So much has changed in the time between the two moments captured in these photos. My journey with Talon has been far from what I imagined it would be when I adopted him as a three-year-old. I had visions of us winning many Events as we smoothly and quickly moved up the levels together. Well...we did move up the levels quickly, but it was far from smooth and successful. By the time Talon was five-years-old we were competing at the Preliminary level (Pushing horse's too young and too fast is the subject of another blog "Be the Tortoise"). This was very short lived as Talon began completely shutting down on XC courses; he would just stop on course and refuse to move altogether. At my level of awareness and maturity at the time I assumed it was just bad behavior on his part. I was certain I could get rid of this “bad” behavior; mostly through punishing him when it occurred. You know, the standard routine, a poke with the spurs or some whacks with the crop. We continued our struggle in this way for many years. This style of training makes me sick to think about these days, but it is still so common among all disciplines.
With some horses this style of training may have worked for awhile...but...not with Talon. Some horses will submit until their bodies can physically no longer handle it and they go lame. This is often when riders start resorting to pain medications, injections, etc. At some point, no amount of medication will work if the root cause of the pain is not addressed. Thankfully, Talon refused to submit, and he took me quite literally kicking and screaming towards better paths of training and horsemanship. At the time, I hated him for it.
It is ironic to think that I hated him for it, but at the same time it was my love for him that made me listen to him. No matter how many people told me to give up on him, I never did – I couldn’t. I was fortunate to have many mentors come into my life over the years that helped me look at things from a more open-minded and broader perspective. I began studying literally all things horse: bio-mechanics, nutrition, hoof care, dentistry, bodywork, fitness, lifestyle, saddle-fit, body-language, and psychology. Slowly, I built an understanding of how all of these things are interconnected and contribute to the behaviors horses display.
Somewhere along the way I became disenchanted with Eventing. Too many horses and people getting seriously injured or dying. I also realized the career I was making for myself was not something I would be happy doing the rest of my life. Although, I’m sure to many it appeared I was living a dream. Scary and hard to let go of something that you have made part of your identity as well as your entire source of income. I also realized I never truly loved Eventing; it just happened to be the focus of the barn where I learned to ride as a kid.
What I love are the horses. I love the process of building a relationship with the horse and the process of horse and rider developing together. So much of horsemanship applies to all aspects of life…I find this fascinating.
So, here we are today. Talon and I have landed in a world of Horsemanship, Dressage, and Horse Nerds, and we have never been happier :) I would not be the horsewoman and trainer I am today without Talon.
If you are currently struggling with your horse you have my empathy. I hope this post encourages you to dig deeper into the source of that struggle. I hope you will not have to struggle for as long as I did. Sometimes all that is needed is to stop and listen to the message behind the struggle.