This week one of the trainers I teach asked me “What is the most important thing a horse has taught you?”
That is a hard question. One could easily make a list. There are so many things, but the one that struck me the most forcefully and leapt to mind first is something that my great grandmother talked to me about, when I was a teenager and she was in her 90’s. She said that the best days were when she learned something new and that God always sent her a challenge when she got bored. Those challenges always come to me in the form of horses.
I had forgotten that until I was well into middle age, firmly ensconced in my riding and training career. By then with good education and experience most of the horses were easy to bring along and seemed uncomplicated. A situation one would pray for. It was just about time for “the person upstairs” to send along a horse to jog me out of my complacency, stretch me to my limits and humble me a bit. It happens and I see it happen to everyone. I guarantee it. No matter how experienced you are, this will happen.
In the early 1980’s, I was studying at Maestro Nuno Oliveira’s in Portugal when his son, Juan, brought in a horse that they hoped to develop for a client for Pan Am and perhaps the Olympics. At the time, I was so young that I couldn’t imagine anyone being jaded or surfeited about riding such a lovely horse. Maestro Nuno lamented that he had no interest in riding the horse. Others could do the work. It was a fine uncomplicated animal but held no allure for him personally. Most horses brought to him he said provoked no new challenge. He seemed lackluster and morose.
Within a short period of time, unexpectedly another horse arrived in Avessada. Immediately word went round that the grooms thought the horse was “difficult”. Maestro Nuno Oliveira’s son, Juan, took the first ride on the horse. I watched Maestro Nuno come to life, rapidly chain smoking as he watched. He decided to take over the daily riding of that horse. It was, and still is, in my opinion the most difficult horse I have ever seen. Maestro smiled as he rode it and told me later “ the horse was a gift from God.”
Just the minute you think you have things pretty well figured out, along comes a horse to humble you and teach you something new. Never take any horse for granted. They are a gift from God, and it is your job to figure out what they are there to teach you, and be assured it may not be anything you were originally thinking about!
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