Chapter 31

Experiences Along the Way book cover
The Gift of a Ride

    I was really enjoying this ride! The trail following Middle St. Vrain Creek into the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area was beautiful. I loved the aroma of the pines, the sound of the rushing brook cascading down the rocks, the freshness of the cool mountain air. But it was how well my horse, Prince, and I were communicating that was making this ride so special. Months of effort had blossomed into a thrilling unity.

    For the most part, I let Prince decide how to negotiate the rocky trail; but there were spots where I would make that decision, and guide him with a light neck rein. When Prince looked off into the woods, concerned about a sound or smell, I reassured him by rubbing the reins lightly against his neck. If he got interested in grass along side the trail, lifting the reins slightly repositioned his head. I marveled at the subtlety of our communication and reminisced about how it got to be this way.

    First, I quit pulling Prince around with the reins. Instead, I used the reins to help shape and balance him. It was my responsibility to prepare him for the step I wanted. When I did this, the reins became a lot more meaningful.

    Next I began to steer by focusing on where I wanted to go, directing Prince’s attention to that place, and allowing his natural curiosity to take him there. This opened the door to a whole new level of lightness. I found it didn’t take much to direct his attention, perhaps a slight lifting of the rein, the rolling of a toe, or even just shifting my body. With this approach, I became much more in tune with Prince, mentally.

    Being more aware of Prince’s attention enabled me to anticipate his apprehension. By noticing sooner, it took less to support him and he gave me a higher level of trust. It was as if Prince decided I wasn’t out to lunch after all. I was there for him when he needed me, and all it took to reassure him was rubbing him lightly on the neck with the reins.

    The last step toward lightness involved blending in with Prince’s movements. I needed to do more than just stay loose; I needed to feel the movement. Feeling that movement and going with it eliminated the brace Prince used to protect himself from my jolting in the saddle. That made it easier for him to negotiate the rough terrain.

    Eating my lunch in a grassy meadow by the creek, I felt so small. I was awed by the magnificence of the cliffs towering above me and humbled by the gift Prince had given me.

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