Horsey Therapist

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Springing with Rusty

I rode him today, in the ring. We walked, trotted, cantered. My intent was for us to open up in our trotting, lengthening his stride if I could persuade/allow my body to be loose enough for his needs. We succeeded as well as we did some cantering.

The cantering went well, too, with my right hip moving enough to allow him to carry me on his left lead. That has been a problem and it was a little bit today. He will do a very springy lead change when my right hip is stiff. Poor dear. I'm dedicated to changing my body through physical therapy exercises and such. I love riding Rusty but it's hard for him to follow my feel when my body is stiff from some decades-old movement habits. The blocks are going and Rusty and I are becoming more connected and fluid. Yay!

Dear old Riza... she's not old but gosh she has a mind like an old been-there-done-that horse. At least most of the time. Today I put the saddle on her after riding Rusty, no lead line or anything. She stood like we'd done this a million times, not twice! Then I lunged her at the walk and trot, and over some cavaletti, too.

I suppose one day I'll get on her back. We're not ready for that yet -- I'll wait until she and I can do things with almost no discussions about direction. That time is coming, I'm confident.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Focus is required

In so many realms of my life, focus is required.

I am working two jobs now. Some benefits are as I expected, like increased income. Benefits I did not expect include deep satisfaction of doing a job well done. At a job that I'm told has frustrated and enraged many prior employees. Another benefit: actively applying my mental health skills directly in my job environment (rather than indirectly applying them throughout my life). There are reasons why I pursued a clinical profession, there are reasons why I took a break from direct clinical work for the past few years. I wasn't sure I was ready to be doing this again but I am. It suits me.

The challenge of working this second job (I continue with my first job teaching therapeutic riding, teaching volunteers, working with the horses at the TR program) is time management. I no longer have the luxury of piddling away some of my waking hours. Admittedly, some 'piddling away' is crucial to my well being although I usually call it 'having unscheduled time'. Time to mull, time for new thoughts to surface, time when things that have been brewing can come clear and rise to the surface of my awareness.

What is exciting is that I have the opportunity to prioritize how I spend my time. I feel more eager to make careful choices so that at the end of the day, I will have done some things that are especially meaningful to me, like riding a horse or getting that condolence card written.

I reflect back on the past months and acknowledge how important it is to me to feel connected with family and friends. I have spent much of my computer time on Facebook meeting that need, and much of my non-computer time on survival worries. This winter has been rough, and fruitful. In face of some economic shocks, RNB and I have become more communicative and more understanding of each other's comfort levels, areas of risk taking, and needs for feeling safe and calm. This is well worth all the hours spent in distress, to come out of it in the ways we have.

And yes, "if my magic wand were working" as I like to say, I would be happy to have made these internal and interpersonal changes without the external upheavals.

Then I pause to ask, why do I think that my magic wand is not working? I suspect the tendrils of depression have affected my thinking these past months, approaching challenges with a heavy veil of hopelessness and resentment even as I fought to present myself to others and communicate reflecting my deeper spiritual beliefs. The veil has lifted and again it is easy to float down the river rather than stand on the shore line fretting about whether the river will take me where I want, indeed fretting whether I can survive the apparent turbulence of the river passing at my feet.

I have ridden two horses this past week. It required me to focus in order to be decisive about planning those rides, and it required me to focus in order to be successful in those rides. I was blown away by the presence and readiness to connect with me that my horses offered. It reinforced the notion that even if I'm not 'working' with the horses, the 'work' I do in the rest of my life enriches the time I spend with the horses. I consider my quest for softness and clarity a Life Quest, no longer only a Horsemanship Quest.

So all those little moments throughout the winter have added to the goodness I have today. Moments during feeding when I became more clear and intentional with less firmness about boundaries for example while I was carrying hay. Moments when despite storms of uncertainty and pending losses in my human relationships, I found my way back to softness and vulnerability. Moments when my healing body parts reminded me that once again, I should have asked for help instead of contributing my physical skills (shoveling for example!) while disregarding my here-and-now abilities.

Regard versus disregard. A fine thing to consider! I think my regard of Sofia the other day was the foundation of our success together. Subtly (to me, not to her) in the past I have disregarded the degree of her sensitivity and worry about some things I do in preparing to ride. This time I focused (focus is required!) on her needs rather than my plan, in a way that included my fully knowing that we would get things done -- that 'faith' thing that Harry Whitney talks about -- even while I had no idea when we would get things done.

It was sweet beyond imagination. My heart swells as I recollect.

I've have long known that focus is required when I handle and ride Rusty, more so than with Kacee, and in different ways than with Sofia. I am approaching my readiness to ride him. I have been envisioning our ride, and one of these days I will know it is time -- that I am ready to offer him the required level and duration of focus that he needs in order to feel safe and vulnerable and responsive with me. And I look forward to arriving at that moment. I do love that boy!