(This blog was originally posted on February 10, 2016)
Many years ago, I attended a case conference where Hypnosis Motivation Institute instructor Lisa Machenberg described how she helped someone to regard even the negative, inconvenient aspects of car ownership in terms of being a privilege. Apparently this individual was procrastinating about getting new tires for his car because not having a vehicle for one morning would be inconvenient and expensive. His justification for not doing anything to facilitate the repair was: “Hey, the car is still drive-able, so what is the rush?”
Ms. Machenberg said the client eventually became motivated to get the tires changed when they explored the benefits—independence, convenience, the enjoyment of driving—and the potential consequences of not taking the car in. The greatest inspiration for him turned out to be the potential financial burden of having to pay for additional repairs to the body of his or another person’s car if a flat or blown-out tire caused a crash. At this point in the conversation, she said, they discussed how the benefits of car-ownership is as much a privilege as taking good care of the vehicle is a responsibility. This message became incorporated in the hypnotic script she created for his hypnotherapy. It also so resonated with me in terms of how I feel about owning a horse that I use it as a kind of mantra to keep persevering in my riding and how I take care of him, as well as to remind Galahad how much I love and appreciate him.
As most equestrians (and even non-riders) know, riding and owning a horse is an expensive investment of time, money and emotion. Depending whom you ask, it can be a toss-up which one of these resources is most expensive at any one time. Despite their strength, size and speed, these animals are actually more fragile in some ways than they seem. For example, the extreme changes in summer-like temperatures we are experiencing in Southern California pose a greater risk of colic. (Who else has the barn veterinarian’s phone number on speed dial this week?) A training mishap can result in a pulled muscle, tendon or ligament for horse or rider. As the price of hay gets higher every season, finding a good deal on what we feed our equine partner also becomes more challenging and frustrating. After a heavy rain we must determine that the footing is good enough to turn the horse out to play or ride without risk of injuring the animal. Then there is the herculean effort it will take on our part to clean the gray gelding up after he enjoys rolling in the fresh mud that it looks like his original black coat has grown back. And so the list goes on.
By the time we’re done riding and have completed all the barn chores at the end of the day, all we want to do is get in a hot shower or bubble bath and wash the dirt and stress away. But, wait. The horse still needs to be properly cooled out, cleaned up and “tucked in” before we can do any of the other stuff. And that is what I mean by responsibility and privilege of owning a horse.
There is a common expression around most barns: If you don’t have time to groom, you don’t have time to ride. When I was a teen-ager, all I wanted to do was get on a horse and go, go, go; grooming afterward was not something I looked forward to and, in all honesty, I probable did a barely acceptable job. At that time, I didn’t have my own horse and there was always someone at the barn who would do the “dirty work” that students like me didn’t like or want to do. But my attitude did a complete 180-degree turn when I grew up and got a horse of my own.
I like to believe that the more time I spend grooming and hanging out with him or just watching him play with the other geldings in his herd, are opportunities where we do the most bonding. This is the time where the responsibility of horse-ownership truly is a privilege. Yes, riding is great and it is a lot of fun. The reward and pride I feel for both of us when we finally get those 20-meter circles round and circles is immense. But nothing is as wonderful, to me, as feeling my horse stretching his neck closer and into the curry comb while I massage the dust and dirt out of his coat afterward.
There is nothing like the sound of his teeth crunching on a slice of apple or carrot when I reward him for working so hard for me during our lesson in the arena. There is nothing like hearing my trainer praise Galahad about his progress and improved skills after she finishes schooling him. There is nothing like how happy and proud I am when Galahad is able to calmly walk past barking dogs or that new donkey at a neighbor’s property during one of our neighborhood strolls. His calm demeanor at those moments are testament to his temperament as well as the time spent working to increase his self-confidence and trust in me when he feels challenged or threatened. There is nothing like the relief I feel when the veterinarian gives my horse a clean bill of health, or after Galahad’s hooves are trimmed or he has been wormed. And, yes, there is nothing like the satisfaction I feel each month when I pay for his board and training, or even when I pay dues to renew his insurance and breed memberships.
Like the client described at the beginning of this essay, horse ownership—like car ownership—is undoubtedly an incredible privilege. Horses bring so much joy, fun and pleasure to our lives that the time, physical effort and expense seem inconsequential. Knowing that one of these big (or small), powerful prey animals will cooperate, trust and even seem to seek our companionship is a wonderful honor to anyone who has an equine partner in his or her life.
Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy® and to set up an appointment, please visit http://www.calminsensehypnotherapy.com/.