To say that I've been emotionally drained, tested, and battered over the last month is an understatement. In the past 30 days I have experienced an onslaught of personal loss to the point where I've become either manic or detached from everything. There comes a point where you can only say goodbye to something so many times before you're completely lost, and that time has been now for me.
Through friends passing away, other's attempted suicides, friends narrowly escaping death, newborn horses having to be put down, having to say emotional goodbyes to loved ones, and the stresses of everyday life and work and relationships.... It's just been overwhelming lately.
Despite all of this, I've been trying to make my heavy heart a little lighter wherever possible, and naturally that means time with May.
I was extremely fortunate to have had the chance to spend most of Sunday at the Equine Affair with two seasoned volunteers/trainers for Equine Partners Unlimited, where May is boarded. These two exceptionally helpful women, Hannah and Yvonne (who I might add, I owe all thanks to the images for this entry), spent hours humoring my questions, concerns, confusions, and ideas in regards to May. Getting to bond with them while also getting to attend seminars, clinics, and demonstrations was an excellent treat, even if I didn't understand half of whatever they were saying.
At the end of the Affair, I had the opportunity to get one on one training with our farm's manager, Mandy Schreiber, who also happens to be May's Knight in Shining Armor. During our training session we focused on my fear and confidence, which has been a huge issue in nearly every facet of my life over the past several weeks. I have, due to many emotional pit-falls, lost almost all of my self-confidence, which has led to me being fearful of trust, fearful of myself and my actions, and fearful of the situations around me.
Anyone who has ever been around horses can tell you how incredibly in tune they are with those around them, be it another animal or a person. My difficulties with fear and confidence outside of the farm has only made my training while at the farm escalate into incredibly stressful situations. May fails to see my confidence, and therefore refuses to agree to what I suggest for her to do (being led on the lead, following me, etc). Being that she is a wild pray animal, this has led to some scary, defeating situations. Even with breakthroughs, where she and I are obviously overcoming a moment of doubt against the other, the majority of our interactions are ones that are full of fear.
At the start of our training May behaved defiantly to my lead, refusing to walk more than a step forward, or walk smoothly at my side. She pulled her body backwards, she tried to push me out of the way, or she just sat there staring at me. With Mandy's gentle suggestions and quick response time, I was able to keep May from throwing too much of a fit, however, my stress levels never seemed to lower. It took Mandy four hours to get me to stand up straight, to not shake while holding the lead rope, and to establish boundary space with May. Inside of those four hours, I was a nervous wreck trying to get May to follow without fighting, thrashing, or biting at me.
I was a mess while trying to get her to walk from the pasture to the arena, where her every other step was rebellious and irritable. I was full of panic and unease when I would try and walk her in circles while being slumped over in defeat and fear. I was, in short, a pathetic looking sight.
But I persisted, and with Mandy at my side reminding me to self-check my attitude, I was slowly becoming more sure of myself.
It took us time to get me to the place where I could stand tall, breathe deeply, and look straight ahead at my end goal. I had to fight to not look back on past failures and experiences, be it with May or someone/thing else, and to not look forward into the future onto possible fearful outcomes, be it with May or someone/thing else. Since I've been consumed with thoughts of the past and pained with the dread of my future, having to change that for our safety and for the opportunity to accurately establish myself with May was spirit breaking.
Eventually though, I got it. I stood taller, asserted myself as the head mare (with lots of exercises and training methods to get there), and I got May and I to a place of mutual respect and understanding. It took everything in me to be able to let go of that paralyzing paranoia that something bad was going to happen, and that I was going to fail. After what felt like hours and hours and hours, I was finally able to have my moment with May that said so clearly, "I am capable".
Within a blink of an eye an obvious shift between us had snapped into place and her behavior towards me was incredible. By the end of the night, she had started to follow me just by being called, with no need to pull or pressure her. She would stand beside me, would stop when I stopped, and would keep her attention towards me at all times. I couldn't have imagined how beautiful that moment would have ever been, to be in the place of letting go and becoming more because of it.
All of this, every second of training that I got to have with May is so easily applicable to life. It is so important to not hold onto our fears, or to let them control us. It is so important not to concentrate on the past and all of the bad from it. Most of all though, it is so, so, so important to not beat yourself up so badly, to the point where you are incapable of growing past and beyond something, some roadblock. Nothing is impassable. Nothing was worth missing out on this.
As I think back on Sunday and I think over all of the things that have been happening in my life, I find myself acknowledging more and more that I made the right choice when I chose May. I never would have guessed that I would experience what I have with her in such a short time, or that I'd be her first therapy patient. But honestly, I couldn't be more honored to be here on this journey.
Until next time.