I have never felt complete without horses. And for a long time, I associated this basic, primal need with riding. But as I grew older, and learnt more about myself, I came to the conclusion that I did not need to ride to be happy. I only needed some form of contact with horses. Simply caring for them, for their needs, being around them, was enough to make me happy. And after I was finally able to buy my sweet Alex, and share my life with him, I started riding less and less. He was in a good enough shape to do much more than what I was asking of him, that wasn’t the question. But I could tell that he didn’t want to, not any more. So I started retiring him, and riding less and less, until I reached a point when I was not riding at all any more. And I was happy.
After my kindred spirit died, I felt so broken that it became inconceivable for me that I could ever ride a horse again. The simple thought of being around horses put such a tight grip on my heart I was afraid it would stop. I wouldn’t even look at the horses I could see on the side of the road, grazing in their fields, as I was driving. Something that had always been so essential to me had suddenly become damaging and scary. But the complete absence of my equine friends was also, in a way, making things worse. They had become as essential to me as breathing. I was caught in a gap, a divide, and I had no idea what to do.
Estelle, my former instructor (and the one who originally saved Alex), whom I admire and respect profoundly, helped me through this. Thanks to her, I managed to dip a toe in these waters again. It helped me remember exactly what horses meant to me, and how I could not give this passion up. And I am so grateful for that.
I rode a couple of time in between. Once with Estelle, and twice on my own, here, in Canada. And it all came rushing back to me. Feelings I had forgotten. The wind rushing in my ears as my horse is cantering. The feeling of the tight leather riding chaps against my calves, and through them, that singular warmth irradiating from the horse’s flanks. My fingers lightly playing on the reins, and how the horse would respond to it, with their mouth, on the bit, and how it would vibrate all the way back to my hands. Feeling every muscle of mine working independently, and yet connected in the grand scheme, like a well-oiled machine. The horse’s body moving under mine, and being able to tell exactly what was good, or what was bad, about it. Knowing how the littlest muscle, the little move, could influence the horse’s attitude greatly.
And more importantly, that dialogue. A conversation the rider has to set up with the horse. Finding the right way to ask. Always ask, never order. A silent dialogue, that a non-trained eye cannot perceive. A dialogue that has to be so discreet it seems like rider and horse are in communion, exchanging thoughts telepathically. The magic of it. I fell in love all over again.
I will never find again the sensations I had when I was riding my sweet Alex, and I know nothing will ever even begin comparing to them. I will never again find a similar connection that was, in some way, truly telepathic. And my heart still bleeds from his loss, and always will. But I have found that I can still enjoy it, with other horses, in different ways, without betraying his memory. His legacy. I can cherish it, without it diminishing my love for him in any way. It’s not a betrayal. It’s not a rebirth. It’s not even moving on. It’s simply sticking to my core, and my needs, the ones that I can fulfil at least. And I can feel a part of him in every other horse. An aspect, a mannerism, a whiny, a movement, a way to communicate with me … There’s a part of him in every thing. I just have to know where to look. It will never bring him back. And maybe, just maybe, it is not fair of me to search for him in the other horses.I know they are unique entities. That they are their own being, have their own self. But I carry him with me, wherever I go. Always.