Leading From Behind

IMG_20150111_133221888Here in Colorado Springs, our winters are fairly mild. We get a dose of cold and snow, then all goes back to 50s and sometimes 60s; even in January, where we are now. Naturally, I am excited to get one of those nice days to brush the dust off my saddle and think about doing something with my young Half Arab. Both of us are getting pretty tired of the arena, even though we have not used it much in the past cold weeks. I look out in back of my barn and scan the 1500acre field that has been calling us. The cattle have sadly departed on that big bad truck to meet their fate, and no antelope to be found. Today may be a good day to take a stroll on that open prairie. All saddled up and as we ignore the arena path and go straight to the field, I can feel the anticipation of my young horse. I sense the pumping of blood from his feet with each of his steps, while my blood is draining from my face and wonder if this was a good idea. After all, the last time I attempted to take him out there with two other horses, it was a ‘hike a ride’ as he was showing off his heritage in his young body: the Saddlebred quarter of him, prancing with legs and head high, and the Arab other three quarters; eyes bugging and seeing all. I had vowed after that day that I would introduce him to the field more regularly, which I had not. This time I came out prepared, with a long line appropriately attached through his bit to a ring in front of his saddle then around to the other side of his bit. A method I had learned from the Jean Luc Cornille clinics that I had participated in this year. I would simply start out on the ground, until it looked safe to mount. I would use this new found tool in an opportunity to lead from behind, allowing my young horse to have some thought in our training process. I wanted to see what he would do and where he may go, if given some say in the matter. As we walked off from the barn and his buddies I saw the investment of this opportunity in his eyes. They were not eyes of a horse that is looking to find a way to get out of this task, but they were the eyes of a horse that is searching for the correct answer. He stepped off slowly with some apprehension and the short steps that go along with that, but as he realized that he was able to have a dialect in this conversation, his steps got longer and the tension he had been carrying, dissolved. I saw his spirit get lighter and the ease of which he walked across this land, was the ease of a horse that may have been out there many, many times; which he had not. We walked out on that huge prairie for over an hour, with neither one of us feeling overwhelmed or tired. It was a huge step forward in our relationship process. We both learned to trust each other just a little more, and did so without any real rules or restrictions on each other; we just shared this huge space while walking together in this new adventure. We came back to the barn in quiet peace and inner happiness of our accomplishment. And it occurred to me upon returning that I never even thought about getting on to ride. I was simply swept away in the moments of time that we were thinking and moving as one. Surely this was nirvana. Later, I thought of how this leading from behind would mean to people. How we talk to each other is an important thing in any relationship. How we express the dialog really does matter. Are we willing to give up the stiff reins just a bit and not ride each other so hard so that we can all see the best of one another?  Lets all make that journey across that field together. Nirvana awaits.