Mistakes, we make many of them. It doesn’t matter if we are with our horses, raising our children, developing relationships with the ones we love, shoot: we can even make mistakes when cleaning the house, how many of us have been reprimanded for putting the roll of toilet paper on backwards or loading the dishwasher wrong? This world “protects” us from mistakes, we have cars that keep us in our lanes, spell check on our devices, the quick response on social media if we say something that isn’t politically correct, or if we write something with improper grammer, and heaven forbid if we accidently get our facts wrong. We’ve become a society terrified of making mistakes. I see it in both the children and adults I work with, I ask them to just be with the horse, connect and explore. Sometimes they start to cry because they don’t want to make a mistake. I made many mistakes in my journey with horses, some of them I wish I never made, but others I learned from them and they proved to be vital in my journey. Lets go back in time, when mistakes were okay………
As I sit here and close my eyes, I go way back in time, to one of my first memories. I’m sitting in the pickup between Grandma and Grandpa. Grandma is holding my hand, I’m so excited that I feel shaky inside. They’ve picked me up at the airport and we are on our way back to the farm. It’s a long ride, it’s feels like forever. I keep squeezing Grandma’s hand, and as we get closer the roads become red dirt, the air changes and I smell the cattle, I hear them lowing as I rush out of the car and run to the corral next to the feedlot. I see the horses, my heart explodes with happiness and I’m over the fence like greased lightning. I am home, and it’s good, very good.
Dinner was grand, it was probably sandwiches, but I was sitting at the table with Grandma and Grandpa. Just the 3 of us. I loved it when it was just the 3 of us. They would tell me stories, especially Grandma. My favorite stories were the ones about her teaching and meeting Grandpa. Oh, I loved them so much and they loved me. They loved me no matter what, even when I made mistakes.
That night I couldn’t sleep, the excitement was too much. So I snuck out and went to the horses. I did that all the time. I loved the dark, the quietness, the sound of the horses as they slept, the gently lowing of the cattle in the feedlot, the distant howling of the coyotes as they met for their hunts, the night had a different feel. A quiet feel, the horses welcome me as I crawled through the corral fence and into their midst. I wrapped my arms around the closest one and just breathe, inhale his wonderful smell, feel his muscles twitch under my hand, he is warm, inviting and curious about who I am. I move through all of them and to the corral fence. I climb up on the rail and settle myself on the back of whoever is standing close to me. I lay down, my head on his neck, my arms and legs hanging down, I feel him breathe, my breath matches him. The sounds fade into the distance as I slip off to sleep feeling accepted and safe. This is the place to feel safe to dream. I have the sensation of slipping, then falling, and BAM I’m on the ground. Owe, I feel a hot breath on my neck as the horses sniff me on the ground, I leap to my feet and hug the closest one. They accept me, my mistake of falling asleep on them and they comfort me in my embarrassment.
I’m out in what seems to be a big pasture, out back behind the corrals. Dixie is out there, she’s the only mare on the property and sometimes Uncle Ed breeds her and she has foals. I’ve never seen her foals, they must have been weaned before I get out there. I walk out to the pond where she is and she’s standing next to a rock, I think it’s the perfect opportunity to ride her since I never have before. I quickly jump up on the rock and over to her back. She turns and looks at me an stands still. I grab her mane and give her a kick, she promptly starts bucking and one, two, three I’m on the ground, but I’m still young enough to bounce. I stand up and walk over to her and being the incredibly smart person I am, I try again. She helps me dismount again, and of course I bounce. She comes over to me as I look at her in wonder. Why doesn’t she let me ride her? I didn’t understand. I got back up and just sat on her. She let me, I lay on her in my typical way and just rested with her. That’s who Dixie was to me, my friend who hung out. She let me make mistakes, and she taught me that not always did you need to “ride” a horse. Some of them could just be your friend and teachers in other ways. I don’t know how many years Dixie was on the farm. I think she was there at least two summers. That’s the way of kids, we don’t remember timelines, just the feeling we had, the sensations, and what felt right. We learned from our mistakes, but we weren’t afraid to make them. I miss that, the exploring to find what works, to not fear failure, or pain. During lessons I try to help others lose the fear of mistakes, but it’s hard. I find the fear creeping into my life as well. As I age the fear of pain starts to control me. I have slowed down. I don’t jump on every horse I see anymore, which may be a good thing since my ability to bounce has disappeared.
I hope you all can have an opportunity to explore a little. To find that little kid inside of you, close your eyes and don’t be afraid to make a mistake. You just might discover something new.