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At the barn and be­yond, leav­ing be­hind the fa­mil­iar and the com­fort­able re­quires hard work and a bit of let­ting go.

EQUUS - - Contents - By Ta­mar Char­ney

It was one of those riding les­sons where noth­ing goes right. Or left: My horse Lady had de­cided she had no in­ter­est in turn­ing. She made it quite clear that, no mat­ter what I asked, she wished to go straight ahead. If I made even the tini­est mis­take in how I used my rein or leg to cue for a turn, she snatched the op­por­tu­nity to do any­thing she could to avoid chang­ing course---in­clud­ing run­ning me into the arena wall.

I’ll ad­mit I got re­ally frus­trated and then a bit an­gry. I’m a be­gin­ning rider and Lady is not es­pe­cially well schooled, but I re­ally thought the abil­ity to turn should have been a given for us at this point. I’m not say­ing the turns were just late and sloppy. I mean---se­ri­ously!---we hit the dang wall!

Yet, driv­ing home that day, I found my­self laugh­ing. Once again, I saw my life strug­gles laid bare at the barn. From time to time I re­al­ize that a par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult chal­lenge I’m hav­ing with my horse is ac­tu­ally the same is­sue I’m nav­i­gat­ing in my life.

Re­cently, I’d been eval­u­at­ing whether the tra­jec­tory I’m on in life is still do­ing it for me. And I’d been try­ing to get my head around how to change di­rec­tion. I

wanted to re­ori­ent my pri­or­i­ties so I’ll have the flex­i­bil­ity to spend more time pur­su­ing a dream.

Yet, like Lady, I kept look­ing for a rea­son to just keep head­ing straight ahead. I’d take any ex­cuse to stay in the groove of the path I’ve been on. Be­cause, let’s face it, turn­ing is hard. Lady re­sists be­cause she’s stiff, and it is phys­i­cally dif­fi­cult some days for her to make a nice soft bend while car­ry­ing my weight. I re­sist be­cause I also don’t al­ways feel flex­i­ble enough to re­or­ga­nize the hours of my day.

Peo­ple, like horses, are crea­tures of habit. We have so much po­ten­tial, and we can run in so many dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions, yet we stick to the fa­mil­iar and the com­fort­able---afraid of the mon­sters that might be lurk­ing if we branch out and go some­where new. When asked to change, our first in­stinct is to re­sist.

Lady’s re­sis­tance to turn­ing made me aware of all of the ways that I’m also re­sist­ing sig­nals that it’s time to change course. In work­ing through her re­fusals to turn I had to re­mem­ber to IN­SIGHTS: For keep the reins soft Ta­mar Char­ney, on her mouth so riding les­sons she wouldn’t brace with her mare against my aids. Lady have been Yet I needed to be in­struc­tive in clear about what I sur­pris­ing ways. wanted her to do.

And I had to avoid let­ting her ma­neu­ver me into us­ing too much in­side rein, which would give her the lever­age to swing out rather than turn­ing in.

I, too, have to stay flex­i­ble so I can give in to the new ways of be­ing. I need to be clear with my­self about what I’m try­ing to do dif­fer­ently. And I need to not take the bait of the peo­ple around me who might pre­fer I stay the course.

The day af­ter my dif­fi­cult les­son, I sad­dled up for an­other ride. This time, Lady was soft and sup­ple, a will­ing part­ner who went wher­ever I asked her to go. The hard work of the pre­vi­ous day had paid off in the grace of things go­ing just as they should.

Lady had of­fered me a well-timed les­son that chang­ing course re­quires hard work and a bit of let­ting go--a les­son to be ap­plied at the barn and be­yond.

From time to time I re­al­ize that a par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult chal­lenge I’m hav­ing with my horse is ac­tu­ally the same is­sue I’m nav­i­gat­ing in my life.

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