who was so afraid a moment ago. You’re doing really good. I’m proud of you!” Ah, the “I’m proud of you” phrase, the phrase I’ll do anything for. Again, the best teacher I’ve ever met.
Finally, I got my fill and said I was good riding for the day. I brought Creek around and dismounted him and immediately gave my friend the biggest hug! I rode! After 20 years, I rode a horse. And Creek IS a good teacher, too! My friend reads people, she’s got an uncanny knack at pinpointing a person’s strengths and weaknesses and how to help that person make their weaknesses strengths. She really did know Creek was the best teacher, and she did know I could do it.
I’m sappy, I know. But Sunday was a great day.

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