It was about a week ago, when I realized I was emotionalizing my relationship with Chloe. Not only was it harmful to our relationship, but it was making me feel bad about myself. It was damaging our interactions together because I forgot that Chloe was the pony and I was the human. And it was making me feel bad about myself because I was taking Chloe’s actions personally.
When Chloe did those things that she often does, fussing when I put the reins on her, not wanting me to wipe bug spray on her face, little things like that, I started to take it as a rejection. I was trying to be strong, but working with Chloe sometimes makes me feel weak and helpless. Then I start to lose my confidence. I didn’t want to ride her anymore, because I felt she didn’t want to be ridden. I began to think she didn’t like me. So I only did with her what I thought she wanted to do. It was gradual, but by the time I realized what was happening, I had reduced our relationship to me giving her treats and bushing her when she wouldn’t walk away from me.
I hadn’t ridden Chloe in over a week when a friend, expressed an interest in riding her. She was young, but a lot more experienced than me and I thought I could learn something from her. She didn’t even get around the pasture once when Chloe made a quick stop, throwing my friend off her back. I saw her fly over Chloe’s head and roll, on the ground. She knew what she was doing, how to fall and if I wasn’t so horrified, I would have thought it graceful.
Thankfully, my friend wasn’t hurt, it wasn’t the first time and won’t be the last time she’s thrown. But it made me realize that I’ve been too lax about Chloe. I still have the idea in my head of her being a pony kids ride, something she used to do. I couldn’t imagine Chloe purposefully throwing me or anyone else. Another danger of personalizing her. I don’t know Chloe well enough to believe that. I haven’t ridden her long enough. Everyone who I’ve ever spoken to has told me that if I ride, I will eventually, somehow, fall off my horse. And I believe them, but, I think, a part of me doesn’t want to believe it.
So the next day, I decided I had to change the way Chloe and me were doing things. I also knew that I had to be serious about me knowing that Chloe is the horse and I’m the human. She’s not rejecting me when she doesn’t do what I ask her too, she’s just being the pony that she is.
Jon and I sometimes talk about how some people have the idea that they want to be an artist or writer. But it seems they really just like the idea of being one, they don’t really want to do the work. I think that’s how I was thinking about Chloe. I wanted to have a horse, to ride a horse. But that’s not what having a horse is about anymore than being an artist is about is about sitting in cafe’s talking about art.
Me and Chloe have started over again many times in the few short months we’ve known each other. And now we’re doing it again. Or maybe it’s not really starting over, but just what it means to have a horse. Constant learning and changing. Now I repeat over and over to myself and Chloe….I‘m the human, you’re the pony. This way I remember what each of us is supposed to be doing.
And I’m seeing little victories, as each day we do something meaningful together. Even if I don’t ride her, I put the reins or saddle on her. So I get used to doing it and won’t be a nervous when I do want to ride. And she’ll get used to having them on too. Today I hosed her down, it was so hot out. And when I reached for her ears to wash the bug bites, she let me. When I first got her and she wouldn’t let me touch her ears, I gave up on it. But in the past few days, I figured out how to get her to trust me, so now she actually likes to have the inside of her ears rubbed.
And this is how I see our relationship growing. Slowly and steadily. Not in a straight line, I know I’m bringing a lot of emotional baggage to the relationship and it’s bringing up some long buried issues for me. Sometimes I question why I’m even doing it. It would be so much easier to just give up. But I don’t want to walk away from these things inside of me. I want to deal with them. And I don’t want to walk away from Chloe. It amazes me to think that I can have a relationship with a creature who could easily hurt or even kill me and chooses not to. It makes me feel strong in a way I haven’t before in my life. But so does the connection and trust I’ve seen and felt between people and horses. And I want that too.
13 thoughts on “Chloe and Me, Knowing Who We Are”
My horses have been my greatest teachers. I love them and am so grateful for the lessons I learned from them.
Beautiful post…thanks for sharing.
Powerful observations. So clearly and honestly shared.
Sounds like the way I experienced raising kids, Maria, and our dogs of which I’m not overly successful in doing. It’s a matter of knowing you are top dog.
You’re right, we project onto our animals….loved your comments…it’s not easy raising a pony…..
SandyP in Canada
Hang in there! It may not ever be easy, but it gets easier. Can’t count the number of times I went home in tears over the years, and convinced my horse couldn’t care less about me. We worked at it, worked most of it out. I’m glad I didn’t give up, but lordy it was tough at times.
Good to know Lorie, that I’m not alone.
Wow….this speaks to me. Was given a horse a few weeks ago. Have been working with him for a few months. After today’s lesson I was thinking I shouldn’t be doing this. I’m not good at it….but now I remember…anything worth having takes work. Thanks, Maria. This is the tune-up I needed!
Great Tammy, we’re going through it together.
Wonderful post. You are at a good place Maria with a determined mind. Keep it up! Walking with her is fantastic. It’ll all get to be second nature with both of you and you’ll have forgotten you were ever at this place.
I went out to saddle my first Arab one day and couldn’t get the bit in his mouth no matter how hard I tried. I cried, whined and stomped off to sit with my thoughts. I remember thinking, some day, you’ll laugh about this. Well, I don’t laugh but I do remember to remind myself of those hurtles.
I teach children riding and one of the ways I can tell if they are ready for lessons or not is their emotional attachment to the pony/horse. If they start believing the pony does things because she doesn’t love them, I know they are too young to learn properly. Once they stop taking the ponies actions personally they have reached an “ahha” moment.. usually they are 9 or 10 years old.
The need for us to believe our animals love us says far more about our needs then their needs. The problem comes in how we interpret their actions towards us as either hate or love. It is definitely worthy of a long Jon Katz blog. The fact that your donkeys and Chloe come running to you every morning has more to do with the treats you feed them then the love they have for you, don’t you think?
My horses nicker when they see me every morning and night and some times in between. They do not nicker when I halter them and tie them to be groomed. They know they have to work then and are more resigned to it then enjoy it. I doubt they “love” me but I believe they love their life as they can depend on consistent, daily food. Some of my horses do seek people out by choice and will stand almost on top of them.. I believe it is to get an itch scratched or in hopes of a treat. It’s certainly worthy of discussion, this need for us to have our equines love us and how we think they display that love.
Thanks for sharing .
BRAVO, Maria! Come to think of it, you’re doing exactly what I do with my youngsters and green horses. We work, little by little, on something every day. When it’s not too hot, I will also halter and tie them for one or two hours. The old timers have told me time and time again that standing creates a patient, willing horse. My experience says tying is just part of the package — it takes working on lots of other things, too, just like you are doing. My horses are always tied in a safe and secure space and when I go to get them, they are often ready to work.
I would never have thought of that Susan. Our barn has 3 stalls made for horses to stand in. I could easily do this with Chloe. I know Eli would have her in a stall with hay sometimes when I would go to ride her. good idea.
for kidznhorses – I agree horses (and dogs) are most often responding to the positives we bring them – food, scratching itchy spots etc. But I also think if you are still and open, you can sometimes experience another kind of bonding with a horse. There’s no way to be sure it isn’t anthropomorphising. I do believe if the human is fair without pampering and generous with praise, it’s possible to build a partnership. Some days are better than others. I have off days, my horse does too. At a dressage show about a year ago the judge wrote on my test sheet “your horse obviously loves you! So cool to see!” I have no idea why she made the comment – my perception was that we fought all through that particular test. I guess all part of the mystery that keeps us coming back to horses.