For the first time in many years I went riding last weekend not on my trusty mare but on a borrowed horse. He is a very nice young gelding, still a little bit green but very willing and eager to please. He was a joy to ride and his longer legs made for a far more comfortable ride that on my little Oky. But something was missing. It took me a while to figure it out, and when I did I really couldn’t blame the horse. When I’m riding my horse of many years I don’t have to do much; point her in the right direction and give her an indication of desired speed and she does the rest herself: finding the best track around obstacles, keeping her speed to match that of the other horses and generally taking care of all the little fiddly bits. If I want to make a change most times it is enough to think about it and she seems to pick up on it. Of course with an unknown and young horse this cannot happen and there is more required from the rider, which took me a bit of getting used to but once understood we got on famously.
It made me think of what is generally called bonding. I don’t particularly like that term as it seems to have all sorts of other connotations with a lot of people that go well past what I’m describing here. It is just a way of knowing each other like an old married couple without having to spell everything out in detail. Living with and riding a horse for so many years seems to create that same understanding of the needs and desires of the other partner on both sides. And unless brought to your attention like it did to me last weekend, seems to go on completely unremarked upon. I know that my little mare has more than her fair share of attitude, and as I tend to point out to people, I don’t command her (NEVER!) but we always have conversations or discussions, and as long as she thinks she has some say in the proceedings, all is well. But despite of this, or perhaps because of this, we seem to have an understanding and she never lets me down (not without good reason anyway).
She is getting on a bit now and I am looking at replacing her with a younger, fitter trail horse, but I don’t think any horse will ever truly replace her. She was the horse that turned me from a person that could ride, into a horse rider and taught me so much about horses and how they ‘tick’ that I could fill books with it. I just hope that all you horse people out there have the opportunity to find a horse that can do for you what she does for me.