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October 7, 2014: Lessons Learned: A Different Outcome

Today, on our drive to Matanuska Lake (where we were to meet up with Claudia and Frank Sihler for a trail ride), I read an article in the October, 2014 issue of Equus magazine. It was written by Julie Drake and entitled “Looking for a Leader.” This essay was about her trials and tribulations in dealing with an Anglo Arab named Smoke Dancing aka Launchpad. She called him Launchpad because he frequently unseated her.

He was, Drake said, too much to handle. As she writes “the last straw came suddenly. After many months of training, I thought that Smoke and I were reaching an understanding. Smoke disagreed. When I regained consciousness, with Smoke waiting for

Lunch break at Crevasse Moraine trail head

me at the edge of the arena, I considered the burning in my ankles, the pain in my shoulder, the broken elbow, the broken foot, the place below my eye where he kicked me – and I stopped. Smoke won the last round. I was four months pregnant and could not be stupid any longer. This part of my life was over.”

Drake found Smoke a new owner—he ended up going to a polo enthusiast who (unlike herself) had a very take charge attitude. Her rationalization for parting with him was that “he needed, no he required, a rider who was strong and confident and would, in turn, give him the confidence he needed.”

While out on the trail, I made a comparison to my relationship with Raudi. I was riding along with four others riding Icelandic horses and also Hrimmi. We also had seven dogs with us. It was definitely an instance of controlled chaos.

If you’d told me a year ago that I’d be doing this today, I’d have looked at you with disbelief. I was admittedly, beforehand, a bit nervous upon setting out, but not so much so that I was going to bow out of the ride. The trail has a lot of steep ups and downs, something that until this year has not been Raudi’s forte. Plus, it was (as I’d expected) slippery in places.

Of course, I needn’t have worried. Raudi did wonderfully, going up and down every single hill in a calm and deliberate fashion. I know that this was in part because she is ouchy when she doesn’t have shoes. But just in part. On my part, I centered myself in my seat and looked ahead to where we were going. There was no looking down, which could have thrown my horse off balance. I instead focused, as best I could, on making things easy for Raudi.

We did fall behind at times. However, Raudi never made an attempt to race up to the others. She could have, but chose not to. We had what Pete and I later called a textbook ride, meaning all the animals behaved perfectly.

I was not, when I backed Raudi in 2007, a confident rider. And she was a tad bit willful. It was maybe that willful streak that threw me for a loop – I always felt confident on Tinni and Signy. And so, on this ride, it occurred to me that it could have been otherwise, meaning that due to my lack of leadership, we might have had to go our separate ways. Yes, my story could have taken the same twist and turn as Drake’s story. That it didn’t can be attributed to several things, including dumb luck. Also, Raudi wasn’t as near as hot a horse as Smoke. Also, I was not hurt as badly as Drake.

But had my story gone the other way; that is, had I elected to part with Raudi, my heart would have been broken. It would have been akin to putting my soul in a blender and turning it up to top speed. As it turned out, today was yet another day in which we functioned well as a team. And I ought not have been surprised – she’s never acted up when being ridden with other horses. She has and will remain agreeable.

I can’t imagine what it was like for Drake to part with Smoke. Or, what it was like for her to write about this, because to write about it is to relive the experience. It must have been difficult. But perhaps not. Her list of injuries sounded pretty extensive.

I’m not sure what’s ahead for Raudi and me. I would like to do another trip, maybe ride the length of New Mexico. Think about such things hard enough and they come to be.

Next: 268. 10/8/14: The Writing Life: Moving Forward